There’s a journey of discovery to be taken when you visit The Duke of Cornwall Hotel, one of Britain’s most stunning historic hotels. It was built in 1863 as Plymouth’s first luxury hotel and was later described by notable poet Sir John Betjeman as “one of the nation’s finest examples of Victorian architecture”. With its spectacular construction and beautifully restored interior, the Duke of Cornwall Hotel continues to inspire and intrigue guests today. Staying at this historic hotel offers a chance to enjoy modern comforts and superb service, while enjoying a glimpse back in time.
Since its beginnings as a grand hotel to serve a luxury market in the age of steam travel, the Duke of Cornwall Hotel has welcomed an array of illustrious guests.
The Duke was built to meet the new demand for accommodation when the steam train arrived at Millbay railway station. It was located at the busy hub where travellers by rail and from steam ocean liners at Millbay Docks converged. The Duke, then Plymouth’s tallest building, became a beacon of style in the city.
Between then and today, the Duke has welcomed a number of famous faces to rest in its luxury rooms. Explorer Ernest Shackleton and his party spend the last night at the hotel before their infamous Antarctic expedition. The Duke’s guest books also feature legendary showbiz names including Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. Plus, we’ve also hosted figures from the world of politics, including Alan Clarke and Dame Janet Fookes.
This historic hotel also played a part in the story of the world’s most infamous cruise ship, the Titanic.
After the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, Plymouth was the first port of call for some of the returning crew survivors. Of this group, 20 ship stewardesses spent their first night back at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel. We have raised awareness of this previously little-known historical connection by hosting two free exhibitions. These events, run by Plymouth-based Titanic expert Nigel Voisey, have brought together a fascinating array of artefacts. We are proud to have helped to place these on public display. They have offered a rare insight into the story of the Titanic through a range of original documents, objects and exhibits. The Titanic link has been yet another intriguing chapter in the history of the hotel, and of Plymouth.
Plymouth has undergone dramatic transformations since the Duke of Cornwall Hotel first made its entrance.
In particular, the city centre saw a huge rebuilding project following the destruction inflicted during the Second World War. And the railway station at Millbay that had inspired the building of the hotel was demolished in the 1970s. But through all of this, the Duke of Cornwall has stood tall as a constant through changing times.
In a city whose previous life is in many ways unrecognisable, this historic hotel is more important now than ever. While the focus of the Millbay area has evolved, the Duke is now ideally located for different reasons. With two of the region’s best live entertainment venues, Plymouth Pavilions and Theatre Royal Plymouth, now on the hotel’s doorstep, the hotel is the ideal place for pre-show drinks or an overnight stay for those coming to enjoy stage shows. And with Brittany Ferries now linking Plymouth to France and Spain, the Duke is re-connected to its role as a convenient location for sea-bound travellers.
Having stood the test of time, the Duke remains a well-loved character in Plymouth’s new life. And with the stories it has to tell, this unique history hotel keeps a part of our city’s past alive.