Savoy Hotel
The Savoy Hotel is a hotel located on the Strand, in the City of Westminster in central London. Built by impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte with profits from his Gilbert and Sullivan operas, the hotel opened on 6 August 1889. It was the first in the Savoy group of hotels and restaurants owned by Carte's family for over a century. It was also the first luxury hotel in Britain, introducing electric lights throughout the hotel, electric lifts, bathrooms inside most of the lavishly furnished rooms, constant hot and cold running water and many other innovations. Carte hired manager César Ritz and French chef Auguste Escoffier, who established an unprecedented standard of quality in hotel service, entertainment and elegant dining, attracting royalty and other wealthy guests and diners. Winston Churchill frequently took his cabinet to lunch at the hotel. The hotel became Carte's most successful venture. Its bands, Savoy Orpheans and the Savoy Havana Band, became famous, and other entertainers (who were also often guests) included George Gershwin, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Noël Coward. Famous guests have included Edward VII, Enrico Caruso, Charlie Chaplin, Harry Truman, Judy Garland, Babe Ruth, Laurence Olivier, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand, The Beatles and numerous others. The hotel is now managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. It has been called "London's most famous hotel" and remains one of London's most prestigious and opulent hotels, with 268 rooms and panoramic views of the River Thames across Savoy Place and the Thames Embankment. The hotel closed in December 2007 for extensive renovations and reopened in October 2010. The cost of the renovations was £220 million, as structural problems delayed construction.


The site
The House of Savoy was the ruling family of Savoy, descended from Humbert I, Count of Sabaudia (or "Maurienne"), who became count in 1032. The name Sabaudia evolved into "Savoy" (or "Savoie"). Count Peter (or Piers or Piero) of Savoy (d. 1268) was the maternal uncle of Eleanor of Provence, queen-consort of Henry III of England, and came with her to London. King Henry III made Peter Earl of Richmond and, in 1246, gave him the land between the Strand and the Thames where Peter built the Savoy Palace in 1263. On Peter's death, the Savoy was given to Edmund, 1st Earl of Lancaster, by his mother, Queen Eleanor. Edmund's great-granddaughter, Blanche, inherited the site. Her husband, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, built a magnificent palace that was burned down by Wat Tyler's followers in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. King Richard II was still a child, and his uncle John of Gaunt was the power behind the throne and so a main target of the rebels. In about 1505, Henry VII planned a great hospital for "pouer, nedie people", leaving money and instructions for it in his will. The hospital was built in the palace ruins and licensed in 1512. Drawings show that it was a magnificent building, with a dormitory, dining hall and three chapels. Henry VII's hospital lasted for two centuries but suffered from poor management. The sixteenth-century historian Stow noted that the hospital was being misused by "loiterers, vagabonds and strumpets". In 1702, the hospital was dissolved, and the hospital buildings were used for other purposes. Part of the old palace was used for a military prison in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the old hospital buildings were demolished and new buildings erected. In 1864, a fire burned everything except the stone walls and the Savoy Chapel, and the property sat empty until impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte bought it in 1880 to build the Savoy Theatre specifically for the production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, of which he was the producer.

The hotel's early years
Having seen the opulence of American hotels in his many visits to the U.S., Carte decided to build the first luxury hotel in Britain to attract foreign clientele as well as British tourists who had travelled to London for theatre and sightseeing. Opened in 1889, the hotel was designed by architect Thomas Edward Collcutt, who also designed the Wigmore Hall. Carte chose the name "Savoy" to memorialize the history of the property. His investors in the venture were, in addition to relatives, Carl Rosa, George Grossmith, Francois Cellier, George Edwardes, Augustus Harris and Fanny Ronalds. His friend, the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, was a shareholder and sat on the Board of Directors. The hotel was built on a plot of land, next to the Savoy Theatre, that Carte originally purchased to house an electrical generator for the theatre (built in 1881), which was the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity. The construction of the hotel took five years and was financed by the profits from the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership, particularly from producing The Mikado . It was the first hotel lit by electric lights and the first with electric lifts. Other innovations included private, ensuite bathrooms in the majority of its 268 rooms, lavishly appointed in marble; constant hot and cold running water in each room, dinner dances, glazed brickwork designed to prevent London's smoke-laden air from spoiling the external walls, and its own Artesian well. In 1890, Carte hired the hotel's first famous manager, César Ritz, who later became the founder of The Ritz Hotel. Ritz brought in his partners, chef Auguste Escoffier, and maître d'hôtel Louis Echenard. Ritz put together what he described as "a little army of hotel men for the conquest of London", and Escoffier recruited French cooks and reorganised the kitchens. The Savoy under Ritz and his partners was an immediate success, attracting a distinguished and moneyed clientele, headed by the Prince of Wales. Aristocratic women, hitherto unaccustomed to dining in public, were now "seen in full regalia in the Savoy dining and supper rooms". The hotel was such a financial success that Richard D'Oyly Carte bought other luxury hotels. In 1897, Ritz and his partners were dismissed from the Savoy. Ritz and Echenard were implicated in the disappearance of over £3400 (£290,000 as of 2011), of wine and spirits, and Escoffier had been receiving gifts from the Savoy's suppliers. The Savoy group purchased Simpson's-in-the-Strand in 1898. The next year, Carte chose M. Joseph, proprietor of the Marivaux Restaurant in Paris, as his next maître d'hôtel and in 1900 hired George Reeves-Smith as the next managing director of the Savoy hotel group. Reeves-Smith served in this capacity until 1941. The Cartes expanded the hotel in 1903”“04, building new east and west wings and moving the main entrance to Savoy Court on the Strand. At that time, the hotel added Britain’s first serviced apartments, with access to all the hotel’s amenities. There were many famous residents, such as Sarah Bernhardt and SirThomas Dewar, some of whom lived there for decades. Spectacular parties were held at the hotel. For example, in 1905 American millionaire George A. Kessler hosted a "Gondola Party" where the central courtyard was flooded to a depth of four feet and scenery erected around the walls. Costumed staff and guests recreated Venice. The two dozen guests dined in an enormous gondola. After dinner, Enrico Caruso sang, and a baby elephant brought in a five foot birthday cake. Richard's son, Rupert D'Oyly Carte, became chairman of the Savoy hotel group in 1903 and, after the death of his stepmother Helen Carte in 1913, the controlling stockholder. In 1919, he sold the Grand Hotel, Rome, which his father had acquired in 1896. In the 1920s he ensured that the Savoy continued to attract a fashionable clientele by a continuous programme of modernisation and the introduction of dancing in the large restaurants. It also became the first hotel with air conditioning, steam-heating and soundproofed windows in the rooms, 24-hour room service and telephones in every bathroom. It also manufactured its own mattresses. One famous incident during Rupert's early years was the 1923 shooting, at the hotel, of a wealthy young Egyptian, Prince Fahmy Bey, by his French wife, Marguerite. The wife was acquitted of murder after it was revealed that her husband had treated her with extreme cruelty throughout the six-month marriage and had stated that he was going to kill her. The hotel is famous for its entertainers. George Gershwin gave the British premiere of Rhapsody in Blue at the hotel in 1925, simultaneously broadcast by the BBC. The Savoy Orpheans and the Savoy Havana Band were described as "probably the best-known bands in Europe" and broadcast regularly from the hotel. Carte engaged Richard Collet to run the cabaret at the Savoy, which opened in April 1929. Lena Horne and others made their British debuts there. Frank Sinatra played the piano and sang there. More recently, Amy Winehouse and Michael Ball entertained guests. Until the 1930s, the Savoy group had not thought it necessary to advertise, but Carte and Reeves-Smith changed their approach. "We are endeavouring by intensive propaganda work to get more customers; this work is going on in the U.S.A., in Canada, in the Argentine and in Europe." In 1937, George VI became the first reigning monarch to dine in any hotel when he attended a private dinner at the Savoy. In 1938 Hugh Wontner joined the Savoy hotel group as Reeves-Smith's assistant, and he became managing director in 1941. During World War II, Wontner and his staff had to cope with bomb damage, food rationing, manpower shortage, and a serious decline in the number of foreign visitors. After the U.S. entered the war, business picked up as the Savoy Hotel became a favourite of American officers, diplomats, journalists and others. The hotel became a meeting place for war leaders: Winston Churchill often took his cabinet to lunch at the hotel, Lord Mountbatten, Charles de Gaulle, Jan Masaryk and General Wavell were among the regular Grill Room diners, and the hotel's air-raid shelters were "the smartest in London". Wontner co-operated fully with the government's wartime restrictions, helping to draw up an order imposing a five shilling limit on the price of a restaurant meal.

After World War II, the Savoy Group experienced a strike of its employees in support of a waiter dismissed from the hotel. The matter was judged so serious that the government set up a court of inquiry. Nevertheless, the hotel also continued to attract celebrities. Princess Elizabeth was first seen in public with Prince Philip at a wedding reception at the Savoy in 1946. The same year, Wontner set up "The Savoy Management Scheme", a school to train hoteliers, that was maintained for half a century. The last major appointments of Rupert D'Oyly Carte's chairmanship were Wyllie Adolf Hofflin, general manager from 1941 to 1960, and August Laplanche, head chef from 1946 to 1965. When Carte died in 1948, his daughter Bridget did not wish to become chairman, accepting instead the vice-chairman position, and the Savoy board elected Wontner, the first person to combine the roles of chairman and managing director since the Savoy's founder, Richard D'Oyly Carte. Wontner remained managing director until 1979, chairman until 1984 and was president thereafter until 1992. To mark Queen Elizabeth II's coronation on 2 June 1953, the hotel hosted the Savoy Coronation Ball, attended by 1,400 people, including Hollywood stars, royalty and other notables, who paid 12 guineas (£262 as of 2011), each. Sixteen Yeomen Warders from the Tower of London lined the entrance staircase. The interior of the Savoy was decked in hundreds of yards of dove-grey material and heraldic banners in scarlet and blue and yellow. The design was supervised by Bridget D'Oyly Carte, whose fellow organisers included Cecil Beaton and Ninette de Valois. The cabaret was under the direction of Laurence Olivier, Noël Coward and John Mills. Under Wontner's leadership, the Savoy appointed its first British head chef, Silvino Trompetto, who was maître-chef from 1965 to 1980. Giles Shepard (1937”“2006), succeeded Wontner as managing director from 1979 to 1994 and helped to defend the Savoy against Charles Forte's attempt to take control of the Board in the 1980s (Forte gained a majority of the shares, but was unable to take control due to the company's ownership structure). He also introduced competitive salaries for the staff, increased international marketing of the hotel and led the Savoy's centenary celebrations. The Savoy continued to be a popular meeting place. In 2009, The National reported, "Some hacks were referred to as 'Savoy correspondents' because their job was to park themselves in the lobby and see who came and went. Le tout London was there it seemed, from film stars to businessmen to politicians, all staying or being entertained at the grand old fun palace on the Strand." Bridget D'Oyly Carte died childless in 1985, bringing an end to her family line. In 1998, American private equity house Blackstone Group purchased the Savoy hotel group. They sold it in 2004 to Quinlan Private, who sold the Savoy Hotel and Simpson's-in-the-Strand eight months later, for an estimated £250 million, to Al-Waleed bin Talal to be managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts of Canada. Quinlan's group retained the rest of the hotels under the name Maybourne Hotel Group.

2007”“2010 refurbishment
In December 2007, the hotel was closed to undergo a refit to a design by Pierre Yves Rochon (interiors), ReardonSmith Architects (structural and exteriors) and Buro Happold, the cost of which was originally budgeted at £100 million. The same month, the hotel conducted a sale of 3,000 of its famous furnishings and memorabilia. The projected reopening date was delayed more than a year to October 2010, as structural and systems problems delayed construction and led to increased costs. The building's façade required extensive stabilisation. The cost of the renovations grew to £220 million. The hotel's new energy-efficient design includes efficient lighting and a combined heat and power plant that is expected to reduce its reliance on the national electricity grid by approximately 50%, as well as programmes to reuse, recycle and turn some waste into biofuel for use at an English power plant. "All paper is recycled, smart meters monitor and regulate heat and light usage, hybrid vehicles are included in the hotel's fleet for guest transfers, and all staff go through 'green training' during their induction." The new design features a Thames foyer with a winter garden gazebo under a stained-glass cupola with natural light, which is the venue for late-night dining and the hotel's famous afternoon tea. The glass dome was covered during World War II and was never uncovered until the renovation. There is also a new teashop and patisserie called Savoy Tea and a glass-enclosed fitness gallery with pool, gym and spa. The new Beaufort Bar features an Art Deco interior of jet-black and gold, serves champagne and cocktails and offers nightly cabaret. The re-opened River Restaurant, facing the Thames, are both decorated in the art deco style. The American Bar appears nearly unchanged. The rooms have been modernised but decorated in period styles that are harmonised with the adjacent hallways, and they retain the built-in wardrobes and bedroom cabinets. The room decor is Edwardian on the Thames river side and art deco on the Strand side. Butler service was also reintroduced to the hotel, and Gordon Ramsay manages the Savoy Grill with Chef Director Stuart Gillies and Head Chef Andy Cook, which reopened in November 2010. The hotel also contains a small museum, open to the public, exhibiting items from the hotel's archives. The critic for The Daily Telegraph wrote: "The Savoy is still The Savoy, only better. ... are calm ... you are the personality, not the room. ... a saviour of The Strand I suspect now. The lobby is bigger and grander, and JUST THE SAME."

Famous guests and the hotel in films and novels
Numerous famous guests have stayed at the hotel. Claude Monet and James Whistler both stayed at the hotel and painted or drew views, from their rooms, of the River Thames. The Savoy featured prominently in guest Oscar Wilde's trial for gross indecency (he had conducted his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas in the hotel). Other celebrity guests in the hotel's early days included The future King Edward VII, Sarah Bernhardt, Enrico Caruso, Lillie Langtry, H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Nellie Melba, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire, Marlene Dietrich, Lionel Barrymore, Harry Truman, Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Babe Ruth, Ivor Novello and Noël Coward. The hotel kept records of its guests’ preferences, so that it could provide them in advance. For Coward, the staff made history by taking the first photographs of a hotel guest's toilet articles so that they could lay them out in his bathroom exactly as he liked them. They made sure to provide a fireproof eiderdown to Barrymore, as he always smoked while reading in bed. Bob Dylan stayed in the hotel in 1965 and filmed the video clip Subterranean Homesick Blues in an adjacent alley. Frank Sinatra, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh (the last two met at the hotel), Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Richard Harris (who lived at the hotel for the last several years of his life; while being carried out on a stretcher before he died, he joked, "It was the food".), Maria Callas, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Julie Andrews, Lena Horne, Barbra Streisand, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Elton John, U2, Led Zeppelin, The Who, George Clooney, Whoopi Goldberg and Stephen Fry are just a few of the celebrities who stayed there in recent decades. The hotel has often been used as a film location. For example, the romantic finale to the Notting Hill (1999) is set in the hotel's Lancaster Room, where Anna ( Julia Roberts) and William ( Hugh Grant) declare their mutual love. In 1921, the hotel was used in the film Kipps , based on the novel by H. G. Wells. The hotel also featured in The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) and Entrapment (1999), among others. Arnold Bennett wrote the novel Imperial Palace in 1930, based on his research at the hotel and fictionalising the hotel's operations.

Restaurants and bars

The hotel has two well-known restaurants: the Grill Room (usually known as the Savoy Grill), on the north side of the building, with its entrance off the Strand, and the Savoy Restaurant (sometimes known as the River Restaurant), on the south side, overlooking the River Thames. The grand River Restaurant, facing the Thames, has long been famous for its inventive chefs, beginning in 1890 with celebrity chef Auguste Escoffier. Escoffier created many famous dishes at the Savoy. In 1893 he invented the pêche Melba in honour of the Australian singer Nellie Melba, and in 1897, Melba toast. Other Escoffier creations were bombe Néro (a flaming ice), fraises àla Sarah Bernhardt (strawberries with pineapple and Curaçao sorbet), baisers de Vierge (meringue with vanilla cream and crystallised white rose and violet petals) and suprêmes de volailles Jeannette (jellied chicken breasts with foie gras). Another signature dish is the Omlette Arnold Bennett. Under Ritz and Escoffier, evening dress had to be worn in the restaurant, and Ritz was innovative in hiring popular musicians to play background music during dinner and in printing daily menus. Even today, elegant dining at the Savoy includes formal afternoon tea with choral and other performances at Christmas time. The Savoy has a Sunday brunch including free-flow champagne, and special events, such as New Year's Eve dinner. Kaspar, a 3-foot high art-deco black cat sculpted in 1926 by Basil Ionides, is used as an extra guest when thirteen dine, to stave off bad luck. He is given a full place setting and served each course. August Laplanche was head chef at the hotel from 1946 to 1965, Silvino Trompetto was maître-chef from 1965 to 1980 and Anton Edelmann was maître chef des cuisines for 21 years, between 1982 and 2003. As part of the 2010 refurbishment, the restaurant has been completely redecorated in the art deco style, with a leopard pattern carpet. The head chef is Ryan Murphy. Gordon Ramsay has managed the less formal Savoy Grill in recent years, employing his protégé Marcus Wareing, during which it earned its first Michelin star. The Grill was originally "where people go to eat a modest luncheon or to dine on the way to the theatre without spending too much time or too much money." Reopening in November 2010, the chef patron is Stuart Gillies and head chef is Andy Cook. Also part of the hotel buildings is Simpson's-in-the-Strand.

The American Bar at the Savoy Hotel first introduced cocktails to Europe. The term American Bar comes from the 1930s. Bar owners in Europe renamed their bars "The American Bar" to designate the sale of American cocktails. The complete list of Head Barmen in chronological order, starting with Ada Coleman in 1898, is as follows:
  • Ada Coleman (see also Hanky-Panky cocktail)
  • Harry Craddock (the American barman fled 1920s Prohibition in the U.S. to head the Savoy's bars)
  • Eddie Clark
  • Johnny Johnson
  • Joe Gilmore (among his many creations in the 1950s and 1960s was the drink "Moonwalk" to honour Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon)
  • Harry Viccars
  • Victor Gower
  • Peter Dorelli
  • Salim Khoury
  • Slovakian Erik Lorincz (2010)
The American Bar is decorated in a warm art deco design with cream an ochre colours, and a baby grand piano in the centre of the room. The walls feature the photos of famous guests. A pianist in the bar plays jazz every day. A new bar created in the 2010 renovation is the Beaufort Bar, specializing in champagne as well as cocktails, with an Art Deco design of jet-black and gold, which offers nightly cabaret.

The Savoy cocktail book
In 1930, the Savoy Hotel first published its cocktail book, The Savoy Cocktail Book, with the recipes compiled by Harry Craddock of the American Bar and 'decorations' by Gilbert Rumbold. The book has remained in print since then and was subsequently republished in 1952, 1965, 1985, 1996 and most recently in 1999 with some new text and a number of new cocktails added by Peter Dorelli.

Savoy Court and Savoy Pier
Savoy Court is the only street in the United Kingdom where vehicles are required to drive on the right. This is said to date from the days of the hackney carriage when a cab driver would reach his arm out of the driver's door window to open the passenger's door ( which opened backwards and had the handle at the front), without having to get out of the cab himself. Additionally, the hotel entrance's small roundabout meant that vehicles needed a turning circle of 25 ft (8 m) in order to navigate it. This is still the legally required turning circle for all London cabs. Savoy Pier is located near the river entrance to the hotel, but is not affiliated with the hotel.


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