Historic Sussex hotel where George Clooney stayed wins planning battle over paint colour

The listed George Hotel, in Rye, which has stood in the High Street since 1719, became embroiled in a battle after planners objected to it being re-painted a light brown colour when it re-opened following a devastating fire in 2019.

Before the blaze, the hotel was painted in a grey-white colour. The owners said they submitted their proposals to Rother District Council’s conservation officer, which received support. But the authority’s planning committee refused the retrospective application.

This week the George reported that the Planning Inspectorate had upheld its appeal against the decision.

The colour has been referenced to a previous colour that that building was painted, by a respected heritage paint consultant whose report shows The George had been painted a range of colours in the 19th century, including the light brown colour palette it is painted now.

The George’s refurbishment, with its new external paint colour, earned it the 2023 Sussex Heritage Award (commercial category)

Owners Alex and Katie Clarke said: “We can now breathe a sigh of relief and are so grateful to local people who voiced their support and the 400 or so who took time to write directly to the Planning Inspectorate. We went to great lengths to select the appropriate type of paint, a sustainable non-toxic and breathable paint from Keim Paints, which has sound heritage credentials.

"We are now happily looking forward to getting on with our work in the year ahead and doing what we do best – welcoming and serving people at The George.”

The couple said planning fees and repainting works are expected to cost ‘in the region of £100,000’.

The hotel has a long and distinguished history being the focal meeting point in the town, entertaining three King Georges, The Duke of Wellington and the Mayor of London. It held a banquet to celebrate Napoleon’s defeat. In more recent years the actor George Clooney stayed at the George while filming Monuments Men in Rye.

The hotel was gradually added to up until the Regency period, and comprises a series of interconnecting buildings all surrounding a central courtyard. The ballroom, for example, was built in 1818 as an assembly room for farmers who came to market.

The George incorporates beams from an Elizabethan galley, while the original fireplace can be seen in the Tap. Down the hall, a Gill Parliamentary clock still ticks, dating from the 1700s, while a cupboard resembling a dumb waiter is actually an 18th century wig store.