Situated at 37 Conduit Street, The Westbury Mayfair, a Luxury Collection Hotel, London, is celebrating 65 years of history as a 5-star hotel in London, following its opening on 1st March 1955.
Not only was it the first hotel to be built in the capital for 20 years, it was also the first hotel in London to be owned and operated by an American company. Designed by architect Michael Rosenaur, the hotel was originally leased to Knotts Hotels Corporations of America by the organisation that financed its construction, Pearl Assurance Company. The building work commenced the day after the Coronation in June 1953 and took 21 months to complete, at a cost of £3 million.
The hotel opened with 219 rooms available for guests. Today, there are 225 bedrooms, 63 of which are luxury suites – and a night’s stay will unfortunately cost a little more than the mere $10 being charged in 1955 for a night in a single bedroom!
Whilst today, guests are welcome to relax in the hotel’s expansive lobby and admire the unique Romero Britto artwork adorning the side wall, back in 1955 guests coming to the grandly-named Entrance Hall would have had access to a florist’s counter, a ticket office and even telephone boxes – being as it was almost twenty years before the first call was made by mobile phone!
Its layout has expanded somewhat over the years, but the award-winning POLO Bar has always been a mainstay of the hotel’s overall offering. In addition to its central London location, the Bar first became famous for boasting that it served the coldest iced water in the capital, as well as the largest Martinis! Today, The Westbury Mayfair is continuing its proud tradition of drinks innovation by launching its very own bespoke gin, which will be available to buy by the bottle, as well as being sold in measures in The POLO Bar itself.
The year 1955 marked the first time that a building at 37 Conduit Street had been a hotel. Prior to the land being acquired for this purpose, it was the premises of Kenneth Durward, a tailors shop specialising in military, motoring and travelling garments. Along with Burberry and Aquascutum, Kenneth Durward was one of the first to develop a variation of the trench coat.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of 37 Conduit Street’s history, however, is that it was the site of a chapel – and not just any chapel, but a wooden “travelling tabernacle” on wheels used by King James II in the late 17th century. As tensions between Catholics and Protestants grew towards the end of King James’ short reign, the Monarch kept his army camped at Hounslow Heath. The mobile chapel was placed in the middle of the camp so that the staunch Catholic had somewhere convenient to hear Mass when he visited his troops.
Following the King’s exile and subsequent abdication in 1688, the chapel was kept on Hounslow Heath as “a memorial to that Monarch’s weakness and infatuation.” It was later moved to Conduit Street to serve as a Chapel of Ease for the parishioners of St. Martin’s in the Fields. By 1764 (if indeed not earlier), the wheels had become bricks and mortar, and the officially named Trinity Chapel had been erected on the site of what is today The Westbury Mayfair hotel.
37 Conduit Street, Mayfair, London, W1