Andrew Brownsword has pledged to rebuild the Royal Clarence hotel "with enormous sympathy to its importance and heritage" following the fire which destroyed the Grade II-listed,18th century building.
Believed to be one of England's oldest hotels, the four-AA-star, 53-bedroom Royal Clarence, which operated as the Abode Exeter, was due to be demolished earlier this week following a devastating blaze which is believed to have broken out in an adjacent art gallery at around 5am on Friday 28 October.
No-one was injured in the blaze which, according to the Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, was able to spread swiftly through the timber frame building via many concealed voids and passageways. A raptured gas main then later further fuelled the fire, which raged throughout the night and took four days to dampen down.
At the height of the incident, 150 firefighters were at the scene with nearly 30 pumping appliances. Four aerial ladder platforms were used to prevent the fire spreading to other historic buildings.
Brownsword, who bought the hotel in 2003 for £4.5m, praised hotel general manager John Badley and his team for evacuating all guests and staff to safety, as well as continuing to offer help and support to all guests in "a positive and extraordinarily professional manner". He also thanked the Mercure Southgate Hotel and the local council who provided refuge for guests and temporary office space.
"Amidst the tragedy, I have been reminded of the commitment, professionalism and dedication of so many people, and I would like to thank everyone for their overwhelming support. I would also like to thank the city of Exeter and the many, many people who have helped us since the events of Friday. We are so grateful for the incredible efforts of the emergency services, especially the fire service who attended in huge numbers to assist in the effort to save the Royal Clarence and surrounding buildings."
Brownsword described the loss of the iconic as "heart-breaking" and said that he has "every intention to rebuild the hotel with enormous sympathy to its importance and heritage, and to make it once again a building that Exeter will be proud of. We have always said we believe we are merely custodians of the buildings our hotels operate within, and we pledge to do our very best to return the Royal Clarence to the city and its people.
Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell described the blaze as " challenging", with the emergency service having to work for extended periods of time. "The complex nature of the building construction, especially the roof structure, made this a very difficult incident to deal with."
Abode Exeter is one of five hotels within the Abode brand owned by Andrew Brownsword Hotels, which is also the owner of a further nine individual properties including Gidleigh Park and the Bath Priory.
Latest video from The Caterer