Dating back to as early as 1650 The Old Bell Hotel is rich with history. During its days as a working coaching inn it was one of the busiest places in the city.
A traditional coaching inn was typically a bar or hotel where horse drawn stagecoaches swapped horses while travellers got a drink, a bite to eat and perhaps spent the night.
The Old Bell Hotel was one of Derby’s largest and oldest coaching inns with up to 50 hotel rooms during its peak. Many parts across the building give clues to its rich history and heritage which can still be seen today.
The Old Bell’s alley leads directly to our historic courtyard and was the main entrance for travellers and stagecoaches. Visitors would travel down the alley from the old St. Georges yard which was directly opposite with the entrance still visible today.
The alley at night was incredibly dark and lit with gas lanterns which stagecoach drivers would fold back as they travelled down the narrow entrance. These original lanterns have been modernised and you can still see these today.
There was another alleyway located towards the right of The Old Bell where our Stables events space currently is which led directly to the back of the building. This alley was used for leaving stagecoaches and had easy access to the Stables and dog kennels. You can still see the old arches that stand in the centre and remain part of the structure.
The courtyard is where the stagecoaches would arrive, travellers get on or off and horses are changed over. Much has changed in the courtyard over the years as there was once a row of cottages before the Tudor bar was built and more of the hotel rooms.
The courtyard contains many nods to the past with an original water pump and even the stables master’s quarters which can be seen at the bottom of the courtyard.
Rooms Bells & Staircase
Rooms bells were essential for room service in old hotels when there was no such thing as a telephone. When The Old Bell had up to 50 hotel rooms these bells lined the walls around the kitchen and bars to alert the servant staff.
You’ll still be able to see the original service bells and mechanisms at the bottom of our Jacobean staircase with some of the original room numbers still there.
Our Jacobean staircase is one of very few left in Derby and goes to the top of the building towards the attic rooms. This original staircase is the same stairs Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army would have climbed when they were billeted to the upper floors before their fateful march to London in 1745.
The Grand Regency Ballroom
Our Grand Regency Ballroom wasn’t always the grand space it is now. It was once split into three different rooms, the largest of which was called the Regency Room which was an exclusive bar and lounge. The ballroom was also the location of some of the 50 hotel rooms at The Old Bell, which were knocked down after the introduction of the railway.
The beautiful domes that now flood the ballroom with light were for many years boarded up and it cost around £30,000 for each of the domes to be restored to their former glory.
Next time you’re walking around The Old Bell Hotel see if you notice anything of these or more clues about its rich history. Find out more about our history.