The high life – at the Royal Palace Hotel

We caught a glimpse of the Royal Palace Hotel last week but it looked pretty dull and gloomy in that rather faded photograph, even though it was probably only a few years old. To capture the aspirational feel of a new hotel you really need promotional material and especially artwork. So, for the most part, we’ll give the photographs a week off. Here is a view from an architectural publication showing the grand design.

The hotel, built in 1892-93 was built on the site of the King’s Arms Hotel (basically a large tavern) but was a far more ambitious building, towering over the surrounding houses and shops and looking down on Kensington Gardens.



It was intended to serve the growing number of visitors to London, and entice them in with many modern features, such as the grand entrance.




This week’s pictures are all illustrations from a contemporary periodical The style reminds me at least of William Luker. In the 1890s it was still somewhat easier for magazines to use artists to portray scenes like the exciting interior life of a brand new hotel.



An elegant woman glides through the entrance hall on her way out for a promenade through fashionable Kensington. A gentleman reads a newspaper in the hall. Not an aspidistra perhaps, but some kind of giant fern.

Below another view of the entrance hall, looking down from the gallery. Guest linger in the sumptuous public areas of the hotel.




Inevitably, the interior design of some of the public rooms is influenced by the exotic cultures of the near and far east such as this one, the “Eastern Lounge”




Or this one, an “eastern room” another young woman chats with a gentleman in formal dress, under a kind of canopy, surrounded by more of those giant ferns.



Guests could dine in a variety of dining rooms, some of them small and intimate.



Other larger, and more grand.




There were also the usual convenience of London life, such as a billiard room.



One of the features the hotel was most proud of were the extensive suites where residents could effectively have their own apartments, with private sitting rooms.




The husband sits around with a newspaper, while his wife concentrates on looking good. Below, a family group are actually making themselves comfortable and settling in in front of a warm fire.



In a private drawing room, a mother and daughter spend some quality time together.



I’m not quite sure what they’re doing. Perhaps the girl is insisting she should be wearing something more fashionable now she’s quite old enough to wear adult clothes. Maybe her mother (or is it an older sister?) is quietly asserting that she’ll just have to wait.

There’s a nice view out of the window of course, and they can go walking in the Gardens as often as they like. I could refer them to Mr Luker’s pictures of Kensington life, or some postcards of the Gardens.




After an outing, it’s only a short walk back to the wondrous hotel.



It’s conceivable that the young lady might live to see this view in her old age.



1958. The Royal Palace Hotel looks intact, and still looks tall and elegant through the trees. But, if not actually empty at this moment, it didn’t have long before the end. It was demolished, and a larger hotel built on the site with a new name. We have a few pictures of that process but I’ll save those for another time. Today, let’s remember the hotel in its glory days as that young woman might have done.



You might have expected me to mark the sad death of Mark Hollis, leader of the now reasonably obscure band Talk Talk with a few words. Talk Talk went from sounding like successors to Duran Duran to making avant garde, almost jazz-like music.  I actually own four of their albums (bought during the era when Fopp Records sold back catalogue CDs at pretty reasonable prices), so this morning I put on Spirit of Eden, thought to be one of their best.

Actually, I never really got it, despite many attempts. I was much more of a fan of David Sylvian, who trod a similar path from pop to avant garde, much more successfully to my mind. I hope he’s okay. I wonder what the residents of the Palace Hotel circa 1894 would have made of either of them being played in the public rooms?

I’m posting this quite late in the day at nearly 6pm. One of my regular readers (M) will soon let me know if there are any typos.


11 responses to “The high life – at the Royal Palace Hotel

  • csbcohen

    I know buildings have a shelf-life, but when one thinks what it was that replaced this. The Royal Garden Hotel was hideous when it was built, and has not ‘grown into itself’ since.

  • Liz Altieri

    Thanks Dave!

  • kenneth peers

    Oh yes,The Royal Garden,not a patch on the building it replaced,but with one redeeming feature,my everlasting memory of the 66 squad celebrating their victory on the terrace at the official reception.Happy days.

  • Lucy Clemson

    I loved looking at these old drawings. Thanks so much for sharing them.

  • stephen joseph

    Nice pictures. Is there any material on its later life? We lived in flat 505 from 1952 to 1956, at a time when the mezzanine floor was council offices (handy for paying the rent).

  • Jansos (@jansosphotos)

    I used to live on the 3/4th floor of the Royal Garden Hotel as a child. The apartments had been converted into Housing Association accommodation after the war. I don’t remember anything of that time but I have a few photos from the late 50s.

  • Stephen Joseph

    Yes, photos please

  • Ben Angwin

    Hello, fascinating information and really lovely old illustrations. What was the name of the periodical they were published in? Your text is cut short and doesn’t name it.

    • Dave Walker

      One of the frustrating habits of library staff in times gone by was not recording the name of the publication. Perhaps they thought it was obvious. Some of those cuttungs are very old. The date of the hotel pictures is June 1894. If I had to guess I’d say The Sketch, or possibly The Graphic.

      • Ben Angwin

        Hi Dave, thank your for replying. Yes, I noticed the date written in pencil so that’s helpful. You could be right in that they were printed in either The Graphic or The Sketch, but given the vast number of similar periodicals and journals covering London news at that time, it could be from any number. I’m currently researching a Suffrage Society which used the Empress Rooms at the Royal Palace Hotel to stage an Oriental themed bazaar and costume ball in 1912. These “Eastern” themed rooms seen here in your post would have been ideal.

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