Claridge's: The embodiment of Englishness
November 19, 2012
“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” Spencer Tracey
For most, the simple mention of 'Mayfair' engenders thoughts of affluence, sharp suits and magnificent architecture and Claridge's is undoubtedly one of its most famous residences – arguably the most opulent and reputable 5-star luxury hotel in London.
Founded in 1812 as Mivart's Hotel, Claridge’s is located in a traditional London terraced house, having expanded from humble beginnings through the acquisition of neighbouring properties. In 1854, the founder of Mivart’s sold the hotel to Mr and Mrs Claridge, the owners a smaller hotel next door who initially combined the two operations, but having attempted trading for a time as "Mivart's at Claridge's" settled on the now famous name.
The early reputation of the hotel was cemented in 1860 when Empress Eugenie made an extended visit and entertained Queen Victoria there. By the 1890’s Richard D'Oyly Carte, the theatrical impressario and founder of the rival Savoy Hotel, had become increasingly interested in the hotel and purchased Claridge's in 1894, as part of The Savoy Group. Shortly after completing the purchase and prompted by the need to install modern facilities such as lifts and en suite bathrooms, D’Oyly demolished the old buildings and replaced them with the present days ones which opened in 1898.
After the First World War, Claridge's entered the remarkable and vibrant period of the 1920’s, flourishing due to demand from aristocrats who no longer maintained a London house. Under the leadership of Carte's son, Rupert D'Oyly Carte, a new extension was built adding eighty new rooms and a stunning ballroom. Oswald Milne, a pioneer of the art deco movement, transformed the lobby and much of the modern day decoration, including works by Basil Ionides and a beautiful Lalique door panel were fitted. With flappers, bobs and the bright young things of London making Claridge's their place to party, the ballroom echoed to the songs of Gershwin, the sounds of jazz and the steps of the Charleston.
Claridge's reputation as a haven for dignitaries was enhanced during the days of the Second World War when many exiled heads of state used it as a refuge from the troubles in Europe. The Kings of Greece, Norway, Yugoslavia and well as the Queen of the Netherlands made Claridge’s their home for much of the war. Famously while Peter II of Yugoslavia and his wife were in exile at Claridge's, suite 212 was ceded, at the request of Winston Churchill, by the United Kingdom to Yugoslavia for a single day, on the 17th July 1945, to allow Crown Prince Alexander to be born on Yugoslav soil. In times of great trouble and of great joy, Claridge’s has been a home from home for many.
In the years that followed well-known actors, directors and entertainers, along with leaders in fashion and finance have frequented Claridge's. Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Yul Brynner, Bing Crosby, Audrey Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Brad Pitt, Mick Jagger, U2 and Mariah Carey have all been guests with Hollywood legend Spencer Tracy once saying that he'd rather go to Claridge's than to heaven when he dies.
In 1996, Claridge’s enjoyed a restoration led by designer Thierry Despont, who created Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's, The Foyer, The Reading Room and The Fumoir. In 1999, designer David Collins transformed the Causerie into Claridge’s Bar, with a brief to slip quietly into the new millennium while keeping a firm hold on the last one.
In 2005, The Savoy Group, including Claridge's, was sold to Quinlan Private, who sold off the Savoy Hotel and Savoy Theatre and renamed the group Maybourne Hotel Group, which also included two other five-star luxury hotels in London, The Berkeley and The Connaught. In 2011, the Maybourne Group was sold to the Barclay brothers, owners of the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Standing in the reception area, surrounded by décor and furniture which simply oozes elegance, with displays of captivating Art Deco pieces from the hotel's own private galleries. It's easy to see why Claridge's retains such a fond place in the heart of everyone who visits. Located in the heart of London, within walking distance of the Capital's most popular attractions including the West End, Royal Parks, Theatres, Museums and busy shopping districts Clairdge’s continues to draws visitors from around the world. Described as the embodiment of English style, a visit to the hotel is more than just a stay at hotel, it is an experience in all things English.
Depending on the desires and requirements of their guests, Claridge's have a room or suite to perfectly meet the needs of everyone who stays. Every room at the hotel is impeccably presented and stylishly decorated to a standard befitting royalty, with the exquisite range of Linley Suites by Royal designer David Linley offering a unapologetically ostentatious mixture of comfort and luxury with his signature eye for detail and contemporary touches throughout.
Upon asking what it is that makes the hotel the favourite of such a discerning guest, the answer is that quite simply Claridge's success and reputation has been built on the back of impeccable service – infrastructure and design can be replicated, but warmth and service cannot and this is something the luxury hotel is passionately proud of. This, we are told, is the key to its continuing success and the reason that virtually all guests to Claridge's return at some point in the future. From the pot washer to the executive management, every single member of the hotel staff is truly committed to doing everything possible to ensure guests are thrilled with the level of high-end service received during their stay.
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