Tonight, I will be sleeping in the Wynnstay, a hotel in Oswestry, Shropshire, where El's 96-year-old mother lives. Meeting her is the main purpose of my trip, about which I'm sure there will be yet another post. The Wynnstay started out in the early 1700s as an inn for people traveling by horse and carriage. Historical material on my desk lists owners' names back to 1727. There is a building behind the main hotel that used to be the stables and has been remodeled into a spa and beauty suite for hotel guests. The Wynnstay is not as cheerful as the Stratford was. The receptionist who checked me in seemed tense, her carefully middle-upper class pronunciations feeling like she was desperate not to err. She was unable to be of much help when it turned out that my room overlooks the outdoor tables of the pub next door and will provide music and pub chatter for most of the evening. "We gave you our best single room," she kept saying, and "We're booked full for the weekend." My room is probably where the humblest of staff slept in 1750 -- tiny, airless when the windows are closed, and reachable only by a flight and a half of stairs up and then half a flight down (the Wynnstay is a "listed" building and cannot be altered to install an elevator.) My suspicion is that this really is the last room they had.
I could move to another hotel, but I can't find one with available rooms, plus today is when I meet El's Mom and attend the dinner celebrating El and Anne's marriage. So I guess I will buy some earplugs and settle. And think about all those 18th century barmaids and stable boys with whom I'm sharing historical space.