Unlocking Stourport's Past
RIVERSIDE LOCATION OF THE TONTINE
The Georgian Tontine Hotel
As early as 1772 the
Directors of the Staffs and Worcs Canal Company took a decision to have their
headquarters and Commercial Hotel at Stourport. It was to be built overlooking
the River Severn. It opened in 1788 and remains to this day the most
impressive Georgian building in the town.
The original name was The
Stourport Inn, Tontine Buildings, the name given to the whole of the
buildings. It was later called the Areley Inn and then, The Tontine
The Tontine Hotel at
Stourport was the Canal Company at its elegant best, a place with space for
100 beds and a ballroom. A place where the Directors, the Committee and
principal shareholders met to conduct the business of the enterprise. After
the business of the day was concluded, the hotel became a scene of revelry.
The meals put on were massive, by any standards, the choicest fish, the most
expensive cuts of meat, venison and all sorts of game and pastries etc. were
eaten. All this washed down with the finest wines and spirits brought up the
river from Bristol.
This highly desirable situation only lasted while large
dividends were being paid and it all ended with the coming of the railway to
Stourport in 1862. By 1880 the canal and river trade was in sharp decline and
the Tontine itself had undergone a change. John Randall in his book The
Severn Valley writes
"We found the Company’s
great commercial hotel, the Tontine, a large square block, with rooms
sufficient to make up 100 beds, and equally extensive stabling, diminished to
proportions of one of the smallest inns in the town, its extensive rooms let
off to form dwelling houses."
Information provided by
Geoff Neal (a renowned local historian)
Summer would see the
terraced gardens bustling with visitors taking advantage of the
beautiful riverside location .
The gardens can be seen to the left in front of the
old canal company cottages with the broad barge locks, linking the basin
to the river, to the
The name Tontine came from an
Italian- Lorenzo Tonti, who devised an early form of life insurance. A group
of people would take out a policy where only the last surviving member would
get the payout!
Life in a
Read about life in a Tontine House 1940 -1960
The fight against demolition
In 1977 Wolverhampton & Dudley
brewery submitted plans to demolish the Tontine for redevelopment. For many
years most of the building had been empty, only the middle of the building was run as a
pub. At a Public Enquiry the society's objections were given by Chairman, the late
Charles Hunt. The poet, Sir John Betjeman, gave
considerable weight to the objectors with a letter outlining his objections. The
inspector ruled that no external changes could be made to the
The closure- a new beginning?
owned by Wolverhampton and Dudley Brewery closed in August 2001 after it was
sold to a developer with plans to convert it into flats.It is now sadly boarded
up. However, British Waterways have now bought the old hotel and are conulting
widely with local groups, with a view to making it an important part of the
regenerated Lichfield Basins scheme as befits a Grade 2 listed building.
This page last updated 15 December 2005