History of The Landmark London
The hotel was opened as The Great Central Hotel in 1899 with 700 bedrooms and was the last of the great Victorian railway hotels constructed during ‘the golden age of steam’
- The origins lie with a visionary entrepreneur, Sir Edward Watkins, who dreamt of establishing a great rail network, linking his own Great Central Railway to Europe via a Channel tunnel, ending at Marylebone Station (later Eurostar obviously stole his idea!).
- Great Central Railway ran in to financial problems in 1895 before even beginning to build the hotel, so Sir John Blundell Maple (Chairman of the famous furniture company Maples) bought the site at a price of 4.5 pence per square foot and began work on the hotel. (FYI: Maples went bankrupt in 1997 and was taken over by Allders, which then went into administration in 2005).
- The Architect was Robert William Edis, well known for buildings displaying the Gothic Revival style.
- The design should reflect the wealth and power of the Victorian era.
- The Owner wanted it to surpass all previous establishments in terms of opulence and luxury.
- Like many hotels that were built around that time, it was laid around a vast central courtyard, allowing horse-drawn carriages to deposit guests at the heart of the property in privacy and comfort.
- Later during the post-war ‘roaring twenties’ the central courtyard was transformed into a dance floor.
World War I & World War II:
- Requisitioned by the Government for convalescing officers and soldiers on leave.
First period as a hotel ended:
- The advent of the motorcar in the early 20th century replaced rail as the dominant mode of transport, and after only forty years the most luxurious of all the great Victorian railway hotels was forced to close its doors.
- The next forty years the building was used as offices such as the headquarters of the British Railways Board.
- All original fixtures and fittings were covered.
- The railway staff referred to the building as ‘The Kremlin’
A New Beginning:
- Bought by Ritz Carlton in 1986 who started the renovation work.
- Aim was to re-instate the hotel in 1993 as the focal point of business and social life, as originally envisioned by Sir Edward Watkins almost a century before.
- Sold to Four Seasons in 1993 and opened as The Regent, London.
- Purchased by The Lancaster Landmark Hotel Company in 1995 and changed its name overnight to The Landmark London Hotel.
The Honourable Miss Lily Montagu and the Jewish Religion Union
- Lilian Helen "Lily" Montagu, CBE (22 December 1873 - 22 January 1963) was the first woman to play a major role in Reform Judaism. At the age of 26, in “The Jewish Quarterly Review”, she expressed the need to retain the allegiance of Jews who were drifting away from Judaism.
- Lily joined forces with bible scholar Dr. Claude Montefiore and approached United Synagogues to ask to hold the first service of the Jewish Religious Union. Their request was rejected as United Synagogues refused to allow men and women to sit together.
- In October 1902 the first service was held at the Wharncliffe Rooms at the Great Central Hotel for 300 people with policeman guards at the entrance in case of any trouble.
- Dr. Claude Montefiore delivered the service frequently making references to ‘Jews and Jewes’
- The JRU went on to become the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues.
REFERENCES; A Judaism for the Twenty-First Century by Rabbi Pete Tobias & The History of the Liberal Movement on SomethingJewish.co.uk
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa author of the ‘The Leopard’
The Leopard is an important historical Italian novel that depicts the effects of the Civil War on the Sicilian aristocracy and a disappearing way of life
The novel is semi autobiographical and rivals works such as ‘War and Peace’, ‘Vanity Fair’ and ‘Moby Dick’
It was published in 1958 one year after the author’s death
While travelling around Europe and London in the 1920’s Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa was a frequent guest at The Great Central Hotel, Marylebone and wrote many letters on the hotel’s headed paper
These letters were tucked inside books and over looked for decades and one was found in a copy of The Adventures of Captain Hook addressed to his son but never sent
- A famous quote from ‘The Leopard’ – “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”
REFERENCES; Letters from London and Europe by Francesco da Mosto & Stephen Smith in The Observer, Sunday 19 December 2010