REGENT PALACE HOTEL (MAIN BUILDING AND BRIDGE)

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1391115
Date first listed:
10-May-2004
Statutory Address:
REGENT PALACE HOTEL (MAIN BUILDING AND BRIDGE), GLASSHOUSE STREET

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
REGENT PALACE HOTEL (MAIN BUILDING AND BRIDGE), GLASSHOUSE STREET

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:
Greater London Authority
District:
City of Westminster (London Borough)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 29444 80739

Details



1900/0/10346 GLASSHOUSE STREET 10-MAY-04 Regent Palace Hotel (main building and bridge)

GV II Hotel. Designed 1911, built 1912-15; architect W J Ancell with Henry Tanner Junior, completed after Ancell's death by F J Wills, his assistant. Raised and extended 1934-6 by F J Wills, when the basement bars and restaurants, and the ground-floor coffee room (now the Titanic Room) were remodelled by Oliver Bernard. Basement areas restored in 1994 as the Atlantic Bar by David Connor. Steel frame clad in white glazed 'Burmantofts Marmo' faience with roof of green Westmorland slate. Irregular trapezoidal or lozenge-shaped site. Two main floors of public rooms, on the ground floor and basement levels; bedrooms above not of special interest. Axial plan with principal dining room, now the Titanic room set in the widest part of the building, with separate exit to Brewer Street. Below it is the grill room, now bar, with a winter garden and lower foyers in the corresponding location on the different floors, with in the basement a private dining room (the 'Chez Cup Bar') under the entrance and Dick's Bar to the side.

Main entrance on apex corner nearest to Piccadilly Circus, emphasised by being treated as drum with a projecting copy on the ground floor and an elaborate ironwork balcony above. On the long elevations to either side the ground floor and mezzanine are treated as the base for an order of giant pilasters rising through four floors to heavy projecting cornice. Above the cornice a one- and two-storey attic with pavilions at regular intervals and very tall slated mansard roof with two tiers of dormer windows. All the windows originally had mullions, and there remains small-paned glazing to the public rooms and sash windows to the bedrooms. It is a practical design in which every bedroom enjoyed natural light, and it is a composition best enjoyed at close quarters, for in its backstreet site it can never be seen as a whole. Raised rooftop rooms over entrance of 1934-6, to create two more storeys of bedrooms, and new lift tower.

Decoration from 1915 survives visibly only in the basement grill room, now bar and restaurant, and adjoining service corridor with its lincrusta walls and plaster filigree ceiling. The walls of the bar/restaurant are panelled in mahogany, with pilasters, inset pier glazes and, above, friezes of sphinxes. The trabeated ceiling has moulded cornices and now inset with 1930s lights in glazed strips. Marble-clad square columns with brackets forming capitals. Windows, giving on to false area and backlit, have small panes of coloured glass in lead kames set in mullions - as originally existed on upper floors also.

The building is today best regarded for its interiors by Oliver Bernard. In 1934 the basement billiard room was transformed into a cocktail bar called the 'Chez Cup Bar', now used for private functions. This retains its floor of small wood blocks laid in a radial pattern. The basement foyer is reached via separate entrance from Glasshouse Street, though former dining room doors, now external. Foyer has travertine marble panels, polished limestone lintels and the box lighting that is such a feature of his work. The open trellis balustrading to the staircase, with its volute moulding, is distinctly Bernard's work, and there is a very grand chandelier. The reception desks are bounded by the same polished limestone that forms a skirting all around the space and are therefore presumed to be substantially original too. Former smoke room, now Dick's Bar, the finest single space, with thick columns topped with capitals formed of three layers of ribbed sheet glass. Deeply coved central ceiling area with ribbed glass inset continuous light fitting and prominent ventilation extracts treated as part of the architecture over the columns and within the cornice. Similarly, radiators with moulded grilles incorporated into the wall panelling. Above a narrow skirting of Levanto marble, the walls are panelled in banded birch decoration inset with steel strips that continue, with curved moulding, as horizontal glazing bars across the false windows on one side. Square pillars with birch panelling and steel banding to the lower snug at rear of the bar, which has birch panelling to walls.

On the upper floors the bedrooms were always modest and have been extensively modified; they are not of special interest. The annex building fronting Brewer Street is not of special interest, but the bridge over Sherwood Street is a stirring composition of terracotta and green Roman tile roof that closes the vista, with ornamental grilles and mouldings.

On the first floor, the coffee and dining room was remodelled in 1935 by Bernard, and was most recently known as the Titanic Bar. Tripartite space with square columns, panelled with inset coves to main flanks, and glass capitals forming uplighters to shallow coved frieze incorporating ventilation ducts. Around the walls panelling survives above dado level (below dado level obscured by later seating) with volute mouldings that are repeated in the mirror and door surrounds. Inset coves to ceilings incorporate lighting concealed in glass petals inset in brass, rather rococo fixtures. The ensemble is lighter and more frivolous, but with greater classical references, than the work to the basement below, rather anticipating the historicism of Copenhagen's Tivoli or the Festival of Britain's pleasure gardens at Battersea Park (virtually all demolished).

Oliver Bernard (1881-1939) was one of the leading interior designers in the Art Deco style. He had no formal architectural training but began his career as a theatre designer, in London, Manchester, New York and Boston. He first worked for J Lyons designing ceramics for the British Empire Exhibition, where he also produced a series of murals that were widely admired. These led to him becoming technical director of the British Pavilion at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes from which Art Deco takes its name. Bernard was thus directly involved with the movement at its zenith. He went on to work as an interior designer, first for Lyons Corner Houses and then for the company's hotels. 'Bernard worked for a marginally different clientele in his big hotels, slightly better off and more sophisticated without being in the least open to the charge of being fast. Again he was out to design interiors which communicated a sense of fun, a feeling that you were very definitely not at home but need not be nervous all the same.' (The Thirties: Recalling the English Architectural Scene, London, Trefoil, 1983). His cocktail bars at the Regent Palace are described in Building (May 1935) as 'just a trifle dissipated and naughty, but not sufficiently so to be vulgar', and the Chez-Cup Bar is hailed as 'slick and smart and quite the last thing in interior decoration.' Dean considered that 'Time's accretions have established [Bernard's designs] as evoking their period so powerfully that a merit has been bestowed on them which was not evident when they were first designed. This is why his entrance to the Strand Palace Hotel has been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum as a significant piece of period design.'

The frame was quite complicated and elaborate, because of the irregular shape of the site, and this prompted a special article in The Builder. The exterior is of some interest for its extensive and elaborate faience decoration, intended to be enjoyed in detail rather than as an overall composition. However, the Regent Palace Hotel is listed primarily for the importance of its surviving principal public interiors by Ancell and Bernard. The ancillary building, by F J Wills from 1934-6 is not included in the listing.

Sources The Builder, 4 June 1915 Architectural Review, July 1915 Building, May 1935 The Thirties, Arts Council, 1979 David Dean, The Thirties: Recalling the English Architectural Scene, London, Trefoil Books 1983 J G Links, 'Oliver Bernard, The Barbican, and Me', in Thirties Society Journal, no.5, 1985 Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton and Ghislaine Wood, Art Deco, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2003 Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner, Pevsner Architectural Guides, London 6: Westminster, 2003, p.408 Colin Hines and Keith Cheetham, London Art Deco, 2003 RIBA Nomination Papers and biography file

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
493333
Legacy System:
LBS

Sources

Books and journals
Charlotte Benton Tim Benton and Chislaine Wood, (2003)
David, D, The Thirties Recalling the English Architectural Scene, (1983)
Hines, C, Cheetham, K, London Art Deco, (2003)
Pevsner, N, Bradley, S, The Buildings of England: London 6 Westminster, (2003), 408
'The Builder' in 4 June, (1915)
'Building' in May, (1935)
'Architectural Review' in July, (1915)
'Architectural Review' in July, (1915)
'Arts Council of Great Britain Catalogue' in The Thirties, (1979)
Links, J G, 'The Thirties Society Journal' in Oliver Bernard The Barbican and Me, , Vol. 5, (1985)

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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