1894 Sir Edward Watkin was the ‘Last King of the Railways’ and formidable in the industry. He held the office of chairman to numerous lines and it was his vision to combine those railway lines to create the Great Central Railway, Marylebone Station and a grand hotel to service its passengers. He fought and won against fierce opposition for the line most notably from Lord’s Cricket Ground as the plans would take up a small portion of the cricket ground.
They were duly placated when Watkin offered them more land and rehabilitated the entire grounds. The war with the opposition of his plans took its toll financially and on his health. He suffered a heart attack before construction of the railway began in 1894 and Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Wharncliffe (the serving Vice Chairman) took over his role.
Sir Edward Watkin was in attendance at the opening ceremony of Marylebone station and of the hotel but died only two years later in 1901.
1895 The Great Central Railway, judged by financial terms, was not a great success. When financial strain arose, Sir John Blundell Maple, Chairman of Maple the furnishers negotiated the site for his company. His father owned a small furniture shop which Sir John inherited. By the 1880’s Maple was the undisputed furnishers of hotels in London but in 1895 Waring’s emerged as a major competitor. Threatened with this aggressive newcomer Sir John saw investment in building as opposed to furnishing hotels as a lucrative activity which would ensure that Maple retained its leading role in hotel fitting out.
He took the enterprise one step further by installing a Maples shop in Marylebone station that way if guests of the hotel liked the furniture they could go over to the station to buy it.
Read more about the history of The Landmark London