History of Grosvenor House

Park Lane · London W1K 7TN United Kingdom

History of Grosvenor House

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A Landmark Is Born

The imposing Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in the heart of London has a distinguished, glamorous, and aristocratic pedigree stretching back nearly 350 years. Situated in Mayfair and overlooking Hyde Park, the hotel owes its prestigious location to one of the most lucrative inheritances in the history of urban real estate.

From the beginning

As a baby, Mary Davies inherited two-thirds of her father’s lands when he died in the Great Plague of London in 1665. At that time, the area was described as consisting of meadows and ‘swampy meads’. An Aunt brought up the heiress and she was paraded through the capital in a carriage drawn by six horses in search of a husband. On 10th October 1677, Mary married nobleman Sir Thomas Grosvenor.

 

The pastures which came as a dowry were to become the site of the fashionable and wealthy districts of Belgravia and Mayfair as well as for Grosvenor House, the Duke of Westminster’s London home which would later give its name to one of the British capital’s most luxurious hotels. The inheritance from young Mary led to the Grosvenor family becoming the richest private urban landlords in Britain.

1920 – 1930

In 1920, The Duke of Westminster decided to sell the property on the land to commercial speculator Mr. Arthur Octavius Edwards. In 1927, designed by Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie, building work began on what was to become a 472 room hotel.

 

On the 14th May, 1929 the hotel opened its doors to the public. A press release announced: ‘The new hotel standard set by Grosvenor House begins with better food, wines, services and private accommodation than has so far been achieved, and it ends with a diversity of social and recreational amenities’. In addition to this, the hotel was the first in London to have a bathroom in every bedroom and the first in Europe to have running iced water in every bathroom.

 

Originally built as an ice rink, the Great Room hosted The Hallowe’en Ice Festival and Dance, held in October 1929. The festival included exhibition dancing and skating on the ice and was visited by the Prince of Wales. As well as hosting various sporting clubs and events, Queen Elizabeth II took ice skating lessons in the Great Room.

 

With the popularity of ice galas and balls, Edwards had the idea to convert the Great Room into a banqueting space. ‘It will be,’ Edwards proudly announced, ‘the only first-class ballroom in London which can accommodate from 1,000 to 2,000 guests’. The work was completed in 1934, in time for the first Antiques Dealers’ Fair, which opened in September.

The War Years: 1939 – 1943

In 1939, World War II brought dramatic changes to the hotel. The Great Room became home to the Officers’ Sunday Club Entertainment for 300,000 officers. The hotel was also used briefly as an annexe to the Immigration Section of the US Embassy; and in 1943, the hotel became the largest US Officers’ mess, serving 5.5 million meals in two years.

The Sixties

In 1956, the final stage of the Grosvenor House building was added and the new section was opened by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer; Mr. Peter Thorneycroft.

 

In 1960, several major events took place in the Great Room. Events included a concert performed by The Beatles as well various boxing events, making the Great Room the new home of British boxing.

 

In 1963, the hotel was acquired by Trust Houses who spend £500,000 on redecorating the hotel.

History of Grosvenor House