There was standing room only when Britain’s oldest brewer, Shepherd Neame, officially reopened its historic Rochester pub, The Royal Crown, following a stunning £1.2 million refurbishment last night (Tuesday, December 12).
The Shepherd Neame steam wagon brought some vintage cheer to the streets of Rochester as it chugged its way from the Historic Dockyard, where it is based, to the Grade II Listed pub, heralding a steamy start to proceedings in the afternoon.
The building, overlooking the River Medway and a short walk from Rochester Castle, has undergone an extensive renovation, which has retained and enhanced its historic features while introducing a stylish and contemporary look and feel.
Many local groups and dignitaries were invited to take part in the celebrations, held less than two weeks before Christmas, while two local good causes were also presented with donations.
The Dean of Rochester Cathedral, the Very Reverend Philip Hesketh, pulled the first pint, to cheers all round, before blessing it and the pub with a specially-written blessing. The Dean also blessed a hop garland, provided by William and Caroline Alexander of Castle Farm in Shoreham.
Shepherd Neame Chief Executive Jonathan Neame presented representatives from the Medway Queen Preservation Society and the Rochester City Centre Forum, which raised funds for the town’s Christmas lights, with donations of £1,000 each, to a hearty round of applause.
Chief Executive Jonathan Neame said: “We are delighted to officially celebrate the reopening of The Royal Crown, after what is undoubtedly a remarkable refurbishment.
“Our team have worked incredibly hard to bring this project to fruition, revitalising a building steeped in history, which is now serving today’s customers with a warm welcome, in a stunning setting.
“I am certain that The Royal Crown, led by General Manager Tom Crackett, will continue to go from strength to strength.”
The Dean of Rochester, Dr Hesketh, said: “I was delighted to bless the first pint in the beautifully renovated Royal Crown – just a stone’s throw from Rochester Cathedral. It was also heartwarming to see Shepherd Neame giving back to the community with its two generous donations to local groups.”
The pub’s transformation has received positive feedback from many, including Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst, who said: “I have used The Royal Crown all my adult life and have many fond memories of the pub. I, of course welcome the investment by a local company, Shepherd Neame that has provided The Royal Crown with a new lease of life. Just in time to enjoy plenty of Christmas cheer!”
The refurbishment of The Royal Crown has included the creation of a new entrance lobby, a new feature gas fire in the main bar area, all new furniture and décor with original wood floors and dado panelling retained.
The first floor has also been remodelled to create a spacious new feel, and there is now a new private dining area overlooking the river, named the King’s View.
It also offers seven TV screens showing Sky Sports and TNT Sports, and there are further screens in the ground floor bar and restaurant.
There was also a chance for guests to sample the delicious new menu of light bites and traditional pub classics with a contemporary twist and the extensive selection of award-winning craft ales and lagers, which include exclusively at The Royal Crown, two of Shepherd Neame’s Classic Collection draught keg beers – Double Stout and Bishop’s Finger.