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Hotel ablaze after raging city fire spreads

NewsBy Sunday World
Firefighter tackle a blaze at the Royal Clarence Hotel
Firefighter tackle a blaze at the Royal Clarence Hotel

Firefighters are tackling a blaze at the "oldest hotel in England".

The fire is believed to have started at an art gallery in Exeter city centre but has now spread to the nearby Royal Clarence Hotel.

About 110 firefighters, police and paramedics are at the blaze, which began shortly after 5am on Friday.

Devon and Somerset Fire Service said crews from across Devon were at the scene tackling the blaze which has affected a block of buildings on Cathedral Yard.

"It is not known at this time where or how the fire started or how many properties have been affected. No injuries are reported," a spokesman said.

Devon and Cornwall Police said road closures were in place around the city centre.

"It is hoped to open High Street to pedestrians and public transport as soon as possible, but this is dependent on the fire service safely completing its activities at the scene of the fire on Cathedral Green," a force spokesman said.

"It is likely that Cathedral Green will remain cordoned off and not accessible to the public for some time.

"It is not known at this time how the fire started. No injuries are reported."

The Royal Clarence Hotel has stood on the same spot for 300 years and is reported to be the oldest hotel in England.

The 18th century coaching inn, which is now called the Abode Hotel, is part of the Andrew Brownsword group.

A hotel spokeswoman said: "Following the morning's fire, all our guests and staff were evacuated and all are safe and accounted for."

Dr Todd Gray, an historian at the University of Exeter, said: "The Royal Clarence is in the heart of what was not just the Medieval city but within the precincts of Roman Exeter.

"For 2,000 years this area has been the focus of the city's religious and commercial life.

"The ground and first floors of the hotel are medieval and the upper floors were added in the late 1700s when the building was renamed a hotel.

"It has been long known as the first inn in England to rebrand itself in this way.

"What is so particularly heart-breaking about this loss is that these buildings escaped the Blitz of 1942 when so much of Exeter was destroyed.

"We have so little left and hopefully the fire will be contained and not spread further."