Regent Palace Hotel

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The Regent Palace Hotel in 2005

The Regent Palace Hotel was a large hotel in central London close to Piccadilly Circus between 1915 and 2006.

History[edit]

In 1912, J Lyons & Co bought the unused property on the outer edge of the Quadrant in Regent Street. There they built a hotel called the Regent Palace, which opened on 26 May 1915.[1] It took up the complete triangular block formed by Glasshouse, Brewer and Sherwood Streets and rose nine floors high. There was also a basement and sub-basement. It contained 1,028 bedrooms, but even in its later years had only communal bathrooms and toilets. When opened in 1915, it was the largest hotel in Europe.[2]

During the Second World War's Blitz on London, it was hit by a couple of bombs, but little damage was done. In postwar years it deteriorated in spite of many attempts to refurbish it, and became one of the cheaper hotels of London, catering for group tours. The hotel closed on 31 December 2006.[3] The building was largely demolished in 2010-2012 and was replaced by part of the Quadrant 3 project and renamed "Air W1".

Public rooms[edit]

The public area of the hotel was situated mainly on the ground and first floors. The main entrance was on the apex at the intersection of Glasshouse and Sherwood Streets. It was visible from Piccadilly Circus also its neon sign high above the door. The floor plan altered slightly over the years, but will be described as it was in the 1980s. Immediately after entering there was a news kiosk on the left. On the right was a sandwich and fruit bar. Further on that side was the head-porter's counter and the check-in counter. Opposite these counters were three very small lifts. Between the lifts was a marble stairway leading to all other floors. Further in the vestibule was a gift shop and a booking agency (for theatres), followed by a hall with the entry to a pub on the left and to the coffee shop/breakfast room on the right.

Also in this hall were telephones and an entrance to a stairway leading to the residents' lounge (on the first floor) and the hairdressing salon in the lower floor. The vestibule ended in swing doors leading to an area under a dome with a classic parquet floor. Beyond this was the restaurant, decorated in the Art Deco style. The dome was of cut glass, and was situated in an open central court also triangular in shape. This caused the building to have the main passageways on the upper floors also triangular in plan form.

Upper floors[edit]

The upper floors contained the bedrooms, mainly singles and doubles. The rather cell-like singles were very narrow, just wide enough to contain the bed and room to use the wash sink. Beyond the bed there was a chair and small table, a closet and the window. Even the inner rooms had natural light as they opened onto the central court and its triangular shape prevented direct overlook. The double and Twin rooms were much wider with more furniture. There were bathrooms and toilets in each passageway. A bell in each bedroom summoned a floor maid who would then draw a bath, supply hot towels and escort the resident to the bathroom, and after use, clean it..

Staff[edit]

At its peak, the Regent Palace employed over a thousand staff. Many of these were accommodated in a separate staff building on the east side of Sherwood Street. This building also contained the laundry and could be reached by an over-street bridge at the third floor level. This bridge is still in existence. However the old staff building is now used as the Backpacker Hostel.

Features[edit]

The hotel was run by J Lyons & Co, which was an early user of business computing; consequently the Regent Palace together with its sister hotel the Strand Palace was one of the first hotels to use a computer, and the first to use electronic billing. This was in the 1970s.[4] The restaurant became one of the largest carveries in London, serving hot lamb, pork, chicken and two beefs together with cold ham and chicken. The meal started with a waitress-served shimp or fruit cocktail and ended with dessert and tea or coffee also from the waitress. Since 1997 there has been a Regent Palace Hotel in Dubai, but it has no connection with the one in London.

References[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′40″N 0°8′10″W / 51.51111°N 0.13611°W / 51.51111; -0.13611