London’s Historic Hotels

by Fitzroy of London

It wasn’t until the 19th century that London began to see a rise in the traditional type of hotels we know of today. Before this time, if you wanted to stay in London your choices were to rent a house or take a room in a lodging house or coaching inn.

There certainly wasn’t a tourist industry as we see today and the rich would tend to rent accommodation, rather than staying in a ‘hotel’.

With the arrival of the railways and the industrial revolution, people began travelling to London more frequently. Many of the railway companies started to build hotels near to their stations to accommodate travellers; the resulting grand buildings were status symbols for the massive railways firms, the richest business in the country at the time.

Fitzroy of London wanted to look into the history of the hospitality sector we all know and enjoy today. Below we’ve listed just some of the first hotels in London, UK -


Browns Hotel – opened 1837

Browns Hotel, which opened in 1837 is made up of 11 historic Georgian townhouses and no two of the 117 rooms are the same.

Initially, it was run by James and Sarah Brown, the former valet and maid to Lord and Lady Byron, who got hitched and set up a hotel. The Ford family took over in 1859 adding London’s first public dining room, and buying the next-door St George’s Hotel in 1889, combining the two hotels.

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Great Northern Hotel – opened 1854

The hotel, which opened on 17th May 1854 in King’s Cross, was London’s first great railway hotel.

Since the revival of King’s Cross, this Grade II-listed Victorian landmark, by architect Lewis Cubitt is back, renovated and refurbished after being derelict for 12 years.

Despite its imposing frontage, the Great Northern is actually quite restrained compared to some of London’s larger hotels, with just 90 rooms over its six floors.

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The Langham – opened 1865

The Langham, designed by John Giles, was London’s first purpose-built ‘grand hotel’. It was built between 1863 and 1865 at a cost of around £300,000.

When it opened, The Langham was the largest hotel in the city, featuring 100 WCs, 36 bathrooms and the first hydraulic lifts in England. The opening ceremony on 16 June 1865 was performed by Queen Victoria’s son, The Prince of Wales.

The Langham was a leader in various other technologies, including electric lighting, which was installed in the entrance and courtyard in 1879.

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Charing Cross Hotel – opened 1865

The Charing Cross Hotel, built above Charing Cross Station, was designed by architect Edward Middleton Barry, the third son of another famous architect, Charles Barry.

Built to rival the other big railway hotels, the hotel was designed with an ornate frontage in the Franco-Italianate style.


Midland Grand Hotel – opened 1873 (now St Pancras Renaissance London)

In 1865, the Midland Railway Company decided to get into the hotels game. They hosted a competition for a 150-bed hotel; George Gilbert Scott’s design won over the judges even though his building had 300 beds – twice the original spec.

The hotel boasted an incredible staircase, there was gold leaf on the walls, and every room had a fireplace. In addition, there were innovate hydraulic lifts, concrete floors and revolving doors.

By the 1930’s, the building was too outdated to run as a hotel. Instead, it was used for rail offices.

It took a lot of time and money to restore the building to its former glory. The redeveloped hotel, renamed the St Pancras Renaissance London opened in 2011, with 244 bedrooms, two restaurants, two bars, a leisure centre, ballroom and 20 meeting rooms.

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Savoy Hotel – opened 1889

With many claims to be Britain’s first ‘luxury’ hotel, the Savoy opened on 6th August 1889.

With electric lights throughout the building, electric lifts, en-suite bathrooms in many of the 286 rooms with the luxury of hot and cold running water. The hotel is now a grade II listed building.

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