The Royal Hotel, Umtali boasts a long and colourful history. It was positioned in the centre of Main Street and faced the public gardens.
In 1895 it held Rhodesia’s first opera – Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury. As there was a serious shortage of young women, members of the British South Africa Company Police played the bridesmaids. Unfortunately, the appearance of their large boots beneath full skirts detracted from the play and caused the first few rows of the audience to collapse with laughter.
The first travelling theatre to visit Umtali in 1904 was the Sass & Nelson Company. The Royal Hotel boasted a fairly large stage and when the theatre company arrived announced their intention was to stay a week in Umtali and put on a new play every night, many people booked for the whole week. Plays included The Bell of New York, Merry Widow.
In 1934, Mr. and Mrs. C. L. Brown took over management of the 24 bedroom hotel.
- James Gavin