Monday, 10 August 2015

Maids Head Norwich – Gift of 1945 Hotel Bill

A 70 year-old bill, in near perfect condition, for a one-week stay at the Maids Head Hotel in Norwich, along with a tariff card, has been donated to the hotel and provides a remarkable insight into a visit to Norfolk in the immediate post-war period.

Mrs and Miss Dale stayed in the Maids Head’s room 58, from 16 to 23 October 1945 at 17 shillings (85p) a day, had breakfast every morning at 7 shillings (35p) for 2, lunch on four occasions at 8 shillings (40p) for two and dinner on six evenings at 10 shillings (50p) for two. Their total bill came to £14/6s/4d (£14.32p).

Patience and Esme Dale's Hotel Bill October 1945
Miss Dale (Esme) died recently aged 94. Her stepdaughter Dorothy Latham found the bill and the 1945 Maids Head tariff, while going through her papers.    

Dorothy Latham explained: “At the time of her stay, Esme was accompanied by her mother, Patience, who was very recently widowed. They were living in Newcastle upon Tyne.  Over the years, Esme moved house many times, so it is remarkable that the bill is in such good condition.”

Esme Dale in Land Army uniform (1942)
“Esme was in the Land Army during World War II and her last posting was in Norfolk. I have found several old small fuzzy photographs taken at a farm in Norfolk; on the back of one of them, she has written Carr Farm, Kerdiston. Esme was given permission to leave the Land Army in 1945 on compassionate grounds, in order to help her mother, when her father, Joseph, died suddenly. This was the cause of much regret for her, as she loved Norfolk and the Land Army.”

“Before the War, Esme and her parents toured the country in their car for holidays and Norfolk was one of the places they enjoyed. I am sure that, because of all the happy memories, this was why they came to the Maids Head after her father’s death.”

On the back of the tariff Esme Dale has noted the train times for their journey from Newcastle to Norwich, leaving at 8.10am and arriving at 2pm, changing at York and Ely. She added the address of George Smith & Son in Wroxham, so they must have been planning a trip on the Norfolk Broads and also worked out their budget for the week.

Maids Head Hotel tariff 1945
The bill gives a fascinating insight into the Maids Head in 1945. There is a motor garage ‘offering first-class open and closed motor cars for hire’ and there is a line on the bill for ‘servants’ board and apartments’. The tariff promotes ‘hot and cold running water in all bedroom’ and ‘central heating’.

Christine Malcolm, General Manager, the Maids Head Hotel said: “I am so pleased that Dorothy Latham contacted us. We are going to frame the bill and put it on public display. We are very keen to gather memories of the hotel, so we can build a fuller picture of life at the Maids Head over the centuries.”

 The Maids Head Hotel claims to be the oldest hotel in Britain, based on the hotel’s site being used continuously for hospitality since the early 12th century. Norwich historian, Walter Rye, who also owned the Maids Head from 1889 to 1895 considered it to be: “the oldest Norman site in the city after the Castle”.

Eighteenth century historian Rev. Francis Blomfield explained that the hotel was built on the site of a house owned by the early Norman bishops. It was this house that became a guest house for visitors to the Cathedral. This eventually became the Murtel Fish or Molde Fish Tavern, the predecessor of The Maids Head. The tavern is first mentioned in Norwich records in 1287. John Paston recommended the Maids Head as good place to stable a horse in a letter dated 2nd November 1472, confirming the change of name.

For more information about the Maids Head see www.maidsheadhotel.co.uk, t. 01603 209955.