I've wanted to photograph this location for so so long, and finally a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to do so! The owner arranged for me to visit before they boarded and sealed up the premises. They've had trouble with break-ins, and there is now also 24-hour security onsite as it's very unsafe.
And boy did it meet my expectations in terms of photography! Along with that it included some interesting historical information, the perfect combination. I've stood at the Bangor marina many times looking at this iconic hotel and imagining what it would have been like back in the day, and wondering what it would be like inside to photograph.
The hotel is listed as being built in 1773. Here it is pictured in 1897 (Image from Beltel online) It was then rebuilt in 1932 into the model that we can see today. I am really taken by old photos and this one in particular is a great example. Just look at their style, people in those days knew how to dress!
I posted an image from the nightclub in The Windsor last week (The Windsor is adjoining to The Royal Hotel) and the response was huge! It's evident that this complex played a massive part in people's lives growing up and it looks like it's sorely missed, isn't everything from the 90s?
This room was the nightclub of the Windsor, its very distinguishable with the tiled floor and wrap around balcony. I've been told that many big names played here throughout history. Van Morrison is one that keeps cropping up, apparently he used this room for sound rehearsals. Otis and the Elevators are another band that had big crowds come to see them play here. Other big names from the 90s era, that were top of the charts were, Nikki French who played Bonnie Tylers 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' and New Atlantic with the memorable dance song featuring Berri, 'Sunshine after the Rain'.
I love both these songs and they take me right back to that era everytime I hear them. I wish I was at the Windsor to hear them play live, it must have been electric.
This is a photograph of the nightclub when it was operational. Seeing the before and after photos always make me pause, and these images were no different.
These pictures were taken at a swing dancing event. I don't always get to see before photographs, so these two saddened me seeing the room so full of life to what it is now.
Thank you to Mark McComiskey for allowing me to upload these
I read some comments from people saying that they loved the balcony and the view it provided below 😉 Also, some remembered dancing on the bannister railing, that must have taken some skills, I'd love to have seen it! Some lucky people even met their husband/wife on this very dancefloor. Heartwarming ❤️
A few posters have already made note of it being difficult navigating these stairs at the end of the night. I would make a guess that a few ankles and high heels paid the price 🤣
The complex closed in 2014, with some employees having worked there for 67+ years.
The buildings were planned for total refurbishment. However, once pre construction engineering work started it was found that the steelwork of the internal floors and the external parts of the building was badly corroded. It became apparent that the building could not be saved. I saw evidence of this myself, the beams are visibly rotting away.
As a result plans have been re-submitted to demolish the existing structure and rebuild the buildings The Royal/Windsor. The facade that we all know and love will be replicated. This way it will still be The Royal but a newer version which is fabulous news and one I'm sure is highly welcomed from the people of Bangor. Hopefully these plans will be passed soon and the urgent work can begin. You can read more about the Royal Quays below.
Due to it being boarded up, the hotel is extremely dark in several areas. , but that doesn't stop the details showing through.
Just like these stained glass windows, the light that morning coming through them was breathtaking!
I don't know why but this section of the building reminded me of a pirate ship. Going down stairs to the nightclub was like going to the bowels of the ship. Anyone else? 🏴☠️
This looks like it might have been the pool room and it may have led out to the beer gardens, which are no longer there I believe.
Van Morrison was a regular at the Royal, he played here, ate here and stayed here. On one visit a young waitress recalls him leaving his hat behind after dinner. She kept it for him and on his return she gave him his hat back and he tipped her a tenner as a way of thanks! What a great memory to have!
The food that was served here was said have been fantastic and a silver service waitress that has been mentioned many times to me was Gertie. Everyone saw her as their granny as she made them feel so special when they were in! Gertie went out of her way to make your experience at the Royal the very best if could be. It sounds like she has left a lasting memory on all who met her at the hotel. I've been told she was still working well into her 80s after 67 years of service until retirement, what an incredible lady!
This is a picture of Gertie, thank you to her grandson Philip for sending me it. I just love her smile, you can tell she is bursting with character!
This door leads us into the Royal Hotel from the Windsor. Although these are two seperate buildings they feel very much one.
This is the main revolving door that lead out onto the main street. This door is huge and I don't think I've ever seen one like it. It reminded me of the Tardis from Dr Who 🤯
There have been many people pass through this door, one of which was a famous wrestler. I've recorded a video from my visit here and I'll post this in the coming days which I'll tell you all about him!
The Library Bar.
I can see how this would be a very inviting spot to sit by the fire and relax with a drink of choice in hand. Here I am acting out the scene 😂. That fireplace though 🤤
In here the bar has been removed and was given to a nearby pub. This and some fireplaces were saved, I'm so glad they've been repurposed and part of the Old Royal will live on.
It's been a long time from this kitchen has seen a service! Most of it is now under water.
I venture upstairs to the hotel rooms. Some furniture still remains and you get that hotel feel.
Another past employee messaged me to say that one day they had been notified that Dannii Minogue was in town and that her and her team wanted to stop off at the Royal to use one of the suites as a dressing room. In light of this they immediately started preparing and spent all morning getting everything in order for the mega star. A few hours later they got word that Danni and team had instead booked into the Marine Court hotel which is right next door. Gutted!
This is the corner window of the suite, the views over the marina are spectacular. In this window you can see nets that have been wrapped all around the hotels exterior. This is to stop the birds getting access in.
Most rooms are gutted and don't have much left so it was nice to see this tea service left sitting on the tray. I wonder who was the last person to book this room?
Many people got married and had their reception here, Could this have been the bridal suite? Comment if you know 😎
The top floors of the hotel were used in WW2 by the Royal Navy and they used the rooftop as a signal station.
In 1942 the US Navy followed and also set up base in the hotel, from here they controlled a fleet of warships over Belfast Lough.
The architect who designed the Hotel was LH Hodgins, he was also responsible for Regent Palace and Earl Haig Memorial Hall in Bangor.
The five story hotel is surprisingly shallow with it only going back three rooms in depth.
I really hope these plans go through as soon as possible. Lots of Bangor looks abandoned and empty at present and I wonder why the town has been left 'abandoned'.
I really look forward to seeing the end result of this historically sympathetic rebuild, and who knows, it may live on for another 250+ years!
I am working on a second book and The Royal will have its own chapter so if you have a story or character from the hotel you'd like to add please get in touch!
I can't wait to read your comments on Facebook/Instagram about this documentation, it's one I thoroughly enjoyed!