“The Kings Arms is situated about the middle of Hide Hill. The buildings are of hewn stone, and very strong. The inn is commodious and from its being built on the top of a bank, enjoys a free circulation of air. The mail coach has always stopped here, and it is one of the stables where a spare coach was kept in readiness. This house is also connected with the ‘High Flyer’. The present landlord of the Kings Arms is Mr George Dixon” from ‘History of Berwick upon Tweed’ J Fuller 1799.
Now a Grade II listed building, The Kings Arms Hotel dates back further than that of 1881, the date above the front entrance to the main part of the building. The hotel was once an old coaching inn and was used as a stopping point for business travellers to Edinburgh and Newcastle – it is still being used as such today alongside accommodating tourists that visit Berwick upon Tweed to soak up the history that surrounds the area.
The Kings Arms Hotel is believed to have been home to Berwick’s first theatre which was built in 1794 at the rear of the building. Unfortunately, fire destroyed the theatre in 1845 and our current Assembly Rooms were built in its place.
In the late 1700’s, The Kings Arms was connected to ‘The High Flyer’ a daily coach which was pulled by four horses which travelled between London and Edinburgh. It started in 1798.
We had had many famous visitors stay with us over the years. Charles Dickens chose to stay with us at The Kings Arms Hotel on 26th September 1858 and again on 25th November 1861. He recited some of his great works in our Assembly Rooms during his stay with us in November of 1861. A statue of Charles Dickens remains in our Assembly Rooms to commemorate his time here and we have an original plaque at the front of our building confirming the dates in which he spent time here at the hotel. Our Assembly Rooms are currently closed to the public due however are due to reopen in 2018.
More famous visitors include The Beatles. In December 1965, on their way to Glasgow, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Paul McCartney made a stop in Berwick upon Tweed and arrived late at night The Kings Arms Hotel. Hotel staff had been made aware of their visit however were sworn to secrecy in regards to their arrival as were local police. As a result of this, the town were completely unaware until after they departed. To our knowledge, previous owners and management have not displayed anything to commemorate the stay of one of the biggest musical groups of all time. As of 2017, this has now changed and a tribute can be found at our hotel entrance.
The Kings Arms also hosts a medieval walled garden with a Saxon well dating back to anything over 800AD and over the years has gained a traditional wish well roof which we are sure many people have dropped a coin or two into. Our garden is also currently closed to the public due to renovations.
In our cellar, at the front of the building there are four indentations. Three of which have been identified by antiquarians as ancient wells however the fourth has not. The fourth indentation is reputed to being the grave of the missing James I of Scotland, to whom they never found.
Undoubtedly, the hotel over the years has developed its stories of the past and present and no doubt will continue to do so in the future.
Berwick upon Tweed has a lot of hidden treasure and we hope that whilst our guests are with us, they will enjoyed them to extent that we as locals do.