A look inside the newly-renovated Archangel, an ancient coaching inn turned hip hotel and restaurant.
When Simon Waterfield acquired a former coaching inn on 1, King Street, in the Somerset town of Frome, he had a clear idea of what he wanted to do with it. “Simon Waterfield phoned me up the day he bought the hotel telling me he wanted to create a place in Frome that was sort of Babington House crossed with a scruffy hippy feel. Babington is a country house belonging to the Soho House Group, but is a little too polished for what Simon wanted,” said Piers Taylor of Bath-based architecture firm, Mitchell Taylor Workshop.
Historically know as The Angel, the inn dates back to before the Protestant Reformation, although some parts, such as the Naval Room and library, were added in the 18th century.
A more recent manifestation as a dingy pub had also left its mark on the building, but Waterfield was determined to transform it into a fashionable hotel, bar and restaurant. “I think Frome has been crying out for something like this and with the wonderful talent being poured into it, I have no doubt that we will have something very special to offer,” he said.
The aim was to create a new destination for Frome, a historic market town in close proximity to Glastonbury, Bath, Bristol, Stourhead and Stonehenge. The structure was rechristened as the Archangel and reconfigured into an upscale watering hole and dining spot.
In addition to a comfortable stay, the Archangel aims to offer high-quality food created from locally-sourced produce. It features a 70-seater restaurant with a floating mezzanine, a large garden that can accommodate a further 60 diners during the summer months, and the Naval Room, which can be hired out for private dining and parties. “I don’t want to put the food on a pedestal but I’ve got so much admiration for our suppliers, many of whom are quite visionary people, and I’ve chosen the highest-quality local produce,” noted Archangel chef, John Melican.
Archangel was designed in a close collaboration between the architect, Piers Taylor, and interior design consultant Niki Turner, a specialist in domestic and hospitality interiors, as well as opera, theatre and ballet sets. Also heavily involved was Archangel co-owner Louise Waterfield, herself a qualified interior designer who trained at the Inchbald School of Design.
In its latest form, Archangel features a bar which spreads over several rooms and the garden, a dining room, two private dining rooms and six bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms. The aim was “to create a stylish, relaxed venue of high design quality”, Turner noted.
The renovation project took a total of two years to carry out and involved reinstating many of the structure’s original features. “The starting point (which was an old coaching inn that had fallen on hard times and had become the dingy-est drinking den in Frome) was to strip away all the accretions from the last fifty years or so and expose and restore the delight and intent of the old coaching inn,” Taylor explained.
Part of this process involved opening up a medieval ‘street’ that ran through the centre of the structure, originally extending from the front door through a number of medieval stables and coach buildings. Over the years, the street had been closed in, but Taylor decided to transform it into a striking central feature by encasing it under a glass roof.
Restoring the building’s original character also involved “opening up the triple height barn that no one had been in to since World War II, cleaning out 70 years of pigeon droppings, and restoring as carefully as possible ancient roof timbers and lime mortars before designing a host of unashamedly contemporary additions such as zinc bars, floating mezzanines and steel staircases”, Taylor detailed.
“At all times we were desperate for as little of the existing character, patina, decay and history to be lost. So many old buildings in this country get polished to within an inch of their life and we didn’t want to do that,” Taylor continued.
However, maintaining the original feel of the building presented its own inherent challenges. “It’s a Grade 2 listed building so everything we did had to be put past the conservation officer,” Taylor said. “However, he understood our intention to be sensitive to the existing building and was supportive. What it still meant, though, was that every tiny detail had to be justified.”