March Venue of the month – Claridge’s Hotel, London
Claridge’s hotel, the jewel in the crown of London hotels for the worlds rich, famous and royal. From very humble beginnings to becoming one of the most synonymous hotel icons of the world, let Steven Pellier your London wedding & event planner, take you on a journey of Claridge’s humble beginnings, through her history and what you can expect from the icon today.
It all began 205 years ago in 1812, when Lord William Beauclerk applied to Lord Grosvenor to turn number 51 Brook Street W1 (a small townhouse) into a hotel, to be run by a Mr James Mivart. Lord Grosvenor denied the application, stating that there were already 2 hotels operating on Brook Street and no more were to be allowed. Lord Beauclerk appealed to Lord Grosvenor, stating that he knew Mr Mivart well and that 51 was to his knowledge, already being used as a hotel. Lord Beauclerk also informed Lord Grosvenor, that he planned to acquire 43 Brook Street the then Kirkham’s hotel and fashion it into his own private residence, thus meaning that there would once again, only be 2 hotels on Brook Street. Lord Grosvenor had a change of heart with this new information and the application was approved, although strong objection came from the owners of the Kirkham hotel and number 49 Brook Street the then Coulson’s Hotel, the following year in 1813 – Mr Mivart defeated the opposition and won his case, by stating that he had neither a coffee room, club room or accommodation for business of a public description and that he did not let his rooms by the night as a hotel would, but by the month only, he was therefore, not a hotel but a private and distinct lodging house. Mivart’s Hotel survived and with James’ ambitious business plans, he proceeded over the following years to buy the 5 adjoining townhouses, with number 53 being by far the largest and subsequently now owned all of the properties down to the corner of Brook Street with Davies Street, as well as 48 Davies Street which came with the bonus of extensive stabling. Mivart’s soon gained a great reputation in royal courts and was named 1 of only 3 hotels in London, as ‘the place to stay’.
Many years later in 1853 to be precise, a retired Butler and housekeeper by the name of William and Marianne Claridge who had been running a small private hotel on Grosvenor Street, acquired no 49 Brook Street the then Coulson’s Hotel, and almost immediately acquired Mivart’s in 1854 also on James Mivart’s retirement, James unfortunately died later that year. Mr and Mrs Claridge set about incorporating number 49 into the other five buildings and in 1856 after a refurbishment, the hotel reopened with the new name Claridge’s, Late Mivart’s Hotel.
In 1860 with Claridge’s reputation growing further and further afield, the hotel was graced with a visit from Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert, to take tea with Empress Eugenie of France who was visiting London. This royal approval soon catapulted the hotels fame further and Claridge’s became a home from home for the worlds heads of state and royalty. 21 years later, following William Claridge’s failing health the Claridge family had to sell the hotel and it was bought by a consortium who tried to manage it the best that they could, but without William and Marianne’s sparkle and flair at the helm of the operation, they failed miserably and in 1893 when the hotel was no longer turning a profit, it was bought by the owner of the recently opened Savoy Hotel, Richard D’Oyly Carte. Mr D’Oyly Carte promptly closed Claridge’s, realising that it needed huge improvements structurally, in order to compete with the new fashionable hotels springing up all over London and hired the architect later famed for the architectural re-design of Harrods, – CW Stephens who knocked the majority of the six buildings down and rebuilt the hotel from the foundations up, leaving her looking pretty much as we see her from the outside today. After four years of building, the hotel reopened in 1898, with electricity and working lifts to all floors, under the new name Claridge’s. It is reported today, that Claridge’s has the oldest working lift in London and possibly the UK, installed by Otis in 1896 and still attendant operated which is wonderful in 2017.
Claridge’s reputation was finally restored and the proceeding years saw an abundance of regular guests as well as welcoming many new guests, with the changing of the times – the ‘20s saw flappers and bobs and the Ballroom rung out with music of Gershwin, jazz bands and the Charleston. 1929 welcomed 80 new bedrooms, a new ballroom and Oliver Milne the pioneer of the art deco movement, remodelled The Lobby where much of the decoration and work of Basil Ionides as well as a Lalique door panel, can still be seen today. WWII witnessed Claridge’s become a refuge for many exiled heads of states and royal families. The Kings of Greece, Norway and Yugoslavia remained throughout and in 1945, a special request from Prime Minister Winston Churchill was carried out, when suite 212 was declared Yugoslavian Soil, in order for crown Prince Alexander II to be born on his own countries soil. Later Winston and Clementine Churchill stayed at the hotel, following Mr Churchill’s election defeat.
As happens over the generations, 1950 saw a new wave of Claridge’s devotees, when the stars of Hollywood come calling – Spencer Tracy famously proclaimed that he wanted to come to Claridge’s, rather than go to heaven when he dies. In 1970 Claridge’s starts a long running relationship with the fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg, who landed her first interior design project with the hotel, other guests during this time included Aristotle and Jackie Onassis as well as frequent visits from Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who had a favourite table in the restaurant, dressed daily with her favourite flowers – Sweet Peas. The momentum of Claridge’s fandom, shows no signs of slowing.
With the hotels owners constantly striving for refinement of the hotel, 1996 welcomes a restoration, led by designer Thierry Despont – Gordon Ramsey at Claridge’s is unveiled, along with a new Foyer, The Reading Room and The Fumoir. In 1998 after 105 years of ownership, Claridge’s bid farewell to the D’Oyly Carte family, who sell the hotel to American equity fund Blackstone and Colony Capital. In 1999, David Collins is tasked with bringing the Causerie into the new Millennium, whilst still keeping a firm hand on the last one and Claridge’s Bar is born.
2004 sees the sale of Claridge’s to Derek Quinlin and his company’s majority owned investment group, Coroin Limited. They also buy The Savoy and Claridge’s now sister hotels The Connaught and The Berkley, although The Savoy is later sold off. The early 2000’s see the hotel awash with a new breed of trend setting followers, including the model Kate Moss who celebrated her 30th birthday at the hotel. Diane Von Furstenberg also launches 20 newly designed rooms and suites, which she had initially remodelled and designed in the ‘70s and the hotel groups ownership company changes name to the Maybourne Hotel Group in 2005.
David Linley, a long time friend of Claridge’s completes his work on the 25 Linley Suites and David Downton continues as Claridge’s first fashion artist in residence. Fast forward to the year 2014 and Claridge’s welcomes another refinement in the guise of Fera at Claridge’s, under the tutelage of Simon Rogan with a new restaurant designed by Guy Oliver, to reflect Rogan’s natural style and to celebrate Claridge’s Art Deco design history. In May 2015, Qatar’s Constellation Hotel Group gained majority ownership of Maybourne Hotel Group and Claridge’s continues to go from strength to strength, with new expansion and development plans recently being submitted to the council for approval, which all look incredibly exciting for the next instalment of the hotels wonderful history for the owners, staff and Claridge’s loyal, returning and future guests to enjoy.
As a wedding and event planner in London, throughout the UK and internationally, I very rarely give an opinion on my personal favourite venues, however, if I may remove my London wedding planner hat just for a moment – I can quite honestly say that Claridge’s means a great deal to me, reminding me of my exciting monthly trips to the hotel with my Grandparents whilst growing up and now I get the opportunity to continue to enjoy the surroundings of the hotel, whether meeting clients, designing weddings or events or simply having a few drinks with friends and loved ones. Each and every occasion that I cross the threshold into the hotel, I quite honestly feel like I have returned home – with my London wedding and event planner hat back on however, what does Claridge’s offer in terms of weddings and events in the present day.
Claridge’s have no less than six function rooms, all impeccably designed for modern day entertaining and business pursuits.
The Ballroom – With its exclusive and private entrance on Brook Street, step inside the imposing reception with Ballroom beyond. Steeped in history and adorned with marble, hand engraved and platinum leaf mirrors, expertly designed by Guy Oliver and reminiscent of its former art deco glamour, echoing the original décor of the late 1920’s. Enjoy hosting a reception for 450 guests or a dinner for 250 guests.
The French Salon – With original Art Deco features such as ironwork tassels by Basil Ionides and winged renaissance style cherubs above the doors, resplendent in classical style with an original marble mantelpiece, the French Salon renovated with fine fabrics of luxuriant blues can accommodate 120 guests for a reception, or 100 guests for dinner and can also be used with the Drawing Room
The Drawing Room – A graceful, wonderfully light and well proportioned room, with 18th century elegance, an open fireplace and watched over by a portrait of a lady in blue, the Drawing room can accommodate 120 guests for a reception or 100 guests for dinner and can also be used as above, in conjunction with the French Salon.
On the sixth floor Claridge’s offers four further function rooms, The Boardroom, The Kensington Room, The Clarence and The St James Room, varying in size to accommodate between 12 – 44 for dinner or 25 – 70 for a reception. All of the stunning rooms on the sixth floor offer beautiful views across the London skyline, a personal reception and cloakroom area and natural daylight, as well as all being recently refurbished by David Linley, in Claridge’s signature timeless glamour.
To learn more about hosting your meeting or event at Claridge’s, why not contact the Claridge’s meetings and events team on +44 (0) 207 409 6500 or emailing email@example.com
For more information or to discuss your wedding or event with Steven Pellier Weddings or Steven Pellier Events, or to see how we can help plan your wedding or event at Claridge’s, or experience wedding or event planning with Steven Pellier in London, throughout the UK or internationally please call the Steven Pellier team on +44 (0)207 760 7553 or send us on email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credits: Claridges Hotel & Steven Pellier