The Rye rumour mill has been in overdrive this week: “Will it? Won’t it?”, “ Can’t wait to find out” and “Can’t wait to see what they’ve done inside.” They are, of course, all talking about the long-awaited reopening of The George Hotel which finally opened on May 18, an historic date and one which means so much to so many people but particularly the owners, Katie and Alex Clarke, who have battled against all the odds to rebuild this landmark property.
On entering the building, it is immediately apparent that the rebuilding programme has been executed by professional tradesman: the standard of joinery, the attention to detail and the sumptuous fittings and furnishings are testimony to the thought and planning which have gone into this stunning renovation. Despite the huge investment, The George has lost none of its cosy and welcoming atmosphere. In the main bar a feature is the stunning stone floor, the bar has been extended and the seating areas made more intimate.
I met a group of ladies at the bar, celebrating a special occasion with prosecco all round – it was so nice to see people enjoying themselves again and getting back to normal.
The waiting staff were being briefed on what appeared to be a very busy night with diners booked in to eat, so I didn’t want to gate crash their pep talk and so only had a peep at the dining room but wow, it looked amazing.
A lift has now been installed serving the upper floors and the building as a whole seems so much more accessible and user-friendly but the staircase remains and leads you to first floor sitting room with corridors off to the letting rooms. The ballroom is breathtaking, the perfect function suite with large commercial kitchen and separate reception area leading to the balcony overlooking Rye High Street; the perfect photo opportunity with the new hotel sign as a backdrop.
The dentilled cornicing has been fully restored and when to two crystal chandeliers are unmasked (they were covered for protection when I visited) the scene will be set fully. When I saw them, I couldn’t help thinking about the Only Fools and Horses sketch when Del, Rodney and grandad decided to take one down to clean, and we all remember the outcome.
I wasn’t able to see any of the letting rooms but speaking to a local, she told me that when she saw how opulently they had been dressed, she burst into tears with pure emotion.
The courtyard garden at the rear is a real suntrap, a quiet area for morning coffee or afternoon teas. Heading back to the main bar, I shared a pint with our Rye News founding director, Kenneth Bird, as we chatted to friends of his. They recounted that terrible day when they heard fire engines heading for the High Street where The George Hotel was burning. They watched in total disbelief as flames engulfed the upper floors and fire crews filled the High Street. Guests were seen being shepherded to safety in whatever they were wearing, some with nothing on their feet.
What a long journey it’s been to get this landmark building back from partial destruction and the end result is absolutely stunning. Listening to the comments of those coming to see the transformation, there was nothing but positive praise for what has been achieved. The buzz was back, with a vengeance.
As Katie and Alex were about to arrive, I left the proceedings as the time had arrived for the hotel to be opened officially and what better way to broadcast it but by asking our very own town crier, Paul Goring, to make the announcement in his usual inimitable fashion.
Image Credits: Nick Forman , Kt Bruce .