Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Bear Hotel in Devizes.

The facade of The Bear, with a little black bear holding a bunch of grapes standing over the portico.
Devizes has its fair share of pubs and hotels, and one of my favourites is this former coaching inn that stands in the Market Place.  It has a long history as a meeting place for local businessmen and as an inn for travellers en route from London to Bath, Bristol and the West Country.   The first records state that John Sawter was the landlord in 1559, but it is presumed that a hostelry exisited on the site long before that date.
A view of the Market Place from the bay window of the hotel.
The hotel has hosted many famous travellers including King George 111 and his wife Queen Charlotte and other members of the royal family, famous actor and actresses and politicians en route for Bath.     Bath became popular as a place to "take the waters" and in the late 18th century, the coach route from London became busy with weathly travellers, who were targeted by highwaymen, keen on relieving them of their valuables.  The Bath Road was eventually diverted to take the safer route through Devizes,  and during this period, the inn became a popular coaching hotel, providing comfortable accommodation for travellers and stabling for the horses.  Jane Austen, the famous authoress,  recorded  her visits to The Bear in her diaries, as she travelled from Kent into Bath.   The hotel  now provides the most splendid and expensive accommodation in Devizes!   The coffee is good though!
The comfortable front saloon bar.
The hostelry was run from 1773 to 1781 by Thomas Lawrence, the father of Sir Thomas Lawrence the famous painter.  Several of his paintings can be viewed in the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath.  A full history of the hotel can be read at:  click Home, then History.

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