Bristol - who or what’s behind the popular hotel name
We were not aware that it was somewhat difficult to document exactly
why a hotel is called Bristol. Soon we realised that this was a dilemma
all Bristol hotels around the world suffered from. They all told the
same story. They were allowed to name their house after the legendary Earl of Bristol.
Bristol hotels all over the world like to claim that they were allowed to name their house after Frederick Augustus Hervey, the fourth Earl of Bristol. It has been said that the Earl only gave permission for the use of his title to those hotels that could measure up to his high standards.
An interesting anecdote. Charming, too. But true?
Who was Frederick Augustus Hervey, Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry? In fact he was an eccentric traveller. Nevertheless, for the hotels to have named their houses with his consent, he should have lived over one hundred years later. He lived from 1730–1803 while the first Bristol hotel in Paris appears around 1840 (Charles Dickens mentions staying at the Bristol in his diary from 1844). Secondly we checked the coat of arms carried by every Bristol hotel of note. They were all more or less the same. But did this coat of arms actually belong to the Earl? No. Not remotely. Common sense suggested we check a totally different source. We searched for the coat of arms of the English city of Bristol.
Top: the coat of arms of the city of Bristol, below a Bristol hotel's (Vienna) crest. Lions replace unicorns, but the main motive is the same (sails and castle).
The solution of the riddle is in the coat of arms.
When we compared the coats of arms of the Earl and the City of Bristol the situation became clear. Instead of the insignia of the Earl, and presumingly without knowing what they were doing, all hotels used the coat of arms of the city of Bristol, not the one of the Earl.
Why not? It was fashionable to call hotels after cities. Hotels were called 'New York', 'City of London' or 'Westminster'. Why not 'Bristol'?
Conclusion: The Earl of Bristol has nothing to do with the city of Bristol. We are save to assume that the early Bristol hotels (Paris before 1840, Rome exactly in 1870, Vienna 1892) served as examples to the hotels that opened in later years (Warsaw 1901, Oslo 1920, Paris 1925 plus around 50 further hotels across Europe). Without knowing it they all proudly carry the coat of arms of the City of Bristol.
Latest historic research even suggests that the English port is "where the concept of modern hotels was born when, for the first time, an inn separated customers from their horses and created rooms for customers and special spaces for horses".
As you can see, the hotel trade is full of surprises. Until recently this story was supported by many Bristol Hotels and sold to guests as fact. If someone had really named a hotel after the Earl of Bristol, they would have used the Earls coat of arms. The Bristol hotels all over Europe - one by one - dropped their false PR legends and slowly replaced them by the truth. Let the Earl rest in peace.
The lost Bristol (Paris)
Bristol Vienna; excerpt from the book (concerning the Earl)
THE WALLSTREET JOURNAL