Rescue hope for iconic hotel declared 'at risk' by national body

Winding up petition taped to boarded up Star Hotel

The Star Hotel - Credit: Liz Coates

A landmark riverside hotel has been added to a list of vulnerable buildings, sparking new hopes it can be brought back to life.

According to SAVE Britain's Heritage "lack of use" at Great Yarmouth's Star Hotel is drawing concerns after it failed to re-open after the Covid lockdown.

It joins 60 new sites on a long list of over 1,200 buildings at risk of being lost through redundancy or neglect. Also added is a former merchant's house in Norwich.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council leader, Carl Smith, by the Winter Gardens which has been awarded £10

Council leader Carl Smith hopes the building at risk listing for the Star Hotel, described as 'a powerful tool', will lead to it reopening. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Carl Smith, borough council leader, welcomed the move helping to highlight its plight, but said the situation was complex with multiple room owners involved.

He said: "When you come into Yarmouth it is the first thing you see when you come over the Haven Bridge. It would be lovely to see it back open.

"Let's see what happens when it is put on the at risk list," he said.

Honorary alderman Mick Castle hailed the prospect of the listed treasure having a national champion that also had some legal expertise and the tools to get something done.

"At least there is some hope," he said.

The Star Hotel in Gt Yarmouth is set to open its doors again after a major refurbishment.

Flashback: The Star Hotel in 2017 when it was set to open its doors again after a major refurbishment. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

"It's an iconic building on Hall Quay and even a couple of years ago it was a nice place to go for a meal, and lots of groups used to meet there.

"The worry is the longer it sits empty the more chance there is of it being burnt to the ground, which would be a tragedy.

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"And if there is any way people in Yarmouth can get involved and and show their support that would be good too."

Star Hotel boarded up

The Star Hotel sits empty - Credit: James Weeds

The 18th century building was partly refurbished in 2017 and seemed to be enjoying a renaissance.

It was sold in January 2020 for £700,000 and, in common with all hospitality, closed under the lockdown.

However, it failed to reopen when restrictions were eased and it emerged many of its rooms had been sold off to investors.

It then changed hands for just £1,000, the new owner being a company based in Malta called 36644 Ltd.

Since then it has been a target for vandals and fires, facing an uncertain future, and with no obvious way back to reopening.

A spokesman for scam investigation company, Safe or Scam, which has closely followed the saga described it as "an expensive legal mess".

He said there were people interested in buying it and working with investors.

But the only way to get the freehold from the Maltese company was via a winding up petition or for "an authority" to take control.

The borough council confirmed it had stepped in to make the building secure after it was broken into, sending the bill the owner.

Campaign group SAVE says it brings together architects, engineers, planners, and investors to rescue buildings and their "special local stories".

The organisation also takes legal action to prevent "major and needless losses," it says.

Of the list it says: "Every year we add new buildings identified by our supporters, conservation officers, and other heritage professionals in a bid to publicise the plight of historic treasures which, with a little imagination, could find new life.

"The register is a powerful tool in bringing buildings which could be repurposed to wider attention and attracts interest from all quarters."

Of The Star Hotel in Hall Quay it says: "Many pubs are built to look this old, this one really is. 

"Built in 1764 as a merchant's house, much later it became a Temperance Hotel, eventually becoming the Star Hotel in 1930.

"Refurbished in 2017, it has not reopened after lockdown and the lack of use of this most beautiful historic place is causing concern."

Ninham's Court, pictured in 1960. Picture: Archant

Ninham's Court, pictured in 1960. Picture: Archant

Another new entry highlighted is  6-9 Ninham's Court, Norwich.

The list description says: "Tucked behind an alley in the centre of Norwich this 17th century former merchant's house hides a medieval undercroft. 

"It is unused at present and, though its condition is monitored, its future will depend on finding a new purpose."

Great Yarmouth Hall Quay with the Town Hall and Star Hotel in 1960

Great Yarmouth's Hall Quay with the Town Hall in the background and the Star Hotel on the left of the picture. Date: May 16, 1960. - Credit: Archant Library

Timeline of a falling Star

1600s - original merchant's house built by William Crowe

1700s - converted from a house to the Star Tavern by the Bradshaw family

1848 - Charles Dickens stays in Yarmouth and the Star features in David Copperfield

1930 - Now called the Star Hotel it is sold to make way for an extension to the telephone exchange and demolished.The hotel moves next door to Stone House,  that had been the Cromwell Temperance Hotel since 1881.

1998 - Is handed a Grade II listing.

2001 - The hotel is taken over by Queens Moat Hotels Ltd and refurbished. It went on to become part of the Elizabeth Hotel group which went into administration in 2009, and was later owned by Geraldine Thornton.

2016 - Howard and Paul Bossick buy the hotel refurbishing 19 of the 41 rooms, reopening in September 2017.

2020 - Hotel changes hands for £700,000 to Cheshire-based owner - The Star GY Ltd. It closes in March under the lockdown but fails to reopen. It emerges the hotel’s rooms are being advertised as investment opportunities with prices starting at £44,950

2021 - Hotel is sold for £1,000 to 36644 Ltd.

2022 - Reports of a fire at the hotel and graffiti appears in its windows.