Part 2 - hotel tested in January 2004
Article added on September 1, 2004
In 1893, on the suggestion of César Ritz, Richard D'Oyly Carte, the founder
of The Savoy Group, took over Claridge's. The Duke of Westminster granted
D'Oyly Carte the right to rebuild the hotel with the proviso that he did not
repeat The Savoy in Brook Street.
The new owner commissioned the architect C. W. Stephens, famous for rebuilding
fashionable areas in West London as well as for the rebuilding of Harrods.
Lady de Grey, the leader of London society, laid the foundation stone of the
new Claridge's. The furniture and effects of the old hotel were put up for auction.
Built on the American model, the new hotel incorporated not only many more
suites than before with improved plumbing, but also several public apartments
on the ground floor, decorated in 1897 by the celebrated interior designer of
the day, Sir Ernest George. These rooms were divided by gender with the
gentlemen enjoying a smoking and billiard room, the ladies a reading room and
The new Claridge's - now a Grade II Listed Building - reopened in November
1898 with lifts, electric lights and en-suite bathrooms which had made the
success of The Savoy. It was so revolutionary that the new management thought
it advisable to inform its regular guests that "the spirit of modernism
in the nine-storey building would not in the lest interfere with their comfort
and privacy" (Reginald Colby).
Richard D'Oyly Carte was not only a hotel owner but also a theatrical
producer. He was the impresario of Gilbert & Sullivan's Savoy Operas.
On the Royal Suite's grand piano, Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert composed
the famous operettas.
In 1909-10 a ballroom was added facing Brooks Mews. It was designed and
decorated by French designers in the Louis XV style with reliefs by Marcel
Boulanger, paintings in the manner of Watteau and lighting by Baguès. Today,
this room is known as The French Salon.
After the First World War, many aristocrats were forced to sell their London
houses. Renting a suite at the London Season was much cheaper as the hiring
and keeping of staff was no longer needed. Claridge's became a favorite
Ernest George's public rooms must have appeared dated to the fashionable young
Mayfair set. Therefore in 1925-26, the Savoy Group hired Basil Ionides, a
pioneer of Art Deco design and a specialist in interior decoration, to
transform the restaurant. Three years later, the awkward carriage drive was
demolished and a new main entrance substituted to designs by Oswald Milne, who
also restructured the restaurant and the billiard room for use as a grill
The Duke of Westminster offered to sell the freehold of the site to the Savoy
Group. In 1930-31, two houses were demolished and a new block was erected next
to C. W. Stephen's "original" Claridge's. Oswald Milne incorporated
private guest rooms and suite of fine reception rooms. The finest British
craftsmen of the time worked for the hotel, making it still today the envy of
many Art Deco lovers. In 1936 Milne added a small penthouse suite and, in
1962, his assistant Underwood, with the help of Michael Inchbald, added a
Claridge's was fortunate to escape bombing during the Second World War. In the
early 1940s, the Grill Room with its separate
entrance on Davies Street became Claridges Causerie. Designed by Sir Howard Robertson,
the Causerie served smörgåsbord, and the
twist was that clients could eat as much of this as they liked, while only
paying for their drinks. This brave novelty was a successful attempt to make rationing seem a little less depressing
Many royal families who found themselves exiled from their own countries as war
raged across Europe made their way to the familiar haven that was Claridge's.
The list includes the monarchs of Norway, Greece, Yugoslavia and The
Netherlands. The son of exiled King Peter of Yugoslavia, Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia,
was born in Suite 212 in July
Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill declared the suite Yugoslav territory for
the day and
legend has it that a spadeful of Yugoslav earth was sprinkled under the bed so that
the heir to the throne could literally be born on Yugoslav soil.
At the end of the Second World War, when unexpectedly defeated in the General
election of 1945, Winston Churchill was temporarily without a home and took a
suite at Claridge's.
After the war, State delegations from around the world stayed at Claridge's. Many of these would be invited to attend a banquet in their
Buckingham Palace. Eventually it became traditional for visiting statesmen to
return hospitality by hosting a banquet for the Queen at Claridge's.
As a result of this, the Royal Family became familiar with the hotel's standards of hospitality and
service and chose to host many of their own
private family parties at the hotel.
King Hassan II visited Claride's after a stay with the Queen at Buckingham
Palace. In the hotel, he found that he could not sleep in the bed that he had
brought with him from Morocco. The hotel manager suggested that he should swap
beds with his valet, who was sleeping on the handmade Savoy Group bed. The
next day, the King raved about the good night's sleep he had enjoyed and
purchased thirty mattresses to take back to Morocco.
In 1999 Claridge's embarked on the first major designer restoration since the
1930s, when David Collins was invited to create a new cocktail bar. New
York-based designer Thierry Despont was brought in to revitalize the Foyer area.
Using archive photographs of the Ballroom Extension that dated from the early
1930s as inspiration, the space was completely made over in a modern Art Deco
style, with a dramatic Dale Chihuly chandelier
as its centerpiece.
Despont went on to create Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's, where the celebrated
Scottish chef (awarded three stars by Michelin) heads a brigade of thirty-five. The
restaurant opened in October 2001 and is a highlight of today's hotel. In
the old restaurant, the first table inside the door was always reserved for
the late novelist Dame Barbara Cartland who dined at Claridge's for fifty
years. Her table was always decorated with pink flowers.
Lynne Hunt of Hunt Hamilton Zuch was commissioned to design a health suite on
the sixth floor - The Olympus Suite - transforming former staff quarters into
a state of the art fitness facility. Hunt was also commissioned to design a
series of deluxe bedrooms on the seventh floor. Richmond International
designed a series of rooftop private meeting rooms. Interior designer Veere
Greeney redesigned the two rooftop apartments with their terraces overlooking
Mayfair to the Houses of Parliament beyond. Tessa Kennedy and John Stefanides were
each responsible for redesigning forty guest rooms. The hotel interior
designers RPW have worked on the guest rooms on the Art Deco side of Claridge's.
Last but not least let's not forget a traditional feature of the hotel:
offers a special shower experience with water pouring out of an extra-large
showerhead like in a tropical torrent. A lot of guests buy the showerheads but are
disappointed afterwards because they had not realized that the shower device
alone does not give the torrent results, you also need to have your water
under high pressure.
Claridge's deservedly belongs to the group of The Leading Hotels of the World. As Spencer Tracy once said: "Not that I intend to die. But
when I do, I don't want to go to heaven, I want to go to Claridge's." -
for part 1 of the article on Claridge's.
Sources for this article: Claridge's and Reginald Colby: Mayfair. A Town
Within London, 1966, 189 p.
Brook Penthouse sitting room. Photo © Claridge's, London.
Art Deco bathroom. Photo © Claridge's, London.
Art Deco bedroom detail of the very Art Deco
Suite 216 - designed by Lady
Photo © Claridge's, London.
Guy Oliver Business Executive Suite. Photo © Claridge's, London.