Vickery’s Hotel - Bantry building with a long and illustrious history

July 25th, 2020 10:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

Vickery’s Hotel and one of their stage coaches, which took tourists on excursions from there to Glengarriff, Kenmare and Killarney.

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WE were all saddened when Vickery’s Inn in the centre of Bantry closed down and was subsequently sold (well pre-Covid, may we add). We thought it would be of interest to our readers to get an insight into Vickery’s colourful and illustrious past.

Who better to ask than the last owner, historian Hazel Vickery, who was only too glad to rally to our assistance and to whom we express our deep gratitude. Over to Hazel now:

Vickery’s Hotel, Bantry, was established by Thomas Vickery and his wife Mary, nee Sullivan (married 1833). Thomas and his brother, Richard, who established Vickery’s Hardware on Main Street were the sons of James and Ellen Vickery of Moloch, Bantry.

Thomas bought the ground rent lease of a premises in Bantry in New Street from Thomas Leahy. This lease was originally between Richard White, grandfather of the 1st Earl of Bantry and Thomas Leahy, dated 1786. We don’t know when Thomas bought this lease. 

He first established himself as a dyer of a homemade woollen cloth. Cheaper and better imports from England soon saw the collapse of this trade. He then set up a coach business which according to the trade directory, Stratten & Stratten, by 1892, ‘had become the largest posting establishment in the south of Ireland, all the public cars, coaches and brakes running to Glengarriff, en route to the famous Lakes of Killarney, being horsed by Mr George Vickery, requiring a stud of from 75 to 100 horses.

‘For these, stabling accommodation for 25 is provided in Bantry and there are additional stables at Glengarriff and Kenmare and Killarney, where the horses are changed. Mr Vickery also provides cars and carriages with steady and reliable drivers for visitors.’   

Thomas’s granddaughter said that when the coaches met the train in Bandon (the train came as far as Bandon in 1830), he realised people were looking for accommodation so they started taking visitors to their house. By 1850 the house had evolved into Vickery’s Hotel. 

A Lawrence photo of Bantry, circa 1877, shows the hotel as being a stand-alone building with four windows on each floor. On the west gable end, the name Vickery’s Hotel was visible, as it was on the front. Thomas extended the building taking in a vacant site next door.

Thomas died in 1883 and his son, George, and his wife Ellen, continued to run the hotel and the coaching business. He added more bedrooms by building over the entrance to the stables (later to become Vickery’s Garage) and to the rear of the hotel.

Stratten & Stratten again provide a description of the hotel in 1892: ‘The bedrooms, 25 in number, are airy and comfortably-furnished apartments. Special attention is directed to the most scrupulous cleanliness and visitors may indulge in the luxury of hot and cold, plunge and spray baths which have been fitted at considerable cost with all the newest improvements.

‘The cooking and attendance are all of the most fastidious guest could require, and the wine cellars of the establishment contain the choicest wines and spirits of the finest brands and of acknowledged excellence.’ There was a fireplace in each bedroom with coal fires lit during the colder months.

In 1913/’14 when electricity from the Mill Stream became available, electric lights were installed. By then, George’s son, William (Willie), and his wife, Grace, were running the hotel. With the arrival of the motor car, cars and charabancs (open-topped motor coaches) replaced the horse-drawn carriages and coaches. Between the two businesses they provided employment for a number of local men and women.

The early 1900s was a turbulent time in Ireland.  The hotel was burnt down by the IRA during the War of Independence in March 1921. The only thing saved was a clock that had been hanging in the front hall.   

Following the fire, the Vickery family lived in Blackrock Terrace for a number of years, then by 1926, the hotel was rebuilt and open for business once more.  The design of the building had been changed, there were two bay windows over the front door on the first and second floor, shops were to the right of the front door and a showroom for Vickery’s Ford Garage to the left. (The garage was run by Thomas Vickery a member of the Vickery’s Hardware family, father of Ian Snr).

Inside was totally changed. The entrance hall opened to the foyer which commanded the centre of the building. The flooring was black and white tiles, the walls were two floors high with some wall hangings and pictures and chandeliers.

In the centre of the ceiling there were two high, roof lights.

The dining-room was now on the first floor. It was a large room with four tall windows facing to the street.

Following Willie’s death in 1955. the hotel was bought by Elsie Vickery and her son, Ian, from Willie’s widow Anne, his second wife; Grace had died. Ian and I were married in 1961 and we continued to run the hotel up to the time of Ian’s death in 1988.

Our son, Thomas, and I continued with Ian Jnr taking over Ian’s photographic business. After many happy and eventful years we sold the hotel, at that stage called Vickery’s Inn, in 2006.

The building was on a lease from the Earl of Bantry. A lease of 23rd January 1855 from Earl of Bantry to Thomas Vickery for 200 years, replaces a lease made by the grandfather of the Earl to Thomas Leahy on 28th May 1786. When Thomas acquired the lease from Thomas Leahy is not known. However Thomas Vickery is listed as tenant in Griffith’s Valuations in 1842-5.

Willie and his wife Grace continued to run the hotel successfully for many years and also the hire car business, which included a hearse.

After Grace died a number of manageress helped with the running of the hotel. Following Willie’s death in 1955 the hotel was put up for sale by Willie’s widow Anne, his second wife whom he had married after Grace’s death. Elsie Vickery widow of Tommie Vickery of Vickery’s garage and her son Ian bought the hotel.

This meant that the garage behind the hotel and the hotel were then under the same ownership.  Ian married Hazel, née Hurst, in 1961 who continued to run the hotel up to the time of Ian’s untimely death in 1988.  Hazel and their son Thomas continued with Ian Jnr taking over his father’s photographic business.

After many happy and eventful years, they sold the hotel, at that stage called Vickery’s Inn, in 2006.

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