The existence of the Captain Scott Society hinges upon the chance finding of a copy of a menu. It was for a dinner, given by the business community of Cardiff in honour of Scott’s Antarctic Expedition on the eve of its departure South on that fateful venture. On the 13th June, 1982, Mr Peter Sanna invited a group of friends to dinner in the Alexandra Room of the Royal Hotel, Cardiff, where he was the manager. It was in that room that the original ‘Farewell’ Dinner had been held. Such was the success of his function, that the Captain Scott Society was formed. The room, which already carried a plaque commemorating the original event, was renamed ‘The Captain Scott Room’ and an adjoining bar was named ‘The Terra Nova Bar’. The joint objectives of the Society became commemoration and the provision of an Annual Award furthering the objectives of the Spirit of Adventure. The Royal Hotel became the home of the Society wherein all the Society’s social occasions were enacted.
In 1998, after a succession of managements had seen the progressive decline of what had remained an essentially Victorian institution, the hotel was closed for a programme of radical refurbishment under its new owners, Bass Charrington. The outer shell of the building was retained and restored while radical revision of the interior resulted in the ground and first floor being developed as independently managed public bars. The upper floors were developed as a new style of hotel. The Terra Nova Bar was lost but the beautiful timber paneling of the Captain Scott Room was carefully removed by the developers, refurbished and reinstalled one floor above as the new Captain Scott Room – as nearly as possible an exact replica of the original. Recently, the hotel’s main bar/lounge has been redressed using timbers retrieved from Scott’s vessel, the Terra Nova. During the refurbishment, The Society transferred to the United Services Mess, Wharton Street, Cardiff, where its members were made most welcome. The Mess remains the Society’s home today.
In the meantime, a succession of potential purchasers of the renewed hotel facilities came and went. while it remained closed. Ultimately, the establishment has been acquired by Bespoke Hotels (www.bespokehotels.com). The ‘The Scott Room’ once more opened its doors for the Society’s Annual Dinner on June 13th 2006 – a triumphant return to a very significant venue. That dinner retained most of the features of the original menu – albeit slightly abridged to reflect the less heroic appetites of the 21st century.
THE BLUE PLAQUE
When the Royal Hotel was refurbished some years ago, the contractors removed a blue commemorative plaque that had identified the fact that a dinner had been held in honour of the departure of Scott’s second British Antarctic Expedition from Cardiff. The plaque was mislaid and has never been found. The Royal Hotel’s current proprietor, Bespoke Hotels, has had another plaque prepared and installed. It was unveiled on the 15th June 2011 by Mr. John Evans, the grandson of Petty Officer Edgar Evans. Jon Swingler, Manager of The Royal Hotel, introduced Mr Evans at a ceremony before the main entrance of the hotel. The event marked the culmination of an effort by Peter Acton of Blanket Communications, Cardiff, who had become interested in reinstating a number of blue plaques that have disappeared from around the city. The ceremony was attended by the media who reported the event on radio and in local papers. The Society’s Chairman and immediate past chairman were invited guests.