The Randolph’s new neo-Gothic architecture was considered as too garish for Oxford.
“The Randolph” – appearing in every second of the UKs blockbuster TV series “Inspector Morse” as if there is no second hotel in the city – it is an Oxford landmark. It has reopened in May 2016 after being damaged by fire in 2015.
When it was built, in 1864, The Randolph caused controversy. The city council thought it too tall and considered this new neo-Gothic architecture too garish for a sober University town. Now the Randolph is very much an Oxford landmark, just as famous as the Ashmolean Museum that it faces.
The lobby is an event. With its winding staircase this is one of the quasi-medieval high points of William Wilkinson’s Gothic design. The Morse Bar, just off the lobby, is overpriced but has great cachet. The Lancaster Room is where afternoon tea is taken and is decorated with paintings by Sir Osbert Lancaster, the author of the classic Oxford comic novel, Zuleika Dobson. (Sir Osbert paid his hotel bill with these pictures.) The restaurant is decorated with oil paintings and college coats of arms and deliberately echoes an Oxford senior common room of Victorian times.
The long association with TV’s Inspector Morse consolidated the hotel’s role as Oxford icon. The Randolph appeared in more episodes than any other Oxford building and author Colin Dexter is often to be spotted in the hotel’s Morse Bar. The late Ailish Hurley, who appears as the waitress serving coffee to TV icon Morse and Dr Sandra Harrison at the Randolph Hotel, Oxford, was in real life the manager of the hotel’s bar.