A pub which hosted royalty centuries ago and whose origins date back to the 1300s has reopened after a £1 million-plus makeover.
Shepherd Neame bought the historic town centre pub at the end of Rochester High Street for about £1 million.
Four years later it has undergone a £1.2 million makeover, which has included a name change, extensive internal and external renovation, a new dining area with panoramic river views and a revitalised menu.
Now called The Royal Crown, the place is a landmark Grade II-listed hostelry dating back to the 1860s, near Rochester Bridge.
Faversham-based Shepherd Neame has reinstated the name in honour of King Charles’ coronation earlier this year – and in a nod to King Henry VIII’s visit to the town in 1539 to meet his fourth bride Anne of Cleves.
Designers have taken care to retain and enhance the pub’s period features while introducing a contemporary look and feel.
It has ditched its well-known red shades for a more majestic black and gold to add to the royal moniker.
A new entrance lobby has been created, and a new feature gas fire has been added in the main bar area after an unused fireplace was reopened. All new furniture and décor have been introduced throughout, while retaining traditional features such as original wood floors and dado panelling.
The first floor has been remodelled to create a spacious new feel, with a former storage room now part of the bar and restaurant area, and a previously boarded window reclaimed to allow stunning views of the River Medway.
There is also a new private dining area overlooking the river, which can accommodate up to eight guests, named the King’s View.
Sport will remain at the heart of The Royal Crown, with the first-floor area offering seven TV screens showing Sky Sports and TNT Sports, and further screens in the ground floor bar and restaurant.
It will also continue to cater for functions, with the first-floor area – which can accommodate up to 100 people – available to hire.
Further improvements to the facilities include a new accessible toilet on the ground floor, while the other toilets have been moved to the basement to free up more space, along with a unisex toilet on the first floor.
A new menu of light bites and traditional pub classics with a contemporary twist is served every day. The popular Sunday roasts with all the trimmings will be making a welcome return, and young diners are catered for with the introduction of a Menu for Minis.
A selection of award-winning craft ales and lagers are also on offer, along with a wide range of premium wines and spirits. And, exclusively at The Royal Crown, the pub will offer two of Shepherd Neame’s Classic Collection draught keg beers: Double Stout and Bishop’s Finger.
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The team at the pub, which reopened to customers on Saturday (November 25), will continue to be led by general manager Tom Crackett.
Managing director of pubs Jonathon Swaine said: “We are delighted to unveil The Royal Crown’s new look and offer. Our team have worked incredibly hard during the past months to revitalise this historic building while also preserving its unique character and features.
“The pub boasts an amazing riverside location in the heart of Rochester, and we are sure that following this stunning transformation it will continue to go from strength to strength.”
There has been an inn on the site in the shadow of Rochester Castle since the 1300s and reopened as a pub in the late 1700s as The Royal Crown.
For two decades it was managed by the Krays, father Steve and his eldest son Pete, who changed the name from the Norman Conquest to The Crown.
In 2014, the pub became the centre of media attention during a Rochester and Strood by-election campaign as the backdrop for press conferences staged by Nigel Farage leader of the UK Independence Party.
Mr Farage, currently appearing in I’m A Celebrity, made numerous visits to support his colleague Mark Reckless who defected from the Conservatives to UKIP.
As reporters and TV crews converged on the town, Farage took the opportunity between interviews to pop in for his favourite tipple.