In search of what, I was no longer sure, but before leaving Rochester, I had one stop-off to check out. That was to compare the coaching inn there that shares the same name as the one in Dartford (The Royal Victoria and Bull), so I could see if there are any parallels that could be drawn between them in terms of visitors stopping off there on the way to Canterbury – or simply people meeting to share and compare stories, let alone tales.
Is it irrational, or could it genuinely be a hunch, but I felt I had to see this other place that had been renamed after a visit by Queen Victoria – as she had reputedly stayed in both places, one of them in the year before her coronation and one in the year after – and they had changed their names as a result of each respective visit. Yet I’ve not been able to find a reason why she went to either place as yet (but wouldn’t it be great if it was something to do with making a Royal pilgrimage to Canterbury?)
It seems that the council had got there to see the one in Rochester first, however, as the hotel was shut down – and a mix of reports I’ve found on Trip Advisor fairly much confirms why: too much noise at night, a smell of dank/stale air, lack of cleanliness of the rooms and generally poor customer service that couldn’t care less.
For a city that takes other aspects of its heritage seriously with support for Charles Dickens and his stories, I was surprised that this heritage listed building has been left to go to rack and ruin – especially given its connection to the monarch of the period that Dickens wrote in, and which the city had just feted.
Added to that, Swank, the new night club that they had put in next door to it, seems to not fit at all with the spirit of the place.
Indeed, there seems to be a few ironic parallels in this discovery in line with happened to the Youth Hostel at the Old Mill in Winchester, where I had first met the travellers heading in either direction in 1991, as I found that one end of that had been turned into a Pizza Hut and the character-filled Youth Hostel is no longer there when I returned in 2006. That said, some of Winchester’s tenuous links to Camelot have since been dispelled as romantic fiction tied up with Sir Thomas Malory’s “Morte d’arthur” – and not the real legend – and so there’s less to attract people to the poorly constructed mock-up of The Great Hall and Round Table there.