There are plenty of opportunities to spend the night in historic properties. But what about choosing accommodation where key historical figures have stayed?
Website Nights in the Past has a list of over 600 hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs with connections to recognisable, famous figures in British, European and American history – from Abraham Lincoln to David Lloyd George and Napoleon to Nelson.
Christian Boulton came up with the idea after he and his wife bought a cottage and discovered that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had rented a room in it. Christian has himself stayed in places with historical connections including the Lygon Arms in Broadway, Worcestershire, linked to Cromwell and King Charles I.
The Guy Fawkes Inn in York has an obvious link. He was believed to have been born on the site of the building. And the Hadley Bowling Green Inn near Droitwich in Worcestershire is where the gunpowder plotters were thought to have met before they attempted to blow up Parliament.
As you might imagine, increased media coverage of a famous person because of an anniversary or TV programme can boost searches for properties connected to that character. “A television programme like the Tudors can become a big thing,” says Christian. “Also, when birthdays of famous figures are marked on social media, that can create interest.” Christian says he noticed an increase in searches for Jane Austen-linked properties because of that.
He says there are several places with historical ties that fascinate him. His favourite is in Southwell in Nottinghamshire. “The Saracen’s Head is extraordinary. It is one of the most historic buildings in the United Kingdom. It is beautiful in itself.”
Christian told me that Charles I was staying there when he was arrested. He subsequently went to trial and was beheaded at Whitehall. “The room has not really changed. Its floors slope, you have the original timber framing and parts of the building have Elizabethan frescoes on the walls. It’s a little time capsule.”
Christian has a haunted section on the website. “It doesn’t matter whether you believe in that or not,” he says, ”it certainly gets a lot of interest. Those properties tend to be old and have a lot of character and people like that. There is a beautiful building called the Three Crowns in Chagford in Devon where, during the Civil War, a Royalist commander supposedly died in its porch.”
Property owners are welcome to contact Christian for his free listing service but he does insist that there has to be some grounding in the historic claims, “even if it’s a little tenuous, a no-smoke-without-fire connection,” he says. “But people cannot just invent a reason to get on the site. Just having an old property isn’t a suitable criteria!”
The website also offers a photographic guide to the most beautiful villages of England. You can check out Christian’s website at nightsinthepast.com.
Listen to my full chat with Christian for the Great Destinations Radio Show here: