Corinthia Hotel London
|Corinthia Hotel London|
|Hotel chain||Corinthia Hotels|
|Opening||1885, restored 2011|
|Number of restaurants||2|
The Corinthia Hotel London at the corner of Northumberland Avenue and Whitehall Place in London, is a historic luxury hotel and former British Government building, located on a triangular site between Trafalgar Square and the Thames Embankment.
Originally built as the Metropole Hotel, its close location to British Government administration in Whitehall and the Palace of Westminster meant that it was commandeered in both World War I and World War II. Post World War II, it was purchased by the Ministry of Defence and used as government offices until it was declared surplus and sold by Crown Estates in 2007. It was then restored as a luxury hotel and renamed the Corinthia Hotel London, a combination hotel and residential building.
|“||That the hotel’s location is particularly recommend it to ladies and families visiting the West End during the Season; to travellers from Paris and the Continent, arriving from Dover and Folkestone at the Charing Cross Terminus; to Officers and others attending the levees at St James; to Ladies going to the Drawing Rooms, State Balls, and Concerts at Buckingham Palace; and to colonial and American visitors unused to the great world of London||”|
The hotel was the base for the Aero Club and the Alpine Club, and acted as the gathering point for competitors in the first London to Brighton run in 1896. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII entertained guests at the hotel on various occasions, having a reserved box in the ballroom and using the Royal Suite, thought to have been the first floor rooms with bowfronted windows fronting Whitehall Palace.
World War I
The hotel was requisitioned in the run-up to World War I to provide accommodation for government staff, together with the other hotels and buildings in Northumberland Avenue, including the Constitutional Club and the offices of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge.
In 1921 Bert Firman got a job as a violinist with the Midnight Follies Orchestra at the hotel. Shortly after beginning the job, the current band leader an alcoholic American saxophone player was indisposed, and Firman was offered the job. Then only sixteen, he would thereafter claim to have been the youngest bandleader in the world. After Firman left residence in 1924, other band leaders that played the hotel in the inter-war years included Mantovani.
On January 4, 1936 the England Rugby Union team thanks to three try tries by Russian Prince Alexander Obolensky, beat the touring New Zealand All Blacks 13-0, the first time England had beaten New Zealand. Aided by Pathé News footage of the game, Obolensky's name entered into legend, since the first try, beating several All Blacks in a run of three-quarters of the length of the field, was widely regarded as the greatest try of the time, and one of the greatest tries ever scored by England. The England team retired that night to the Metropole, where they found that the opposing New Zealand team also happened to be staying.
When the government redeveloped buildings at Whitehall Gardens in mid-1936, they leased the entire hotel for £300,000pa, to provide alternate office accommodation initially for the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Transport, and later for the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Defence.
World War II
About to hand back the building, the government extended the lease by again requisitioning the building in the build-up to World War II. Again a home for various departments, room 474 became the first home for MI9 and its sub-division the Special Operations Executive, and later the holding point for one of the model planning beaches for Operation Overlord.
Purchased from Gordon Hotels after World War II, it was transferred to the Crown Estates portfolio. Controlled by the Ministry of Defence, who used it as an overflow building to its main Whitehall complex, by 1951 the Air Ministry was again a major occupant. From the mid-60s until 1992 it housed the bulk of the Defence Intelligence Staff, the remainder of the analysts and the DIS central staff being sited in the MoD Main Building. In the James Bond comic strip in the Daily Express the artist Yaroslav Horak quite often depicted the Metropole Building as MI6 HQ. Subsequently the MoD used the building during various refurbishments, when the mirrored ballroom provided the setting for Press Conferences and other major events. In a nod to its past, the official announcement of the James Bond movie Skyfall was made at a press conference held at the Corinthia Hotel on 3 November 2011.
Having stood unoccupied since 2004, in 2007 the Metropole Building and the adjoining 10 Whitehall Place were acquired for a sum of £130M by a consortium owned equally by Malta's IHI plc and two of its principal shareholders, the Libyan Foreign Investment Company and Nakheel Hotels of Dubai. In September 2008 City of Westminster council approved development of the two buildings as a hotel and residential complex.
The Corinthia hotel is one of the most luxurious Central locations alongside the high standards of hospitality already seen in the other Corinthia branded hotels around the globe. The London location is a building laden with history, situated between Northumberland Avenue and Whitehall Place and thus effectively forms one side of historic Trafalgar Square.
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