A brief history of the Annandale Arms Hotel
The historic Annandale Arms Hotel is over two hundred and sixty years old. The hotel was built in 1760. It was just fifteen years after Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Highland Clans had marched through Moffat on their way south. Though they were to be totally routed, the 1745 rebellion revealed that the country’s communications and roads were very inadequate. Originally called the Kings Arms Hotel, the Annandale was built to serve the new mail coach service that was to run between London and Edinburgh. It was not until sometime during the nineteenth century the name was changed to the Annandale Arms Hotel.
The new stage coach arrives July 1788
A contemporary account recalls the excitement of the first visit of the new London-Glasgow mail service. Take yourself back to Moffat in July 1788. It is 4.00 am in the morning. Dawn is breaking.
“It was high change at the King’s Arms (Annandale Arms), the landlord out on the steps, the landlady behind him, the servant lass behind her, hostlers and post boys hanging about,and four horses in new and shining harness whisking their tails in front of the Inn. At every door in the High Street someone stood, heads appeared and reappeared at every window. Heralded by the fire of its pistols and the toot-toot of its horn, with scarlet-coated coachman and guard, the mail drove in and pulled up outside the hotel. With a change of horses, some refreshment and drinking of health and shaking of hands, the coach drove off for Elvanfoot.” The Glasgow service ran for the next 60 years until 1848 with the coming of the railway.
In 1801, the renowned artist JMW Turner visited Southern Scotland. He made a number brief sketches of Moffat, two of which contain views of the Annandale Arms Hotel viewed from the riverside. Sadly these were never worked up into paintings. For those interested in Turner’s work, he did paint Caerlaverock Castle and there are a number of sketches of Sweetheart Abbey which were done in collaboration with Sir Walter Scott.
Tsar Nicolas I of all the Russias
In the winter of 1816, Count Nicholas of Russia, later to become Tsar Nicholas, and his entourage of Russian officers stayed at the hotel. This was just a year after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. One of the purposes of his visit to Scotland was to inspect the Carron Iron Works, near Falkirk, which was famous for the manufacture of armaments. The Count also visited the cotton mills at New Lanark. It is reported that the Count was so pleased with his stay at the hotel that he tipped the landlord the same sum as his actual bill. To mark the two hundredth anniversary of the occasion in 2016, a plaque was unveiled in the foyer, by the Russian Consul General from Edinburgh, Andrey Pritsepov. Moscow NTV made a short film of it. http://www.ntv.ru/video/1284806/
Rupert Brooke, the First World War poet, stayed in the hotel 1912. He is probably best known for his poem The Soldier.
“If I should die think only this of me
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.”
He wrote a rather mawkish letter, addressed from the Annandale Arms Hotel, to his lady love Noel Olivier dated 2nd September 1912. Noel was the cousin of the actor Laurence Olivier. Brooke was travelling with his friend Norton and his aunt. Nothing much came of the romance and Brooke was later to die of an insect bite during the Gallipoli campaign 1915.
Below is copy of a receipt issued for funeral services undertaken by Robert Norris in November 1876. Robert Norris was the proprietor of the Annandale. It is known that there were number of buildings that have now been demolished at the rear of the hotel. It is believed he operated his funeral service from one of these.