Sidmouth’s popularity as a holiday resort began in the Georgian era before becoming the place to be during Queen Victoria’s reign. The town’s connection to the Regency period is evident thanks to the many buildings and hotels that still proudly dominate the town, particularly along the seafront. This isn’t the only connection to Queen Victoria though because long before she became Queen, she spent childhood holidays in Sidmouth, much like many of you did.
Stay at the former home of royalty
The house that Queen Victoria and her family called home for a few months is still operating as a hotel in the town and is a popular choice for holiday makers. The Royal Glen Hotel was built in 1700 and at the time was a modest farm house known as King’s Cottage after the site’s owner. Over the years it was converted and became one of the most splendid Regency buildings in Sidmouth and it was then that it was visited by royalty.
In 1819, now as Woolbrook Cottage, the house welcomed some very special guests, The Duke and Duchess of Kent, the son and daughter in law of King George II, and their young daughter, Alexandrina (who went on to become Queen Victoria), came to stay. Back then, the hotel had fifteen rooms and room 15 was transformed into the royal nursery. Today, you can view a plaque celebrating the fact that a future queen stayed there.
The royal party arrived on Christmas Eve 1819 and the town’s people were said to be very excited when they spotted the royal baby being taken for walks around the gardens. According to local stories, someone did once try to assassinate her as a baby by shooting at her through the nursery window. You can find the window by looking for the coloured pane of glass which marks the spot.
If you thought that was the only traumatic thing to happen during the Duke and Duchess of Kent’s stay, you’d be wrong. The Duke became ill and died in Sidmouth on 23rd January 1820. He was laid in state for a short time at what is now the Royal Glen and local residents took it in turn to come and view him as the family had become quite popular. Sadly, his father, King George, died six days after the Duke which postponed the funeral until February. Eventually, the Duke’s coffin was transported to Windsor and people gathered in the streets to see him off.
Later having become Queen, Victoria held her jubilee at the hotel in 1897.
Visits from Britain’s princes
The Royal Glen Hotel had another royal visit in 1856, when Queen Victoria’s son, the Prince of Wales (aka Edward VII) visited the town and was shown around his mother’s Sidmouth apartment and the places that his grandparents had called home. He didn’t stay there though, he stayed nearby at the Royal York and Faulkner Hotel which was known as the York Hotel at the time. The hotel’s owners added the Royal following his visit.
Another of Queen Victoria’s children, her third son, the Duke of Connaught came to Sidmouth in 1931 and then three years later, at the age of 84, returned to give his name to the famous Connaught Gardens which are still enjoyed by visitors to this day and regularly picks up awards from the Britain in Bloom team. The gardens date back to around 1820 and during the summer, you can enjoy live music on a Sunday at the historic bandstand.
You can find out more about Sidmouth’s royal connections and history here and by visiting the town’s museum.