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The George Hotel in Reading, part of the Mercure group, looks like it's seen quite a few guests, well, it has been there since 1423!
It's got two arched entrances into a charming courtyard before you encounter the front door. It was on the main coaching route from London to the West Country in the 18th century. In 1673 it used to take 8 days to travel from London to Exeter at 5 miles a hour so the inns on the way were essential stopping posts where the horses could also be changed for a fresh set and travellers could have a meal or stay overnight. By 1797 there were 42 stagecoach routes across the country and as roads and transport improved, journey times were cut.
The Great Bath Road used to run from Hyde Park Corner in London to Hounslow where there was a centre which would stable 20,000 horses and waggons, then it progressed through Maidenhead and Twyford before reaching Reading. Horses were changed every 8 miles so the inns became more to do with horses rather than for accommodation and when reaching Reading, another centre with several inns, the Huntley & Palmers gingernut biscuits, produced at the factory in the town, became popular as a snack by the travellers while they waited for the journey to Bath to resume. Jane Austen's Aunt and Uncle, Mr and Ms James Leigh Perrot, lived in Hare Hatch near Reading and would have used the stagecoaches regularly, her Aunt was accused of stealing some lace and was imprisoned in Ilchester gaol. William Herschel would also travel this way and the George Hotel suggests Charles Dickens did too.
Highwaymen were a problem on this route.
More information on the route can be found in Brenda J Buchanan's The Great Bath Road 1700-1830 via Bath Spa University, a PDF document.
|This is said to be Charles Dickens' chair|
Grade II listed, the hotel is in the centre of town.