Great Eastern Hotel Tour

Open House London

© Laura Porter (2006), licensed to, Inc.

Liverpool Street
London EC2M 7QN

The former Great Eastern Hotel was built between 1884-87 by Charles Barry, the grandson of Charles Barry who designed the Houses of Parliament. I've known it all my life as I used to travel into London from Essex and see the Great Eastern Hotel sign inside Liverpool Street train station as I arrived. It used to be a gloomy place where rooms could be rented by the hour but I always knew underneath there was a fine building wanting to shine.

The Andaz Liverpool Street London Hotel (formerly Great Eastern Hotel) at Liverpool Street train station is a Grade II listed building. It is a Victorian railway hotel which has been refurbished by Conran & Partners to have a contemporary interior with the integrity of the grand building respected.

Open House London allows us to enter buildings normally closed to the public or to see private areas of interesting buildings. The Great Eastern Hotel realized how popular they would be (the queue went round the corner onto Bishopsgate an hour before the tour started) and they arranged for larger groups and more tours than advertised. The tours were taken by members of staff who had all received special training on the building's history, and were truly enthusiastic about what they had to tell us.

The organizers had also arranged for two members of the architect team from Manser Practice to explain the problems they had to overcome with the buildings. They had a scale model so they could remove parts of the old building and add new parts, just as they had to had to do with the hotel.

The hotel closed in September 1997 for the refurbishment to start, and by November 2000 it was open for guests. £70 million was spent on the hotel refurbishment.

Plumbing Problems & Bedrooms

The Great Eastern Hotel originally had 160 bedrooms but only 12 had bathrooms and trains brought salt water from Harwich on the Essex coast for the hotel baths. By 2006, the hotel had 267 bedrooms and obviously, all are en suite.

No digging could be done beneath the hotel due to the tube lines running directly below so instead of having sewage drains for the toilets they use vacuum drainage. When you flush the toilet in the Great Eastern Hotel the waste is sucked upwards, not down, and goes through the roof to leave the building!

We visited two guest suites. The first cost £630 + VAT. There was a huge 2-meter square bed but I must say the bedroom area wasn't enormous, but this is obviously from the constraints of a Victorian building. However, there was an additional office room with a working area as well as a sofa and table for a reception/meeting space. The wall decoration was a huge contemporary photographic artwork of a woman and a tiger. I'm not sure how well I'd sleep with that in the room…

The room next door was only £455 + VAT and wasn't that much different. I did find it odd that there were steps to enter the rooms from the corridor, but this must also be because of the building's original layout.

Masonic Temple

Strangely, inside a central London hotel, there is a Greek Masonic Temple with Grade II listed marble and mahogany. There are 12 types of marble in the temple, all from Italy, and the grandiose throne-like chairs are heavy mahogany. The temple was built in 1912 and cost £50,000 at the time which is the equivalent of £4 million today.

When the hotel was sold for refurbishment it was so run-down the previous owners had never discovered the temple as it was boarded behind a fake wall! Many believe Jack the Ripper was a Mason and if so would have attended this temple as it is closest to his hunting ground. Even though the temple is within the hotel, the hotel owners do not have rights over the use of the temple. That honor belongs to the Freemasons, but the temple was briefly used as the staff canteen during building work!

On our way out of the hotel, we walked down a grand marble staircase which we were told was once so dirty everyone thought it was made of wood!

The last stop on the tour was the George pub which is decorated in the style of an Elizabethan-Jacobean coach house. If you stop in for a drink, take a look at the painting behind the bar from 1620 that now has two holes where a ladder was leaned against it!

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