Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Old Dover Castle Hotel and Restaurant, 170 Westminster Bridge Road and Lower Marsh.

As many people may or may not know, this building was a Hotel for a short while and then a public house up till the 1960's; its rather shabby appearance now is juxtaposed to its early history. The building that now stands was designed by the Architects Treadwell and Martin and was styled in a Jacobean Revival style in red brick and stone, it was completed in 1895. 

It's an imposing building still today but unfortunately has become derelict after being used for offices and a Language School. Compare the above photographs from today to the grand affair from 1896 here.
The pub served as both a public house plus a hotel and restaurant to more wealthy people; the public bar having the bare minimum of décor: sawdust on the bare floorboards and the most amount of choice of cheap drink, some in great barrels and lots of beer pumps (ten counted in the Lemere photograph which can be found here).
The Saloon Bar, Dining Room, and Grill Room in comparison had refinement: Italian mosaic, palm plants, carpeting throughout, marble and wood panelling; almost floor to ceiling mirrors in the Grill Room and well made 'buttock supporting' stools for its clientèle in the bar. It even had its own BilliardRoom with at least two billiard tables and fancy leather button-down chairs.

Although it was quite common for some public houses to appropriate the designation “Hotel” to deter the wrath of the increasingly vocal Prohibitionist Party's of the day; I do believe that this building did actually serve as a hotel. Its location near to Westminster, the West End, its accessibility to Kennington, or Southwark via the Omnibus or Hansom cabs (a cabstand was stationed right outside according to maps of the time) would have made this a prime spot to stay for business travelers. Although reports of the area were derogatory (police having to go in pairs down the market etc), it could not have been that bad if they set up a hotel with such opulence inside to attract that type of customer.
Sebastien Ardouin, on his blog site "Painted Signs and Mosaics" informs that the Hotel was bought in the early 1920's by the Pioneer Catering Company, he also has a photo of a fading painted sign on the back of the building.
A year after its opening, the architectural photography firm of Bedford Lemere and Company were employed to take both internal and external photographs; these (from the English Heritage website) and another photograph from 1955, from the City of London website, are all I can find on the internet to show the building in its former life. 

There have been some alterations to the building since its usage as a pub and it is fairly difficult to ascertain what were part of the original pub and what are later additions; the hoarding that has been added to the ground floor frontage, I hope, masks the original ornate stonework that is in the photos from 1896. 

The pillars which can be seen are made of thin sheets of marble; one of which, has been destroyed and the bare brickwork is exposed; I am not sure if there are the originals or not. Also there is a very nineteen sixties mosaic pattern that runs along the bottom of the building; I think that most of the original ground floor frontage which seems to have been in granite may have been removed. It intrigues me to wonder what is in the ground floor are inside, as the windows have metal sheeting on them; I doubt if any of the original bar would be there still. 
Previous to the 1895 building there was a pub of the same name, according to Post Office records, on the site since certainly 1869.
When I was a child, I have a vague memory of the building being used as offices although I could be wrong in this; if anybody knows, as with the other posts, please do get in touch as similarly if you have or know of any pictures or information of the pub in its heyday.

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