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Brooking’s Architectural Rescue – the Clavadel Hotel

Published on: 4 Jan, 2013
Updated on: 14 Feb, 2013
Architectural historian Charles Brooking writes about some of the interesting architectural fixtures and fitting he has recently salvaged from the building on the corner of Epsom Road and Pit Farm Road, Guildford, that was once the Clavadel Hotel.
The Clavadel Hotel shortly before it was demolished in the summer of 2012.

General view of hotel from car park as many people will remember it, taken just prior to demolition in summer 2012. Note chimney stacks – typical of many of those in the area – with their elaborate brickwork, looking back to 17th- and 18th-century designs.

With the kind help of the owners and the architects, Gerry Lytle & Partners, involved in the redevelopment of the Clavadel Hotel in Epsom Road, I was given access to record the building and ‘rescue’ items of interest prior to demolition last summer. The demolition company, Matthews, kindly donated the items.

I remember the Clavadel Hotel from at least 1957 when we first visited Guildford, with its splendid late-1930s-40s distinctive neon sign facing the Epsom Road and charming pollarded trees, long since gone. The hotel in those days was quite smart. Many family friends stayed there in the early 1960s. The hotel was originally built as a private house in 1897 for a Mr. MacNamara, I believe.  


View of ground floor dining room bay window, front elevation. The brickwork was originally unpainted. Paint analysis indicated that it had been painted for around 60 years. This design of sash window is typical of the Queen Anne Revival style of the late Victorian period, when glazing bars were introduced to the upper sashes.

I discovered these facts when removing one of the windows, firstly finding part of an 1897 newspaper underneath the window cill of the linen room sash window at the rear of the building. Secondly, the sash box itself was inscribed ‘Mr. MacNamara – Pit Farm Estate – linen room’. In my experience, items awaiting delivery from the joinery shop were often inscribed with the owner’s name and address. However, it is a possibility Mr. MacNamara may have been the site manager or site foreman.


View of circa 1907 single storey billiards room/ballroom extension and, to the right, an extension built circa 1995.

Pit Farm Road was developed in the 1890s, the oldest building in the road being a Bargate stone cottage dating from circa 1825-1835. Until 1972 it retained its original Gothic leaded-light casement windows, almost identical to those in the Caleb Lovejoy almshouses in Buryfields, built circa 1839. This property was part of the original Pit Farm – possibly the farmhouse.  I was fortunate enough to be passing the house in the summer, 1972, and retrieved examples of these fine Gothic Revival windows with their wrought-iron fittings.

The Clavadel Hotel was built by R. Smith builders of Guildford, who possibly constructed several other houses in the road. The building was typical of so many late-Victorian villas of the period – a mixture of Queen Anne Revival and watered down Arts & Crafts style, the upper portion of the building being rendered in pebble-dash. It had gabled wings with tile hanging, elaborate chimney stacks with pretty terracotta pots and Queen Anne Revival-style sash windows.


View of entrance porch with its Chinoiserie detailing, which was partly removed when the single-storey extension was built, circa 1960s.

The porch, although much altered, had a slight Chinoiserie feel. Internally it was quite grand in typical late-Victorian terms, with an elaborate varnished pitch pine ceiling to the entrance hall and a fine oak and pitch pine varnished staircase. Circa 1907 a fine billiards room/ballroom was added, which later became the hotel’s ballroom/restaurant.

Around circa 1949-51, possibly when the hotel opened, a single-storey wing was constructed – probably originally containing staff bedrooms. The billiards room/ballroom was the scene of many parties, including my sister’s 21st birthday celebration in 1976, when my mother (born in 1911 and a ‘flapper’ in the 1920s) danced the Charleston, as this was a 1920s themed party.


View of rear elevation of building, showing linen room window (to left of picture) which, on removal, was discovered to have a pencilled inscription on its sash box with ‘linen room, 1st floor (back), Mr. MacNamara, Pit Farm Estate.’ Underneath the window cill parts of an 1897 newspaper were used as packing, dating from the building’s construction.

The interior of the hotel had undergone major changes, probably in the early 1960s. A Spanish ‘hacienda’-style theme was introduced to the ground floor of the hotel – wrought-iron gates replacing traditional doors to the bar and dining room.

Around 1995 other major changes and additions were made, such as the replacement of all the original panelled doors with their fine reeded brass door furniture. The garden between the main hotel and the billiards room/ballroom was built over – this being originally connected to the hotel by a narrow corridor. The existing pergolas in the garden were moved to the front of the hotel. The bar was totally altered and relocated. The pitch pine varnished finish to the hall ceiling and staircase was probably over-painted in the 1960s-1970s.

In terms of ‘rescued’ items, I was, however, fortunate enough to find fine examples of Queen Anne-style sash windows just prior to the demolition, some with their original moulded Victorian patterned glass. I also retrieved the fine polished oak newel post to the main staircase, despite the fact that it had many layers of white paint, which be easily removed.

It would be very interesting to hear if any readers have memories of the building and any information about its history – for instance, when was it converted to a hotel?  If so, please leave a reply in the box below.

Architectural historian Charles Brooking.

Architectural historian Charles Brooking.

I well remember it was owned in the circa late-1960s-70s by the Lee family, who also owned the Sanford Garage, now an Art Deco-style cycle shop and apartment block. Mr. Lee had a roving eye and always commented on my mother’s fine legs when filling her car with petrol in the 1960s, offering to show her his etchings!

If you are having improvements or renovation work done to your home (large or small) and the builders are rapidly filling a skip with old fixtures and fittings , Charles may well be interested in salvaging some of the items, particularly widow frames. If so, give him a call on 01483 274203. He may also be able to help you with examples of original fittings that your house would have had.

For more details about The Brooking Collection of Architectural Detail click here to see website. 

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Responses to Brooking’s Architectural Rescue – the Clavadel Hotel

  1. John Booth Reply

    January 7, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Hello, in the 1960s and 1970s the Peck family owned the Clavadel Hotel, just on their own I think, originally Col. Peck and Mrs Joyce Peck,then their son Tony took it over and their other son Alan started to run the Onslow Arms in nearby West Clandon.
    I think Mr and Mrs Vic Lee just had the Sandford Garage in Guildford plus a flat near their garage; they were friends of the Pecks and Vic Lee later on helped run the bar at the Clavadel. I am very sorry the Clavadel has been demolished…if only it could have been saved!!
    We first started using the Clavadel in August 1962, when my sister and I and parents lived there for nine weeks, then moved into a house very nearby. We are still frieds with the Pecks.
    Regards. John Booth.

  2. Chris Townsend Reply

    January 8, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    In Kelly’s Directory of Surrey, 1930, listed under private residents in Guildford is Wing-Commdr. Jn. N. Fletcher A.F.C. Clavadel, Pit Farm Road. By 1942 he has left Clavadel.

    Kelly’s Guildford etc. for 1955 lists the Clavadel House Hotel (H. Surtees, proprietor), likewise for 1957, but simply Clavadel Hotel.

  3. Jeremy Cox Reply

    October 20, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    I lived in the Clavadel Hotel in 1958 with my parents, Jack and Bobbie Cox.

    I remember Mr Surtees well as he came to the airport in London to collect me and brought me to the hotel.

    I was 21 at the time and had flown in from East Africa.

    My parents had just returned from India and we stayed in the hotel for about three months. I have fond memories as I spent some time painting hallways and rooms! It’s very sad that the hotel is longer there.

  4. Sarah Green Reply

    May 4, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    I was just reading some family history about my great grandfather, he owned the house from 1905 until 1928. His name was Sir William Meigh Goodman. He retired there after working abroad most of his adult life.

    The family history I was reading, written by my father who ironically passed away in 2013 said that Clavadel was ‘now a hotel’, so I had a google. Sad to see it’s been demolished many a year now, but nice to see that photographs still exist.

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