Monday, 10 April 2017

Chapter 12: "Your mind is not engaged on the task in hand!"

The Palm Court at the Carlton Hotel, Pall Mall, London

Here are the Chapter Notes for The Lust World episode 12.

Marguerite Blanc stays at the Carlton Hotel, very much one of the top hotels in London at the time, where she meets Edmund Molloy in the Palm Court.  It opened in 1899, a dozen years before our story and was a part of a joint development which included rebuilding Her Majesty's Theatre on the adjoining site.  Designed by architect Charles Phipps (1835-1897) he died before it was completed.   The interior of the hotel was produced by Waring & Gillow, which company gives Waring Blanc his first name.

Phipps was a specialist in theatres and had designed many in London, including the Savoy Theatre in 1881, the first public building in the world to be entirely lit by electric light. The new Her Majesty's Theatre shared a facade with the Carlton Hotel on the Haymarket side, as can be seen in this elevation (theatre outlined at right).

Famous hotelier C├ęsar Ritz and the world's top chef, Auguste Escoffier, had been employed by hotel owner and theatrical impresario Richard D'Oyly-Carte (who brought together composer Arthur Sullivan and lyricist W.S. Gilbert to produce a string of hit operettas at his Savoy theatre) at his Savoy Hotel.  

However, he sacked the pair in 1897 for 'financial irregularities' and they went off to set up the Ritz Hotel in Paris.  When they returned to London, they took over the lease of the new Carlton Hotel (named after nearby Carlton House, the former home of the Prince of Wales).

Carlton Hotel with Her Majesty's Theatre (belowthe right hand tower)

The hotel had 250 rooms and the suites had their own bathrooms which was very unusual at the time. Each room also had its own telephone.  Much to D'Oyly-Carte's fury the new hotel rapidly eclipsed The Savoy and poached many of its top clients, including the Prince of Wales.  Sweet revenge for Ritz and Escoffier.

New Zealand House (centre) on the site of the Carlton Hotel today, with the facade of Her Majesty's Theatre (centre right) just visible.

Sadly, the hotel had a short life.  It was badly damaged by bombs in 1940.  All the guest rooms were closed although the restaurant and bar remained open.  Much of the rest of the hotel was requisitioned by the government for offices.  It never did re-open and was sold to the government of New Zealand in 1949.  It was demolished in 1957 and the brutalist modern New Zealand House was built on the site, where it remains to this day.  However, Her Majesty's Theatre remains so you can still get a feeling for the splendour of the facade of the Carlton.

The manager of Her Majesty's Theatre was Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852-1917) who employed the young artist's model turned actress Ethel Warwick, who Edmund thinks Marguerite looks rather like.  Ethel would no doubt have been very familiar with the Carlton Hotel and was no doubt entertained there by her theatrical friends.

The expedition's base of operations is the Euston Hotel, which was constructed adjoining Euston Station, the first intercity railway station built in London (in 1837).  From 1846 until 1922 it was owned and operated by the London and North-Western Railway, who ran the service up to Liverpool, which the expedition will have to take to reach their liner to Brazil.  The hotel was on Drummond  Street (now no longer there) and there was vehicular access actually through the arches of the hotel to the courtyard beyond,  which also housed the smaller Victoria Hotel.

Here is the other side of the hotel building with taxis coming through the hotel.  The railway station is behind the viewer in this shot.  

Sadly, unlike many of the other railway stations and hotels I have featured so far, the station, its iconic arch and the hotels were demolished in 1963 and replaced with a sixties monstrosity of such hideousness that it beggars belief and was called "one of the nastiest concrete boxes in London".  In fact, such was the outcry, that it led to the formation of the Victorian Society which spearheaded the preservation of buildings in Britain and led directly to nearby St Pancras station being saved from demolition in 1968.

Expensive prostitutes in London, who catered exclusively to rich clients, were, indeed, called 'toffers', as they serviced the 'toffs'.  These women were a long way from the street whores who would dispense "three-penny uprights" up against a wall in an alley or under a bridge. Traditionally, the higher class ones were found around Piccadilly, were often French and dressed in expensive, often white, dresses.  This splendidly turned out lady, from a slightly earlier period, is the high class French prostitute Alice Marot