24th May 1895
The Imperial Hotel opened for the first time
The Imperial Hotel has been a feature of Rocquaine Bay since 1895. It opened in time for the start of that year’s summer season, on 24 May.
It had 17 rooms for guests and a pavilion for picnic eating to one site. The Star described it as being “a considerable distance from town [but] placed in direct communication with it by the many cars that run daily around the island during the season”.
Just like old times
Getting to and from Town may now be easier, and the hotel has been extended over the years, but otherwise many features remain the same. It still has just 17 guest rooms, all of which have en suite bathroom facilities. In an age when bathing facilities might have been a second thought, The Star did comment on “its sanitary arrangements being perfect” at the time of the hotel’s opening.
One thing has disappeared since the Imperial opened more than a century ago, and that’s the stable. This housed the horses that were used to take the aforementioned “cars” up and down the steep hill to Pleinmont.
The hotel was established by Henry Shirvell, whose father – also called Henry – ran the Channel Islands Hotel.
Another Imperial Hotel
The name Imperial was a popular one. This wasn’t the first Imperial Hotel in the Channel Islands: an establishment with the very same name had opened in Jersey almost 30 years earlier – in September 1866. Sadly, though, that Imperial hadn’t lasted. With a downturn in business it shut its doors before Guernsey’s more modest equivalent opened up.
The building that once housed Jersey’s Imperial Hotel is still standing, and in fact re-opened as a hotel in the 1950s, albeit under a different name. St Helier’s four-star Hotel de France, as it’s now known, remains one of the largest hotels in the Channel Islands, with 129 rooms and a 17,000 sq ft wellness spa.