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  • The architects used styles from European buildings of the sixteenth century to evoke a sense of opulence
  • Frequented by high profile guests over the years: Winston Churchill stayed here in 1909
  • The General Newsroom frontage is decorated with classical motifs and Greek muses (goddesses of the arts and science)

“The finest hotel in the Midlands”

Everything about the Grand Hotel was designed as a statement in luxury and opulence: from its European Renaissance style exterior and “wedding cake” top to public rooms full of marble fireplaces, onyx pillars and elegant chandeliers. Not long after it opened in 1898 it was described as “the temporary home of the elite of English Society and generally admitted to be the finest hotel not only in Leicester, but in the Midlands”. Guests enjoyed the very best amenities including a coffee room and Palm Court.

It was built between 1897 and 1898 by two local architects, Cecil Ogden and Amos Hall, who was responsible for the frontage facing Belvoir Street, in what has been described as a 'grand Franco-German Renaissance’ style.  In effect, this was a building which had to look distinctive and stand out from the many warehouses and factories nearby of similar size and scale, so the architects used styles from Europe of the sixteenth century to evoke a sense of opulence.

It replaced the Blue Lion Coaching Inn, a Victorian public house, which was demolished along with the Carlton Hotel and the Conservative Club.  Two years after its completion, Amos Hall returned to add a further statement of grandeur, adding the ‘wedding cake’ top to the corner of Granby Street and Belvoir Street, in a design which was influenced by several of Sir Christopher Wren’s London churches.  Hall also designed Leicester's Silver Arcade.

Famous guests

In its hey-day the Grand Hotel played host to celebrities and high profile figures in society and politics. Winston Churchill, then a Liberal MP and Home Secretary, stayed here in 1909. Many society balls were held in the grandeur of the hotel’s King’s Hall.

Grand Hotel Leicester 1930
Guests at the Aero Club Ball, 1930. Amy Johnson is in the centre

The distinguished guests at the Leicester Aero Club's annual ball in 1930 included aviator Amy Johnson who just two years previously had become the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.  Her host was Leicestershire brewer, politician and philanthropist William Lindsay Everard, a lifelong supporter of aviation who founded the Air Defence Cadet Corp which is now the Air Training Corp. 

The General Newsroom

Facing the Grand Hotel, on the corner of Belvoir and Granby Streets, is the Grade II listed General Newsroom, another fine example of Leicester’s late-Victorian heritage. This impressive building is decorated with classical motifs and the Greek muses, (goddesses of the arts and sciences). Newspaper reading rooms provided information about the contemporary world and assisted in public education and civic engagement.

General Newsroom 1st one
The first general newsroom built in 1837, demolished in the late 1890s. Leicestershire Record Office

It replaced an earlier General News Room and Permanent Library which was designed by local architect William Flint, and opened in 1837. It was where the citizens of Leicester could read the latest local, national and international news.  The present building, which served the same purpose, was also the design of a local architectural practice, Henry Langdon Goddard, and opened in 1898.

Goddard based his design on the work of the London architect John Belcher, richly decorated with numerous exuberant features including eight of the nine muses and other classical reliefs set into shell-like niches. In Greek mythology, the muses were deities who gave artists, philosophers and individuals the necessary inspiration for creation their art, music and writings. 

Find out how to visit The Grand Hotel.

Gallery

Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Victorian Leicester

(1837 – 1901) The industrial revolution had a huge effect on Leicester resulting in the population growing from 40,000 to 212,000 during this period. Many of Leicester's most iconic buildings were erected during this time as wealthy Victorians made their mark on the town.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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Leisure & Entertainment

Silver Street and The Lanes

The area known as ‘The Lanes’ dates back to medieval Leicester with the street pattern remaining much the same for many centuries. Roughly following the ancient Roman road that connected the west and east gates of the town the street has had various names over the years but by 1587 it was known as Silver Street.

Abbey Park

In 1879 the Leicester Corporation purchased Abbey Meadows from the Earl of Dysart. One stipulation for the sale of the Meadows to the corporation was that it should later become ‘a public park or recreation ground for the enjoyment of the inhabitants of Leicester’.

Thomas Cook Building

This Grade II listed building in Gallowtree Gate was commissioned by his son, John Mason Cook, and opened in 1894 next to the company’s existing offices. It was both a memorial to Cook himself, who died two years earlier, and a more suitable base for the business.

Campbell Street and London Road Railway Stations

The Midland Counties Railway Act (1836) led to the building in 1840 of Leicester’s first mainline railway station, Leicester Campbell Street, on land behind London Road.

Athena - The Odeon Cinema

The Odeon was built during the “Golden Age of Hollywood” when actors like Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo were popular with cinema audiences. In the 1930s there were over 25 cinemas in Leicester and probably this one, built in 1938 by the Odeon organisation, was the grandest.

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