We booked two nights. We were visiting family who live nearby.
Taking the route from the car park at the back of the hotel through to reception we wondered whether we’d accidentally wandered into an antiquarian shop. There was a traditional red telephone box, old baskets hanging from the ceiling, your grandma’s lounge suite, and at least two former Singer treadle sewing machine tables. For added authenticity there’s an old well (safely glassed over).
Despite having booked online the person at reception couldn’t identify our booking and had to make a phone call to sort it out. We were invited to have [complimentary] drinks in the bar whilst waiting for this to be resolved, which it was.
The bar is very old-fashioned from the wooden panelling to the early post-war carpet pattern. Depending on one’s perspective it could be described as ‘character’, ‘mid-20th Century themed’, ‘in serious need of updating’ or just ‘old’. ‘Character’ or ‘mid-20th Century’ would also describe most of the clients in the bar. There was no risk of juvenile bad behaviour or late-night revelling to disturb one’s sleep.
Essentially the hotel’s decor is very old-fashioned, from the furniture to the wallpaper. But we saw no crumbling wood or peeling paper. At any moment we expected to see a police box materialise from which an arm might beckon, ready to return us to the 21st Century.
We had room 11. It was clean and the bedding was fresh. Despite it being a cold October night outside the management appeared to be keeping their carbon footprint minimal by not consuming any energy in pursuit of keeping guests warm. The radiators’ thermostats were all turned to minimum temperature but turning them up yielded no hint of heat.
Through a small door and down half a dozen steps there was a private lounge, complete with green shag pile carpet, net curtains with embroidered decoration, maroon curtains and pelmets and furniture that your grandmother would probably have discarded as old-fashioned. Everything was clean but it smelt like a museum store room, of old wood with a hint of mortality.
Back up in the bedroom fortunately the bed was comfortable and the duvet effective in keeping the cold at bay. We slept.
In the morning our optimism that the management might risk energy expenditure was dashed as the radiators failed to live up to their names: they stubbornly refused to radiate anything. At 7:30am a call to reception to request defrosting of the room resulted half an hour later in heat at last. A polite telephone enquiry from reception soon after the radiators had begun to live up to their names was welcome. A plumber had been needed. It made us wonder how long it had been since the heating system had last been coaxed into life. Somewhat heartened we shelved our plan to find a different hotel for the second night.
The en suite bathroom was clean and the plumbing worked. The hot water was. The shower did. In common with the remainder of the hotel it was an interesting excursion into the past, this time into the history of, let’s say 1970s sanitary ware. To be fair the shower was probably not yet out of it’s teenage years though the flow was rather short of the exuberance of youth.
We hadn’t booked breakfast as Driffield is well supplied with eating places. We ate up the road in an acceptable café. In the hotel many people were having breakfast with no signs of gastric upset (or hypothermia) which we took to be a good sign.
Returning to The Bell from an evening meal with family was like returning to an aged aunt, comforting but with no expectation of luxury or modernity. Saharan air hit us as we entered the room! We and the hotel were warming to each other. After quickly adjusting the thermostats we settled and had a comfortable night.
Would we stay at The Bell again? Yes. Don’t expect a modern hotel. Do expect a glimpse into the past.