Royal Clarence Hotel


This old coaching inn welcomed weary travellers when Burnham was little more than a small cluster of cottages and a Church set behind windy coastal dunes.

Built as a coaching inn, these are oldest licensed premises left in Burnham. The earliest known deeds date from 1792. This was the period when the future King William IV was still the popular Duke of Clarence. It is hard to believe it is as old as that when there was really no village here then. The Hotel was originally built at the head of a causeway which extended from the sands to the brink of the river. It was more than once swept away by floods during its construction. Notes from Samuel Nash (1966) give anecdotal evidence that the hotel was first licensed in 1805 and that before that it was a private residence. These notes also cite anecdotal evidence that the name arose because the Duke of Clarence stayed there but go on to cast doubt on this due to lack of evidence.  The hotel is certainly likely to have been linked with the first activities of the neighboring Spa development in the 1820‘s.  In 1836 it was reported that “the hotel is about to be re-opened” The main entrance archway was on the side, (now Regent St), not the front, because no Esplanade then existed, there being only grass and dunes from the building to the beach. It was under this archway the horse and carriage would have delivered their customers.

Royal Clarence carriage, date & location unknown.


In 1838 the owner Mr W.Clements had an area with its garden of three rods, 14 perches for which he paid a tithe of 4 shillings and 2 pence, ( 22p)  plus a boat house and rabbit warren and sand dunes of 10 acres. An advertisement in 1903 states ’an inspection pit for motor cars is upon the premises and a motor car, carriages and horses are for hire’.

George Pruen is the best remembered landlord there as he had an 1898 Daimler Wagonette in which he used to collect his customers from the railway station in the 1930’s.  This vehicle, which used to frequently back fire resulting in very loud bangs was affectionately known as ‘Fiery Liz’, as local residents could hear its backfire ‘from one end of the town to the other’. Fiery Liz is still on display at the Haynes Motor Museum. It was made at the Motor Mills factory in Coventry and would have cost £373 when new (around £40,000 in today’s money).  It also served for a spell as a school bus. “When it first arrived we knew that it was one of the very first motor cars to be used in Somerset” -Haynes Motor Museum.

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