THE KINGS Hotel in Newport should become the city’s museum and art gallery, according to Newport Civic Society’s Reverend Canon Andrew Willie.

The 200-year-old building, located at the top of the High Street in the heart of the city centre, has been empty for two years since the hotel ceased trading, owners blaming a “severe” downturn in trade for its closure.

Co-chairman of the Newport Civic Society, Mr Willie, believes it is the perfect venue to display the contents of Newport’s museum.

“The present museum is cramped,” he said. “It lacks sufficient space for storing its very rich catalogue of acquisitions, let alone exhibiting them.

“They do their best to display what they have, but it’s too cramped and uncomfortable even for the few items that they have on show.

“The Kings Hotel is very spacious and would allow everything that Newport has to offer to be put on show. There is a lot more useable space. Items that are in storage could be displayed in a much more effective display if the room was available.”

Not only would the Kings Hotel provide a bigger area to display the contents of the current museum, but Mr Willie believes it would be in a location that could be the catalyst for a brighter future for the city.

“It really is in the perfect location. It is not far from the Riverfront or the market and it would give that area of the city a real focus. It’s close to the Friar’s Walk development and it could stimulate other developments in the city as well. I firmly believe it is perfectly placed and could be the focal point of the city centre.

“The back could be used for administration purposes.

“I have advocated for a very long time that it should become Newport’s museum and art gallery. If it was followed through properly, then it would be a wonderful thing for the city.”

The King’s Hotel closed at the end of 2011, with Punch Taverns as the freeholder of the site. Its contents were put up for auction in February 2012.

The 61-bedroom hotel went on the market in May 2012 for £1.5m. It remains unsold.

The hotel once enjoyed a reputation as a live music venue which hosted Van Morrison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Robert Plant.

Newport council has been examining proposals to move the museum and art gallery into Newport Centre, but the matter has not yet been decided.