Above: Great Eastern Hotel on the north side of Liverpool Street, in the City of London.
One of London’s famous railway-hotels is the Great Eastern which was built close to Liverpool Street Station in 1884, designed by Charles Barry. In 1901 a further building was added, designed by Colonel Robert Edis. Built mainly in red-brick with white stone decoration, the hotel was extensively renovated in 1998 and re-opened under new ownership. The five-star London’s Hyatt Andaz Hotel, now Grade I listed, has 63 bedrooms.
Locals seldom visit the hotels beside the London termini and it may be that you have never been inside the hotel beside Liverpool Street or even the large pub on the Bishopsgate side of the building. Here are some lesser-known facts about the hotel which will, hopefully, give you an insight into the way a Victorian railway hotel operated.
Five Secrets About the Hotel
(1) Until the 1980s, the Great eastern Hotel was the only hotel within the City of London. There had been a hotel above Cannon Street Station, looking rather like the one at Charing Cross Station, but it was taken down after the Second World War in order to build office space. The other two City termini – Holborn Viaduct and Fenchurch Street – never had hotels built onto them. Today the Great Eastern is now one of about 30 within the Square Mile!
Above: The highly decorated interior of Hamilton Hall.
(2) Beside the entrance to Liverpool Street Station (from Bishopsgate) there is a large ornate pub, called Hamilton Hall, now operated by Wetherspoon’s.
The highly decorated interior was originally the hotel ballroom. Its design was copied directly from the Palais Soubise, in Paris, in 1901. The small mezzanine floor, in one corner, was once where the orchestra was situated. The pub name is a reminder of Lord Claude Hamilton, once Chairman of the Great Eastern Railway.
Above: A corner of the Masonic temple, lined with marble.
(3) Within the hotel building are two Masonic temples. One is seen in the picture. The extravagant design in marble indicates the success of the hotel. It was built on the instructions of Lord Claude Hamilton, designed by architect Charles Barry (Junior) and constructed in 1912.
The temple was rediscovered discovery during renovations of the hotel in 1990. The temple’s mystery and secrets were so well-disguised and carefully hidden within the building that no one knew of its existence behind a simple false wall. Boasting a delicate array of zodiac icons, checkered floors and imposing twin thrones, it is no wonder that it is often chosen as the location for fashion shows, music videos, and wedding receptions. The floor alone is worth more than £3 million, and made of 12 types of rare Italian marble that appear throughout the majestic space, enhanced by Doric and Ionic columns. Emblazoned on the ceiling is the pièce de résistance, a stunning golden zodiac sign that illuminates the room.
(4) Beneath the hotel was once an area called ‘The Backs’, with tracks and sidings serving the hotel. A late-night train brought coal for heating the hotel. It also took away the hotel refuse and ashes.
(5) Sea-water was also regularly brought to the hotel to supply the fresh sea-water baths situated within the hotel. There is very little known about this facility. Bearing in mind that the railway from Liverpool Street Station extended to sea resorts like Cromer, it is likely that the water was brought from there.