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.

Penta Hotel July 1974 013

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

Penta Hotel July 1974 014

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.

Penta Hotel July 1974 012

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.

Penta Hotel July 1974 010

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

Penta Hotel July 1974 011

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

Penta Hotel July 1974 021

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


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.

44 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

    • Pamela Taft

      They were good memories x

      • billkerrblog

        Hi Pamela – thanks for the comment – were you on the staff too ? Bill

      • pamela taft

        Yes I worked in the Bill Office, Paul Travers was the chief accountant. I then went up to work in the accounts department, Dimitri was then the chief accountant. I was there from 1976 to 1983. x

      • William E Kerr

        Hi Pamela I remember your name .. I was at the hotel at the same time and remember Paul – dark haired, and of course Dimitri the accountant – he had a Greek surname – was it Angelopoulos – though I seem to remember he was Arabic speaking, and was very gracious with impeccable manners and a charming smile ! Charles Gorman was the GM and Roy Bolton the Asst. G.M., followed by Peter Aust promoted from F & B Manager, a post later taken by Kevin Jackson Bill Kerr London Penta Hotel possibly 1976-1980 and transferred to Paris Penta in 1980

      • William E Kerr

        photo link to an evening I think in 2002 when Peter Aust; Rafat Wasef;David Danby and his wife and I am afraid I forget the name of the other chap – together with Kevin Jackson (bald/shaven head) had a dinner at the Derry and Toms Roof Garden Restaurant – I was in the grey suit..


        and some old photos I pulled off the internet of the hotel – some of which were maybe after it had become The Forum…


        regards, Bill Kerr

    • Alison Castle

      Hi found this link I was hotel receptionist in 1978 to 1980 as Alusin Hustwitt from Cornwall. John de Suza was our Reception Manager and I remember Pam and Fatima who was on the billing desk. Remember the old brown and orange uniforms which looked lovely under the strip lights. Remember moving out to Earl’s Court Square and meeting Meatloaf. Any pictures would love to see

      Many thanks
      Ali Castle

      • Pamela Taft

        Yes, I remember you and Fatima, hope you are well x

      • Arthur Gomes

        I as there 1976/77.. In the front desk.
        I still remember the yellow and brown dress. I cannot forget it. There were 3 people in reception and three people in enqiuires to give out keys. The shift was one day in the morning and the next day in the afternoon.. When I recall those days it gives me goosebumps. It was one of the best days in my life, come to think about it.

      • billkerrblog

        thanks Arthur for the memories… I too wish I could turn the clock back..wish I had stayed with Penta and Inter Conti…. grateful for the training , the overall experience and privilege of working with a great bunch of people. I still have an original 1978 brochure; book of matches and a sewing kit ! Oh yes, and a clothes hanger…. plus some free Hennessey Gold Cup horse race table place mats that Nick Kazar gave me from The Cellar – use them every day…. Bill Kerr – trainee manager; Bell Captain Exec. Mgr; Assist Night Mgr. and duty Day Mgr, 1976 – 1980 – transferred to Paris Penta as Night Manager

      • Ali

        Wow. Good to hear from you
        Hope you ok too. Where are you now and whats neen hapoening in your life xx

      • billkerrblog

        Hi Ali. Responding to your November post on The rbklocalstudies site pertaining to The Penta. I remember Fatima well, and of course John de Souza. I believe John passed away prematurely… I recall Susan Barrett in the back office and of course David Danby and Paul Travers… there was a Portuguese reception shift leader – female- and I just cannot remember her name – fairly short but with a very strong personality – I would really like to recall that name but its 40 years ago now and increasingly hard to remember everyone..

  • 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

    • John Persiano

      hi i used to work in banqueting in summer 76 as waiter with john portugese guy and irish head waiter John de souza was my friend , i have photos with him , Shame he passed away

    • John Persiano

      Hi James I used to work in banqueting from july to december 1976. The headwaiter was an Irish guy and there was an portugese called John as waiter with me. john Souza was my friend too, sorry to hear he passed away

      • Arthur Gomes

        Hi Everyone-Al the Pentaites!
        This is Arthur Gomes, Used to work in 1976 Front desk.
        I was thinking of coming to London and staying in the hotel.
        Now I am in Shenandoah, VA USA and with this coronavirus, I don’t think it will be possible.
        I always remember the time at the Penta. Not to be forgotten and it is sad to hear this hotel might make way for something new.

        Arthur Gomes 1976/1977

      • billkerrblog

        Hello Arthur, trust all is well with you… interesting to hear that you are now in the US . I look back with considerable fondness and pleasure at my own time at The Penta. Your name is SO familiar to me Arthur, but after forty two/three years its hard to remember your face… I remember John De Souza well, David Danby and Sue Barrett and there was a Portuguese lady receptionist – a team leader whose name escapes me too – ( she was quite a forceful personality!) I worked with Felix in the Bell Captain Dept., before he moved on.. ( I took over from him) , and remember Peter Aust; Georges Estelles; Roland Isaacs and Kevin Jackson in Banquetting too. Roy Bolton was the Assistant GM when I arrived, succeeded by Peter Aust and Charles Gorman was the GM . Dimitri Angelopouos was such a nice guy too and was it Paul Allen ? After such a long time its hard to be too accurate with all the names ! Miss Mohr (Else) was in Housekeeping and Mrs. Jackso, (Kevin’s mother), as Training Manager, and of course Nick Kazar in the cellar… and Simon the storeman at the back entrance in the white coat… I had a girl-friend who worked as a trainee on reception, Nathalie Jailler who was on a “stage” from the hotel school in Nice who went back to France and Charles Gorman fixed me to have a transfer to The Paris Penta so that I could continue our relationship which was nice – Nathalie and I are still in communication – – One last name – Rafat Wasef – who was at one time Banquetting Manager who has for many years run Hocaps, a hotel and hospitality recruitment company based in Victoria – (used to be in Ebury St.) All the best Arthur and good to see you if you ever get back to the UK Bill Kerr here is a photo of where I am in the UK ..

  • 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 Bill

  • Arthur Gomes

    Those were the days. Happy memories at the Penta in 1976.
    I was the indian guy who worked at night. Kevin was the Night manager.
    Then I transferred to days time and finally to Control Department. David Danby was the FOM and Dimitri Angelopuolos was the Control Manager. It was so lively that time. When I was there 3 years ago, hardly anyone there,
    how times change. I remember Christmas week we stayed in the hotel. I had my room on the 27th floor. At present I am in USA, working as an Engineering Coordinator at the Doubletree Hotel in Arlington VA.

  • Inma Uribe

    Hi, I wonder is any of you that worked at Banqueting andor / in the Grill remember a chef called John Lamber and what was of him. I was a student new to London in the summer of 1974 and he was very kind to me.I worked as a maid, I left after 3 months later.. Currently I live in Madrid and I am a translator.

  • William Kerr

    Irma, I hope you got my reply sent a few minutes ago… Bill Kerr

  • William Kerr

    Hi Irma I did not know John as I believe you were at the hotel a couple of years before me as I believe I arrived in about `76. I have some photos of The Penta – see the two albums near the bottom of the following page.. regards, Bill Kerr

  • Inma Uribe

    Many thanks William, Those were careless happy times for me and many others I think! we were younger and without worries, still,. I went to marry a trainee manager at the Gloucester across the road, (still am married) we work here in Spain and we are looking forward to retirement and share our time between Madrid, Denia and Northern Spain where I come from-

    Thanks again for your prompt answer.

  • pamela taft

    I Remember staying in the hotel the Christmas period too. Happy memories xx

  • William E Kerr

    Pamela good to hear you – I believe we were contemporaries, I was a trainee mgr., then Bell Captain Manager when Felix left, then Asst. Night Manger and Duty Manager, working with Genesio Proyetti – spelling !!

  • arthur gomes

    It is good to hear from all of you .Compared to what happened then and now, what a big difference. If anyone remembers these people, please let me know.

    Marion Fogg, Andrea Gaunt from Tours. Dimitri, Meb, Mike, Tony, David from Control. Rachel, Gail from Accounting. Celia and Christine from reservations.
    Will post photos in next blog.
    How about meeting in 2019 in London. Need your ideas and comments. By the way, I still remember all of you in the back of my mind.

    • William Kerr

      A meeting would be nice and well over-due… regarding the names yes, I remember most of them though have a problem with Meb – but a photo might help… I do have a couple of Penta staff photos taken as official group shots from the late `70`s … must trace them.. Bill Kerr ex. Grand Met. trainee, and subsequently, Bell Captain Manger succeeding Felix, and then Asst. Night Manager and Duty Mgr. now living in Seaford, Sussex, 65 and fully retiredwith wife Linda and Roumanian rescue dog – Nelly

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  • Mayor calls in SimpsonHaugh’s controversial Seifert hotel scheme in Kensington | News - Canada Sports Association

    […] 28 storeys, the existing 1972 building, designed by Richard Seifert & Partners, is already the borough’s second tallest, but […]

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    […] 28 storeys, the existing 1972 building, designed by Richard Seifert & Partners, is already the borough’s second tallest, but […]

  • Nick

    Hey Dave – do you have any higher res photos of these, would be great to be able to zoom in a bit on them? Many thanks in advance!

    • Dave Walker

      I do have some bigger uncompressed versions but it would be stretching it to cal them high resolutiuon. Let me know which ones you’re interested in and I’ll email some to you.

  • Court allows council to challenge Mayor's 'improper' approval of SimpsonHaugh scheme | News - Canada Sports Association

    […] 28 storeys, the existing 1972 building, designed by Richard Seifert & Partners, is the borough’s second-tallest and residents have […]

  • Ali

    The uniform was still the same in 1979 !! And yes 10 days on 4 dsys off then 7 days on 2 d ays off

  • William Kerr

    for everyone`s interest here is a link to the rbckwordpress page on the old West London Air Terminal opposite The Penta….

    Here follow photos of The Penta taken from the internet..


    Bill Kerr ex. Lomndon Penta Hotel staff member 1976-1979, (thereafter at Paris Penta)

  • William Kerr

    if you did not already know – (I didn`t till yesterday), the landlords/owners of the Penta/Forum/Holiday Inn site are trying to have the hotel demolished and to redevelop the site – see the link dating to 2018..

    here are the plans and the application going back to 2014…

    looks like there is a lot of local opposition…

    Bill Kerr (ex Penta London staff, 1976-1979)

  • Mayor calls in SimpsonHaugh’s controversial Seifert hotel scheme in Kensington

    […] 28 storeys, the existing 1972 building, designed by Richard Seifert & Partners, is already the borough’s second tallest, but […]

  • Mayor approves SimpsonHaugh Seifert hotel scheme rejected by Kensington Council

    […] 28 storeys, the existing 1972 building, designed by Richard Seifert & Partners, is already the borough’s second tallest, but […]

  • Court allows council to challenge Mayor's ‘improper’ approval of SimpsonHaugh scheme

    […] 28 storeys, the existing 1972 building, designed by Richard Seifert & Partners, is the borough’s second-tallest and residents have […]

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