20 Sep The History of the Royal Albion Hotel
One of the most-recognisable buildings in Broadstairs, and former home to one of Britain’s best-loved authors, The Royal Albion Hotel has a long and fascinating history intertwined with that of the town itself.
The hotel makes a selling point of its history, with a bar named Ballard’s in honour of an earlier proprietor who ran the hotel in the Victorian era, when the hotel’s most famous guest was staying there. The bar remains a local hotspot to this day, serving a comprehensive range of ales, wines and beers from local suppliers.
Built in 1776, the elegant seafront facade of this Georgian hotel stands as one of Broadstairs’ most instantly-recognisable landmarks.
The Hotel’s famous ‘Ballard’s Bar’ still offers weary travellers a warm welcome and cool refreshment, just as it did in Dickens’ day.
Dickens and Broadstairs
Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor and sometime resident of Broadstairs, and the town features prominently in his work.
Most famously, Broadstairs was the subject of his 1851 essay ‘Our English Watering Place’, cementing his relationship with the town in the public consciousness. But the town also provided inspiration for his novels ‘David Copperfield’ and ‘Bleak House’, the later of which was written in and named after a home leased by the author between 1837 and 1849.
The house has since been converted into the ‘Bleak House Museum’ and features not only a large collection of Dickens artefacts and memorabilia, but also incorporates a smuggling museum which features exhibits rescued by divers from a wrecked 18th century smuggling vessel, which was in turn swallowed by the sands of Viking Bay and has yet to be recovered.
‘Bleak House Museum’ is not, however, the only museum in Broadstairs dedicated to the author. ‘The Dickens House Museum’ is housed in No.2 Victoria Parade, which may be familiar to ardent dickensians as the inspiration for the home of Betsey Trotwood in ‘David Copperfield’. Dickens and his son Charley regularly had tea there.
Today the museum houses a permanent collection of Dickens’ personal effects, including his writing box and several letters mentioning Broadstairs, alongside displays of Dickensian memorabilia and Victorian clothing. The museum features a gift shop and is suitable for families with children of all ages.
Charles Dickens and the Royal Albion Hotel
Dickens visited the Royal Albion Hotel on several occasions. In his 1851 essay ‘Our English Watering-Place’, he described the place as ‘an excellent hotel — capital baths, warm, cold, and shower — first-rate bathing-machines — and as good butchers, bakers, and grocers, as heart could desire’.
Dickens notes in his letters he stopped into the hotel bar for some ‘Holland’s Gin’ on his first trip to Broadstairs, and later enjoyed a ‘merry night’ at the bar with biographer and friend John Forster. Dickens stayed at the hotel during his last visit to Broadstairs in 1859.