As Bangor developed as a seaside resort in the late nineteenth century so the number of hotels and licensed premises grew. In addition, there were several grocers who also held licenses: spirit grocers. Indeed, as the number of licenses issued grew, the local temperance movement and even the police opposed new applications. These were usually considered by magistrates at the Newtownards Quarter Sessions.
It is intended that these paragraphs will look at both obscure and well-known businesses, some of which still exist today. I have used directories, valuations, newspaper advertisements, Marcus Patton's Bangor Gazetteer and other sources to identify and provide information on them. I also received information from contacts, especially from Patricia on the first in the series: The Steamboat Hotel.
The Steamboat Hotel stood on the seaside of Quay Street in an area then known as The Parade. This is not to be confused with Queen's Parade which in the late nineteenth century was still known as Sandy Row. The hotel was one of a number of businesses which stood in the area now occupied by the McKee Clock (right) and fountain. Among the other businesses were a forge, a cabinet maker's workshop, and a public house. The remains of one of Bangor's cotton mills – the New Mill – stood nearby alongside the sea.
By the late 1880s the hotel had been operated by Charles Neill for over 20 years. Its name derived from the steamboats which had provided a regular summer service from Belfast to Bangor and back from the 1850s. They docked near the site of the hotel and discharged large numbers of visitors from Belfast.
Charles Neill then decided to give up the business. In 1887 he advertised the hotel for auction, boasting it had 12 bedrooms, 7 sitting rooms and one large dining room. Two years later Mrs Annie O'Hara, a widow from Belfast, took a lease of the premises when it was auctioned, offering a 21-year lease at a rent of £30 per annum. She changed the name of the hotel to the Grand Hotel.
Soon afterwards the Town Commissioners (the local council) decided to demolish all the buildings on The Parade and replace them with gardens forming an esplanade. The intention was to provide an attraction for the growing number of visitors to the town. All the business owners were to receive compensation. In February 1891 draft awards were proposed. Mrs O'Hara was to receive £700, but she and a number of others objected to the amounts. In April the arbitrator's final awards were made. Among those whose amounts were increased was Mrs O'Hara. She was now to receive £750, the highest award given.
She then acquired some property on the opposite side of Quay Street beside the Belfast Bank, later the court house. The buildings were demolished and she erected a new, larger hotel called The Grand Hotel. It was opened about 1895. Older residents may recall the building as Barry's Amusements. This very distinctive building was sadly demolished in 1984 and replaced by the Marine Court Hotel (below).
Charles Neill had received a fee farm lease (a lease forever at a very low rent) of the Steamboat Hotel site in 1859 from Robert Edward Ward of Bangor Castle. He was thus entitled to compensation from the Town Commissioners for the loss of his property. He received £600. Like Mrs O'Hara he built another hotel nearby. This building (below) still stands in lower High Street beside the Rose and Chandlers. If you look at the top of the building (right) you can see the date 1891 and below, between the arched windows, the intertwined initials CN, presumably for Charles Neill.
The next hotel in the series will be the Beehive Hotel in Main Street.