The George Hotel in Colchester has five centuries worth of stories to tell – but its latest chapter could be the most intriguing yet as it unveils a £10m renovation
With a history of over 500 years, The George Hotel has always been a central cog to the story of Colchester – and now, nearly two years since closing and a with £10m renovation to boot, it’s set to take centre stage once again.
In January 2017, Harwich-based developer Flying Trade Group, behind the Surya Hotels brand, announced plans for the refurbishment and expansion of the George Hotel site. Plans included the complete refurbishment of the 47-bedroom George Hotel and the conversion of nearby St Nicholas House into a brand new affiliated 44-bedroom hotel. St Nicholas Hotel opened its doors in December 2018, almost doubling the High Street rooms available to 91. The Grade II* listed George Hotel was in great need of modernisation, however, with important renovation work required with the utmost care to protect the hotel’s rich history.
An architectural report into the George site, published in July 2019, revealed just how unique the building is, with architectural historian Leigh Alston stating: “The greatest significance of The George is the extent to which it illustrates the scale and complexity of medieval inns in the heart of a major town. The great majority of commercial buildings of this kind were entirely rebuilt in the 16th century or later, and even fragmentary examples of the 14th and 15th centuries are nationally rare.”
As we were welcome to see the results of the renovation, it was instantly apparent how important the site’s past is to the new look. Many of the hotel’s important historical features have been preserved from woodwork and beams dating back more than 600 years to the hotel’s elegant Georgianised Victorian sash windows. Behind the hotel’s Georgian façade lies a timber-framed building, which likely dates from the second half of the 14th century. The first known reference to the property as an inn occurs in 1494, although the hotel’s extensive cellars are likely older and feature the ruins of an ancient Roman gravel pavement – a chilling reminder of Queen Boudicca’s rampage that burned Roman Colchester to the ground in AD60. The exterior has been painted a classic, light sage green to meet historical guidelines for the Grade II* listed property.
Designer touches across the hotel include luxury Sanderson fabrics, designer fabric upholstered headboards and bespoke lighting from Northern Lights, with the overall concept brought together by Sudbury-based interiors specialists Amor Interiors. A partnership with high end audio brand Bang & Olufsen has seen discrete and powerful designer sound systems blended throughout the interior offering seamless, superior sound quality.
Natural wood flooring, mixed with mosaic tiles and subtle soft furnishings, against scattered, bold Brunswick green walls, add an elegant finishing touch to the newly renovated space. Meanwhile, the new lounge features cosy sofas, ornamental log burners, designer wallpapers and chic soft furnishings. Licensed prints by award winning artist Alexandra Gallagher are visible throughout the hotel. The British artist, whose works celebrate the surreal and sublime, exhibits and sells internationally with the likes of Saatchi. Her imaginative works explore the realms of memory, dreams and fantasy. Meanwhile, award-winning local artist Lucy Tiffney was commissioned to paint a stunning mural behind the reception desk. The artist, who has over 70,000 followers on Instagram, is renowned for her unique, fresh, colourful and happy designs and has titled the bespoke work Jaipur Sky.
Highlights of the renovation across the bedrooms include the addition of seven spacious in-town suites featuring Emperor Beds and up to 50 inch smart TVs. The remaining rooms are a mix of heritage doubles, twins and single rooms all featuring luxury king-size Hypnos beds as standard, as well as comfortable armchairs and work stations with access to high speed, complimentary WiFi, interactive 43” wall mounted Smart televisions (with Netflix) and modern bathrooms and shower suites.
The George Hotel’s restaurant has a long term association with culinary excellence, however, the restaurant is returning with a superior food offering as it set sights on becoming Colchester’s ultimate dining destination. Last week Surya Hotels revealed some exciting news from the kitchen, announcing that award-winning chef Aaron Skerrit, who has worked at quality establishments such as Gordon Ramsay Holdings and more recently as head chef at Milsoms Hotels & Restaurants, was taking the helm at the George’s kitchen. He will oversee the venue’s stylish brasserie featuring excellent à la carte dishes and daily specials served from midday to 9pm.
Connoisseurs of afternoon tea are in for a treat with the launch of T at The George, which will be serving up a luxuriously chic afternoon tea, in sumptuous, arty surroundings inspired by London’s finest teahouses. An array of beautiful handmade and quirky cakes, fine artisan teas (served in bespoke, locally made teapots) and a matching Champagne and cocktail list has all been carefully curated to ensure the vintage tearoom becomes Colchester’s premier destination for a spot of afternoon tea with friends.
After five centuries of standing proud in Colchester, you’d think there wasn’t much else you could write about the George Hotel – but a whole new chapter is just beginning.