About the Morritt and our History
Since Roman times, the road to Scotland has had to cross the River Greta before climbing up the Stainmore pass and going to Carlisle. In those days there was a large Roman settlement here, and today's hotel is built upon its ruins. Photographs in the entrance porch clearly show how the Roman site can be seen today, while pottery and arrowheads found during building excavations can be found in the Bowes Museum.
The present Morritt dates back to the late 17th Century when there was a farm on the site. Some of the farm outbuildings were used as such until this century when they were converted into the hotel and surrounding buildings. Through the 17th Century and the rise of the mail coach, Greta Bridge became the second overnight stop for the London-Carlisle coach. There were three inns in Greta Bridge, which included The George, on the bridge on the other side of the river and the New Inn, which is now Thorpe Farm, so one can imagine there was considerable coach traffic to support three hostelries. And so it was in 1839 when Dickens visited Greta Bridge researching Nicholas Nickelby. He wished to highlight the hardship inflicted by certain Yorkshire schools on their boys and so fame came to Dotheboys Hall in Bowes, which is still visible today along with the headmaster's grave in Bowes Church Cemetery. He stayed at one of the inns in Greta Bridge and in the novel was the meeting point between Nicholas and Wackford Squeers.
At the end of the 18th Century and beginning of the 19th Century, famous painters such as Turner and Cotman painted many of the beauty spots in and around the Greta. The Meeting of the Waters, 20 minutes walk from the hotel, is one of the best known. Sir Walter Scott wrote of the area and particularly of Brignall Banks flowing down to the river. The association of art with The Morritt is clearly demonstrated today with the unique mural of Dickensian characters in The Dickens Bar. In 1946 Jack Gilroy, a well-known portrait and landscape artist completed the mural in just eleven days as a favour to Major Morritt whom he also coached as an amateur artist.
Three of Major Morritt's paintings hang in the hotel today, while Gilroy's Dickensian faces are said to represent local characters of the time! With the advent of the "horse-less carriage" - the motor car - two of the coaching inns went out of business. A motor repair shop however, also dispensing petrol, was built onto the Morritt and this ensured its survival as a travellers' resting-place. The ballroom was added in 1930 and has seen local weddings and dances for generations ever since. In the mid-sixties the Morritt family sold the "Inn" and it has been in private hands ever since. Peter and Barbara, the present owners, have been here since July 1994.