The five-star luxury hotel in Mayfair, London.
Article added on September 1, 2004
The five-star luxury hotel Claridge's in
Mayfair, London, combines traditional English and Art Deco features with excellent service.
In its first edition of 1878, Baedeker's London listed Claridge's as "The first hotel in London", and until today,
it has remained one of the city's finest addresses.
The history of Claridge's begins in the early 19th century. The hotel was first known as Mivart's. It opened in 1812 in the house at 51
Brook Street. Lord William Beauclerk leased the building from the Grosvenor
Estate with permission to turn it into a hotel, which was run by James Edward
Mivart. The French chef Jacques Mivart anglicized his first name and,
"like his compatriots, Grillion, Escudier and Jacquier, prospered
exceedingly, fulfilling the needs of English county families who, half frozen
in their draughty homes and suffering from a surfeit of joints, fowls,
puddings and port, appreciated the variety and subtlety of French
cooking" (Reginald Colby).
Mivart's was established under royal auspices: the Prince Regent, who
succeeded to the throne as King George IV in 1820, had a suite of rooms
permanently reserved for him at the hotel in order to discretely enjoy life,
for which he - a playboy in today's vocabulary - was famous.
The hotel was designed for guests who wished to stay for longer periods: apartments were let by the month, rather than by night. Mivart's success lay
in his ability to accommodate foreign royalty and nobility in style while
maintaining the ambiance and discretion of a well-maintained private house. In
1827, The Morning Post noted that Mivart's was the fashionable
rendezvous for the high Corps Diplomatique. It soon established the
reputation of being "the usual residence of sovereign princes and other
foreigners of distinction". Catherine Gore, the chronicler of the
fashionable world wrote in The Diamond and the Pearl: A Novel
(1849): "Lord and Lady Downham were perceived at Ems and Kissingen to
be surrounded by Highnesses royal and serene and Russian princes sufficient to
have peopled Mivart's Hotel."
By 1838, James Edward Mivart's enterprise was flourishing to the point that he
had managed to buy five consecutive houses along Brook Street, knocking down the walls to create one large hotel.
The Great Exhibition of 1851 brought an influx of famous visitors, including
the Grand Duke Alexander of Russia and King William III of the Netherlands,
who both made Mivart's their home from home. In 1853, a letter in The Times
claimed that there were just three fist-class hotels in London, Mivart's, The
Clarendon in Bond Street and Thomas's in Berkeley Square.
Already in his 70s, James Edward Mivart had retired in 1854 and sold his thriving
business to William and Marianne Claridge, who run a separate hotel in 49
Brook Street, Coulson's. Incidentally, William was a butler before he became a
hotel owner. After Mivart's death, the hotel changed its name to Claridge's in 1856, adding
"late Mivart's" underneath.
The Claridges owned the entire row of houses in Brook Street from no. 49 to the corner of
the block. They maintained the standards set by Mivart. The reputation of
Claridge's continued to grow and to attract famous visitors. In 1860, Queen
Victoria and Prince Albert arrived at the hotel to visit the Empress Eugénie
of France who was in residence there during the winter. Queen Victoria was so
impressed by Claridge's that she wrote to her uncle, Leopold I, King of the
Belgians, in glowing terms of the visit.
In 1881, William Claridge's failing health forced him and his wife to sell the
hotel to a consortium, which lacked the personal touch. Furthermore, consisting
of several private houses run together, Claridge's could not be upgraded to compete with purpose built hotels which were cropping up all over
London. For instance The Savoy, built in 1889, offered lifts to all floors,
electricity, en suite bathrooms and the best chef in Europe, Auguste Escoffier.
In order to compete with the new purpose built luxury hotels, a simple upgrade
would not do the job.
for part 2 of the article.
Sources for this article: Claridge's and Reginald Colby: Mayfair. A Town
Within London, 1966, 189 p.
landscape. Photo © Claridge's, London.
Façade and doorman. Photo © Claridge's, London.
Art Deco detail: Leaping Stag.
Photo © Ken Hayden/
Macanudo Fumoir Bar. It features the largest selection of Macanudo cigars plus
more than twenty different Cuban cigars. In addition, a library of rare and
exclusively aged cigars has been procured. Claridge's Macanudo Fumoir serves a
carefully edited selection of cognacs, armagnacs, rums, tequilas and ports
from its marble horse shoe bar. Photo © Claridge's, London.