Love Your Local: The George Hotel, Portsmouth

AT THE BAR Regular Keith Eastwell from Milton, with Suzanne Baker and husband Greg Baker from Nashville, Tennessee, who were staying at The George, inset. Picture: Sarah Standing (131951-1557)
AT THE BAR Regular Keith Eastwell from Milton, with Suzanne Baker and husband Greg Baker from Nashville, Tennessee, who were staying at The George, inset. Picture: Sarah Standing (131951-1557)
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If you want to have a drink by a roaring open fire in a place full of history – then The George Hotel is the place to be.

The pub, in Queen Street, Portsea, Portsmouth, proves a winner with locals, members of the armed forces and visitors from around the world.

The building began life as a public house in 1781 and it was the first place to get orders from the former Brickwoods Brewery, which was based in Portsea.

The pub has its own well, which was discovered by its previous owners when they did some renovation work in the 1980s.

People are able to sit and chat around the historic feature, which is 40ft deep.

It’s considered one of Portsmouth’s oldest pubs and at one time was a stopping place for coaches on their way from inns in Old Portsmouth to London.

Nikki Wilkinson and her husband Paul have been in charge for three years.

Before that the place had been closed for some time and a lot of work needed to be done.

Rather than sprucing it up with fancy fittings, the couple decided to keep things traditional.

There are nine rooms upstairs for people who want to stay.

Nikki, 41, said the pub’s history is part of its charm.

‘It’s definitely part of its appeal,’ she said.

‘The amount of foreigners that come to Portsmouth is very important for our trade.

‘Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is just down the road, as is the Spinnaker Tower.

‘We get people from all over the world.

‘They want to stay in a place which is quintessentially English, rather than somewhere they can stay which is the same wherever they go.’

Nikki and Paul, who employ eight members of staff to help them, also make sure they look out for their local community.

Weekly raffles are held for The Rowans Hospice, in Purbrook, and The Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

There is also a ladies’ darts team.

And Nikki finds her business often doubles up as a tourist information centre because she gives out maps and advises people on where the best places to go in Portsmouth are.

‘I spend at least an hour of most mornings doing maps, showing people where to go and where the attractions are,’ she said.

‘This is very much a local.

‘People come for a quiet drink. It makes for a great experience here, especially for our guests who enjoy interacting with the locals. Our locals are very kind and helpful with our foreign guests.’

MEET THE LANDLORD

LANDLORD Paul Wilkinson fell in love with The George Hotel as soon as he set eyes on the place.

Though he knew a lot of work would need to be done to improve it, he was more than willing to take on the challenge.

It didn’t take long to convince Nikki, pictured, that taking it over was the right thing to do.

The couple, who have managed around 30 hotels in the last 20 years, decided it was time to run their own business.

Paul, who is originally from London, said: ‘When I went to see the pub it had been shut for many years.

‘It looked a bit forlorn.

‘But I just fell in love with the place. You could see behind the boarded-up structure.

‘We have done all the renovation work ourselves.

‘We kept the traditional furnishings and added more to the collection.

‘Everyone is doing that kind of thing now. This place has so much history.

‘We have naval reunions all year round and we get the same chaps who come in every year for the same reunion.

‘You can’t make everything new – it’s important to keep your heritage.

Nikki said she had never been to Portsmouth before starting work here.

‘We realised the building had huge potential,’ she said.

‘There is so much happening here over the next 10 years in terms of regeneration.’

There are plans to open up the television and darts room at the back of the pub so it ends up becoming part of the main bar.