Hotel History

History of the Izaak Walton Country House Hotel

Pre 1875

Among the visitors to the hotel was a sugar refiner, many noted landed gentry and clergy plus a captain in the Royal Navy. On the death of his father, William Prince succeeded as the Hotel Keeper & Farmer here. In 1871, he was aged only 25, with his wife Frances, who were both born in Northamptonshire. One of the ten servants who lived here was Robert Bellamy, who was responsible for the visitor boots.

1875 to 1882

In 1875, Jesse Watts Russell Esq., of Ilam Hall died. The House, contents, and the estate which included the Izaak Walton Hotel & fishing rights were put up for auction, not at the hotel, which had played host to such events previously. It was purchased by Robert William Hanbury MP, who had often stayed at the hotel and who was the very first Minister of Agriculture, being appointed by Lord Salisbury with a seat in the cabinet. He purchased the Ilam Hall estate and was lord of the manor.

1882 to 1903

It was always said that if the hotel were twice its size it would always be filled, for its position and surroundings are unrivalled. Lord Tennyson subscribed his name to the visitor’s book in 1882, and declared “Dovedale was one of the most unique and delicious places in England”. William Prince, the Hotel keeper, died here aged 44 in March 1890. Alas, so did his wife 10 months later. His mother Mary Prince aged 87, helped her grandson William Prince, aged just 17 and his two sisters to run the hotel. Among the visitors in 1891 were names from Virginia & Connecticut, in the USA as well as Austria. Mary Prince also died this year. The Prince family remained here until 1900 when Mr Williams Evans became the proprietor. Prior to this he had been the steward to the Ilam Hall estate and had resided at Home Farm.

1903 to 1926

The year 1903 saw the loss of the Right Hon. R. W. Hanbury. M. P. His widow married the following year, and the hotel remained his trustees. William Evans remained here until his death in August 1909, aged 48. The hotel at this period had seventeen bedrooms, a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts and a bowling green. However its Trout & Grayling fishing rights, which included half of the stream of the stocked Rivers Dove and Manifold which bound the property, remained the main attraction. Rolls Royce cars often visited the hotel in this period (pictured above) and continue to meet here to this very day. Mrs Evans remained here until her death in May 1924.

1926 to 2014

The Hotel was purchased in August 1926 for £8000 by Mr E.C. Backhouse who remained here until his death in 1929, when it was bought by Sir Hugo Fitzherbert of Tissington Hall and remained in the ownership until his death in 1934. The tenant William Evans became the owner until he retired in 1958. It was then leased and later sold in 1961 to the Duke of Rutland, who said “he would fish the waters himself”. He later extended the hotel to its present format. Members of the Royal Family have stayed here as have Prime ministers’ and other dignitaries. In 2001 it was purchased by Mr and Mrs Day. The Hotel fell on unfortunate times in 2013 and remained closed until new owners were found on 31st March 2014.

2014 to 2019

The Keay family had been long standing guests of this fine hotel and after purchasing it in 2014, the hotel opened its doors once again to welcome back long standing Patrons and Guests on 9th June 2014.

2019 to Present Day

November 2019 saw the hotel being acquired by Heritage Hotels & Holdings Ltd, a family business owned by Terry Davie, his wife, Dr Mary Anne, son,Matthew, and daughter, Dr Rebecca.
Apart from their professional careers, they each supported Terry during a 20-year ownership of a prestigious 300-year-old Hotel in the Lake District, none more so than Matthew.
Having experienced how to nurture a period property over time, they know that retaining the style which regular guests have become accustomed to rather than seek to enforce a change beyond its traditional character, driven by their purpose, they remain committed to encouraging positive change, and in constant pursuit of better wherever possible.