Wednesday 6 October 2010

R.D. Blumenfeld on the Savoy Hotel

Monday, 10th November, 1890

D'Oyly Carte, the owner of the Savoy Theatre, which Gilbert and Sullivan have made famous, and incidentally manager of the Savoy Hotel, on the Embankment, wants me to go and live there instead of staying in Duke Street, St. James. I can have similar accommodation, bedroom, bath, sitting-room, and valeting for £2 10s. a week. He says he is finding difficulty in inducing people to patronise the hotel. The restaurant is certainly not popular, but that is due, perhaps, to the failure of Londoners to adopt the Continental habit of dining at hotels and restaurants. At present the Savoy is given over to people from abroad, and they are not many. Carte says that if he had his way he would cut a way through, so that the Savoy could be entered from the Strand very much like Jabez Balfour's Hotel Cecil, which stands up at the end of the little road called Cecil Street. That, I hear, is to be pulled down and turned over to the hotel.

The Savoy, in fact, did not struggle for long; but it's interesting to hear of this early 'failure'. I assume the road to be 'cut through' to the Strand ultimately became Savoy Court, which was built in 1903, replacing the 'steep incline' of Beaufort's Buildings. Savoy Court is, of course, famous for drivers having to use the 'wrong' side of the road, and defining the turning-circle of a London taxi.

Here's a supplement for you - an early review from the Illustrated London News of 1889:

THIS IMPORTANT ADDITION to the hotels of the metropolis has many features quite novel to London. Its handsome river frontage, facing the gardens on the Thames Victoria Embankment, commands an extensive and highly interesting panoramic view - on the one hand St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London; on the other, the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. Cleopatra's Needle stands in the foreground; on the opposite bank of the Thames lies the frontage of Lambeth; and in the far distance may be clearly seen the Crystal Palace and the Surrey hills.
    The site of the Savoy Hotel, covering three quarters of an acre, is adjacent to the Savoy Theatre, whose manager and proprietor, Mr. R. D'Oyly Carte, is one of the directors of the Hotel Company; other directors are the Earl of Lathom, Mr. Hwfa Williams, and Sir Arthur Sullivan. The architect is Mr. W. Young, and Mr. G. H. Holloway was the builder.
    A fine exterior view of the building is that of the south front, overlooking the Victoria Embankment, the gardens, and the Thames. To every floor there is a terraced balcony, supported either by granite columns or pillars of cream colour, having gilded capitals. Red and white striped blinds may be drawn at pleasure; and the combined effect of the colours, red, white, cream, and gold, in an edifice rising from the roadway eight floors high, is very attractive.
    The carriage entrance, on Savoy Hill, from the Strand, brings visitors into a rectangular central courtyard, having an area of 6000 square feet, in the middle of which a fountain plays in a bower of flowers. Bright blossoms adorn the windows which pierce the lofty surrounding walls - walls that can never become smoke-begrimed, as they are built wholly of glazed white brick. At two corners, inclosed in towers which form portions of the square, have been provided American elevators, by means of which passengers may conveniently ascend to the top floors.
    On the first floor is the restaurant, 70 ft. in length by 40 ft. in width, and capable of being temporarily subdivided. It is splendidly mounted in mahogany, carved and inlaid, and the chairs are covered with red leather. French windows open upon the broad balcony, where after dinner the grateful cup of coffee and cigarette may be enjoyed in the open air. Conveniently at hand are the kitchens, connected with the vast underground store-rooms, and the cellars, which are already stocked with carefully selected champagnes, burgundies, and clarets, not to mention casks of ale and huge butts of spirits. The restaurant may in part be considered as distinct from the hotel, for it can be used by anyone who is attracted to it from the Strand, by which it is reached through Beaufort-buildings, a glazed corridor, leading therefrom to the dining-rooms, both public and private. Of course the Strand entrance is equally available to the regular visitor.
    Another separate department is the banqueting-hall on the mezzanine floor, below the restaurant, having beneath it the ballroom; these three spacious rooms or halls corresponding in size and general characteristics, but differing, of necessity, in decoration. In the banqueting-room there is space sufficient to seat 360 people, and its acoustic properties are good, so that it will probably be hired for public meetings. The ballroom, treated in white and gold, has the advantage of a long alcove, and in the same wing there are reception- and cloak-rooms. A special entrance to this portion of the establishment is arranged in Savoy-place.
    In the lower floors of the building are lounge-rooms, bureaus, cloak-rooms, smoke-rooms, and other conveniences which are the outgrowth of modern civilisation. In the depths of the cellars are four electric light engines - for no gas, except for cooking, is needed - water-heaters, pumps, and an artesian well, sunk over 420 ft. Here, too, a Turkish bath and swimming-bath will be constructed. The Savoy Hotel will make no charge for lights or for baths.
    The majority of the four hundred and odd rooms which compose the hotel establishment derive light either from the river frontage windows or from those which open into the inclosed courtyard. A corridor, over 6 ft. wide, gives access to these apartments on every floor. It is possible to make a self-contained suite, consisting of one or more bed-rooms and private sitting-rooms, with a separate lavatory and bath-room, by the simple expedient of locking the double doors communicating with the next suite. With the doors thus closed the flat is complete, having nothing in common with its neighbour save the use of the main corridor or passage.
    The bed-rooms, in their size and proportions, fittings, furniture, and decoration, are much alike; of course they vary in style, in tone, and in detail. All the suites of rooms are upholstered and arranged on a scale which can only be equalled in a grand mansion. Messrs. Maple have supplied pile carpets, brass twin' bedsteads, inlaid cabinets, and sets of mahogany, walnut., or enamelled ash, carved dados and mantlepieces, wall hangings of Japanese papers, or of tapestry designs, friezes of gold, and pottery of the choicest description. Nothing is wanting to please the educated eye or gratify the taste, as well to ensure comfort. It is expected that the rooms most in demand will be those which are at the greatest altitude, for the higher one goes the purer the air becomes, and the wider the prospect.
    The provision of private bath-rooms, of which there are sixty-seven in all, is a new idea, and one that will no doubt be appreciated as an indispensable adjunct to the suite or flat system, which will be principally encouraged, as the basis of a fresh business. There is constant inquiry for such suites of rooms. On every floor there is a service-room, with lifts for luggage and speaking-tubes to the kitchen and offices. The hotel clerk, in his office, can, by looking at a dial, tell at a glance how long it is before any call has been answered by a servant.
    It is intended that the Savoy shall cater for families of the highest class, and it can never be a cheap hotel, but it will not be unduly expensive. In all such details as plate, glass, china, and table-linen, great pains have been taken to procure the best. The manager of this new hotel is Mr. W. Hardwicke; the steward is M. Francois Rinjoux, formerly of the Grand Hotel at Monte Carlo, and M. Charpentier, late 'chef' at White's, is the ruler of the kitchen.
    The building is entirely fireproof, as from basement to roof the materials employed are incombustible, the floors being of concrete and the joists of steel. Of wood there is none, except in the doors, window-frames, and furniture. One noticeable point is the completeness with which the electric lighting has been carried out, the current being cut off at will or utilised in prettily shaded lamps of the most convenient pattern.

There's also a nice potted history of the Savoy here.

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