From the Penta Hotel: 1974

In this week’s post our roving surveyor Bernard Selwyn leaves his perch on the West London Air Terminal / Point West and crosses the Cromwell Road to take up a vantage point on one of the upper floors of the Penta Hotel which we saw last week. This was it in the days of the Air Terminal, not one of Selwyn’s pictures.

Copy of Penta Hotel

The 25-storey Penta was designed by Richard Seifert and partners and built in 1971-72. Although it looks vast and imposing it was actually smaller than the original design which would have included a bridge to the Terminal. The Architectural Review, in a piece called “Bad Dreams coming true”, called it “a terrifying interruption of the weave of this part of London” although the writer did admit that the large site meant it could sit out of alignment with the buildings next to it which caused less harm to the street layout. I love architectural language. “What the passer-by sees is an apparently chaotic pile forcing its way upwards through successive layers of low level impediments.”

Is that a Ford Capri in the foreground?

Penta Hotel p137

The hotel was subsequently called the London Forum and more recently the Holiday Inn. It still sits rather incongruously among the other buildings which line the Cromwell Road although in the passing years residents have grown used to it.

Selwyn got to one of the upper floors in 1974. I’ve made a selection from two films showing the views he got from up there.

Penta Hotel July 1974 004

I like the way part of his vantage point is visible in some of the pictures. It makes it easier to picture him leaning out of a window to take the pictures. As someone prone to vertigo (who has nevertheless been up many tall buildings) I get a hint of the danger / thrill of high places in some of these pictures. This particular view is not  terribly interesting but it does show the Gloucester Hotel (1972-73) which the Survey of London describes as “better-mannered” than the Penta. It certainly blends in with the skyline. Below you can see it next to Bailey’s Hotel which was built almost a hundred years earlier.

Penta Hotel July 1974 006

This view shows Gloucester Road and Cromwell Road looking east.

Penta Hotel July 1974 007

And there’s that white building I referred to last week. After writing last week’s post I was looking through the packets of photos and found a couple which would have answered my question immediately.

Penta Hotel July 1974 002

 

Here you see Gloucester Road Station laid bare, before it was built over in the 1990s. There are two trains, in different liveries,  stopped at the platforms. on the right a sparsely populated car park is is temporary use. Below you can see the outline of Lenthall Place.

Penta Hotel July 1974 003

The buildings are gone, and the former mews has become another parking area. The former bank on the corner of Gloucester Road has gone (see it in this post) and the remaining buildings are propped up with scaffolding. Can you see that irregularly shaped structure next to the trees? What was that used for, I wonder?

Selwyn turned towards central London.

Penta Hotel July 1974 001

The green domed tower of the Imperial Institute is a nearby landmark. The tall buildings further away are harder to make out. So look in the foreground at the surprising bulk of St Stephen’s Church.

In the next picture Selwyn pointed at the Natural History Museum but he also caught the V&A, the Brompton Oratory and in the distance you can make out Big Ben and St Paul’s.

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And then there’s this 1960s  building, relatively recent in 1974.

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Still called the Post Office Tower at this time, and still a bit of a wonder against the relatively subdued north London skyline.

This was a much more familiar landmark.

Penta Hotel July 1974 018

The picture shows how impressive the Albert Hall must have been when in dominated the landscape around it. You can see the Gothic spires of the Albert Memorial rising above the trees of Kensington Gardens.

Selwyn must have moved to a different vantage point for this view westwards.

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The unmistakeable Earls Court Exhibition Centre and beyond it the Empress State Building on Lillie Road, a significant local landmark.

Continuing the movement round, we’re now looking south west.

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The gasometers are south of the New King’s Road. You can also see the back of one of the stands at Chelsea Football Club, and below it the trees of Brompton Cemetery, the dome of the chapel just about visible. The cemetery grounds are also visible here

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The church, after some puzzling, I think is St Luke’s Redcliffe Square.

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Now this church is St Mary the Boltons, but there are two cathedrals of power generation in the background, Lots Road, showing one of its chimneys, and Fulham with four of them in line.

Finally, a look down from where Selwyn was standing to see some smaller but still impressive chimney stacks surrounded by trees.

Penta Hotel July 1974 022

Postscript

I must have set some sort of record for the number of links to other posts here, but like a virtual Selwyn I’ve covered a lot of ground since starting this blog. There are going to be another couple of posts based on his pictures coming up soon, but neither of them covering as wide an area.


6 responses to “From the Penta Hotel: 1974

  • William (Bill) Kerr

    I worked in the hotel as a trainee manager with Grand Metroplitan Hotels, and rose successively to Executive Room Service Manager/ Bell Captain Manager; Duty Manager and Assistant Night Manager before transferring to the 500 bed Paris Penta Hotel in Courbevoie, La Defense in 1980. The London Hotel had 914 bedroom over 27 floors and was operated by Grand Metropolitan Hotel from their headquarters in Seymour Place, on the north side of Oxford Street near Selfridges. At the time it was only rivalled by The Regent Palace Hotel in Regent St. in bed numbers. Penta, so named as it was linked with five airlines, BEA; BOAC; AlItalia; Swiss Air and Lufthansa. High occupancy was guaranteed with the airline connections and acting as a Crew hotel, together with its proximity to The West London Air Terminal. Facilities included extensive underground car parking; The Four Seasons Coffee Shop; The Beefeater Restaurant; The Pub of Pubs; a Gift Shop and Hairdresser and an impressively large Lobby at the entrance of the hotel, divided into Reception and Enquiry desks. There were also extensive banqueting facilities .

    My own experience of the hotel leaves me looking back with admiration at having had the opportunity of working in such a busy and stimulating environment among a group of such accomplished professionals.

    Bill Kerr London Penta Hotel 1976 – 1979
    Paris Penta Hotel 1979-1981

  • James

    I have forded this on to Mike Weiss and to John Howes who together with myself worked at the hotel…in my own case as banqueting manager in the hot summer of 1976 until 1978 ..those were the days hope this finds you well Bill Jim Wright

  • William (Bill) Kerr

    Correction to above … Grand Met. H.Q. was in Stratford Pl., W.1.

    James, thank you for the forwarding on … other names I remember in connection with the Food and Beverage operation were : Roland Isaccs ( Banqueting) ; Peter Aust, F & B Manager and latterly DGM; Rafat Wasef ( Banqueting Manager); George Estelles ; and Kevin Jackson and if I remember the first name correctly Stan Butcher the Head Chef… Bill Kerr, London Penta Hotel 1976-1979

    • James

      Yes Rafat took over from me and still in touch with him. Do u remember Jan Sode (Danish) in banqueting,, Willy the ex jockey as banqueting head aiter and Willy who managed from the Grill (also Danish) The GM John Howes who i still see is still with ilse Mohr who was the executive Housekeeper .What are you doing now. or are u retired?

  • William (Bill) Kerr

    James – I may have my dates a little skewed and maybe it was 77 that I arrived – however, I remember Ilse Mohr as Housekeeper – Charles Gorman was the GM and Roy Bolton was his deputy. Another character was Nick Kazar , the cellarman – in my time there was a greek – George – who managed The Beefeater, short, dark thinning hair and glasses.

    Bill Kerr London Penta Hotel 76/7-1980

  • William (Bill) Kerr

    James I spent last four years nursing my 92 year-old father who is now in a nursing home – I am currently 63, about to apply for my bus pass, but have returned as part of the Hotel Services Team at Eastbourne District General Hospital, where I care for the non-clinical operation specifically in the Cardiac and Coronary Care areas. I am able to retire but really do not want to ! photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/edgh1/albums Bill

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