Royal Clarence Hotel, Exeter
By Ray Schaufeld
- 221 reads
1. Shoppers, workers, homeless folks
Walk past the dull obstacle
Made safe with boards
Guarded with wire
Fronting Cathedral Green.
Five years on and nothing done
2. 'It's on Fire!' The Royal Clarence.'
Maggie, Jeanney and I
Watch worsening disaster on 28 Oct 2016 on TV
In our bedroom at the Langstone Cliff in Dawlish.
Before our party nibbles with the girls.
Then we go down for dinner and disco
At the South West Wine Federation Annual Weekend.
We're dressed for Halloween
Dot has spookified our table
Maggie wears her spider fascinator
I wear my witches' hat.
Maggie spotted the news first
Which seems about typical
For us three.
3. Fire started in the Castle Fine Art Gallery.
It spread to the Grade II listed 54 bed hotel
More rapidly because of voids, empty areas of roof.
At 5.10 am
Alarm was raised, all guests evacuated.
Over 100 firefighters worked on the blaze
95 different fire engines attended
Pumping gallons of water from the Exe.
4 aerial ladder platforms were used.
After 3 days the fire was put out.
4. No one was killed
Though 2 firefighters sustained minor injuries
But the land was scarred
And jobs lost.
The story rising from the ground in 1769
Became soggy rubble.
After a wall collapsed the firefighters got out
And saw the fire burn itself out
5. Not as hotel staff or firefighter
Or conference delegate or even wealthy guest
I worked here too.
On market research hall tests.
'Excuse me, I'm carrying out a survey'
Our team grabbed passing shoppers
Luring them in to the big ground floor hall
By offering free coffee
In the Royal Clarence.
They watched ads replayed on computers
And were asked specific open and closed-end questions
On which was the better ad
When it didn't drive you nuts
It was an alright job.
6, Five years on -
Big plans have come and gone.
Southwest Lifestyle Brands
Who acquired the site
From Andrew Broadswords Hotels in 2020
Have said that even pre-pandemic
Their plans for a 74 bed hotel on the site
Were 'unviable', however
They have been in contact with Exeter City Council
'Talks have taken place.'
7. Five years on
Jeanney died last year.
Maggie was isolated in lockdown
And moved nearer to her daughter in Oxfordshire.
I still see the girls from Wine Club
Perhaps next year
I'll go to the Annual Federation Weekend in October
8. Writing - the well ran dry, me.
Right now I lead a happy life
With music, close friends and U3A.
At Circle Dance in our teabreak
I learn that Todd Gray, local historian and
'The only expert on the Royal Clarence'
Will be giving a talk at the next open general meeting
On the fourth Thursday of the month
And I'm sure he's good but -
9. I want the lot!
The voices of the bricklayers
And before that the architect and draughtsperson
And before that Exeter City Council
Voting that this hotel will be good for Exeter
And the waiters and baristas and housekeepers and reception staff
The kitchen porters and night managers.
And some of the guests.
And the fire safety officers and the electricians
Who did their annual checks and could not possibly
Anticipate the blaze.
The staff at the nearby Mercure Southgate
Who accommodated a lot of flustered individuals
At about 5.40 am.
The firefighters of course.
And the camera crew who arrived first,
And the local journalists from whom I've lifted my facts.
And the split-second glance of the rabbit in 1769
When the spade breaks her warren
Before she bolts and burrows and rebuilds
And the 'awareness ' of the air on 28 October 2016
Of how the heat above the flames makes changes..
(Want the earth now, don't I)
- Log in to post comments