"I don't stay in an hotel! I stay at Brown's." A discerning traveller circa 1880. Welcome to London's oldest five star hotel. In 1837 a certain James Brown made two important decisions: 1. He saw a niche in the market for a first rate, genteel inn, an early 19th century term for an hotel. 2. He made an advantageous marriage. His bride, Sarah Willis, was Lady Byron's personal maid. She was a diligent woman, helping her husband to build a fine hotel. This blissful combination gave us Brown's Hotel.
How the Stage was Set HISTORY IN BRIEF 1837: Opening year of the hotel. 2004: Forte bought back Brown’s from Raffles and promptly set about revamping the property. HISTORY IN DETAIL 1837: James Brown, valet to Lord Byron, acquired the lease of 23 Dover Street with a view to developing a hotel and subsequently acquired those of numbers 21-21. Dover Street was a great location to capture travellers “in London for the season.” The Browns Not much is known of James Brown’s past except that he had been a gentleman’s servant and was therefore familiar with what was required in terms of comfort, food and service. He married Sarah Willis, who was Lady Byron’s personal maid and it is believed that Her Ladyship gave financial support to the new hotel (hence the number of Lord Byron busts throughout the property). They made a winning team: Sarah, behind the scenes, in charge of finances and housekeeping, whilst the courteous Brown made the guests feel completely at home. 1840s: The business developed as the Industrial Revolution gathered pace and the railways brought more and more people to London. 1851: London staged The Great Exhibition, bringing visitors from all over the world to the English capital. 1859: After 22 years of hard work James Brown sold the hotel to James John Ford who owned Ford’s Hotel in Manchester Square. 1860: Death of James Brown. 1875: Death of Sarah Brown. 1876: Alexander Graham Bell came to London to demonstrate his invention, the telephone. He stayed at Brown’s, from where the first ever successful telephone call was made. 1882: The management of the hotel was taken over by Ford’s son, who had lived in Canada for some years. The new doyen of Brown’s initiated a modernisation programme, which equipped the hotel with fixed baths, a lift (elevator) and electric lights, as well as a smoking room for gentlemen and a public dining room. At that time, hotels tended to have no public rooms apart from the reception hall. Instead, guests hired individual suites and dined privately. Originally Brown’s had 16 such suites. Hotels were licensed for wines, beers and spirits, however. 1889: The Ford family purchased the St George’s Hotel, which occupied three houses in Albemarle Street back to back with Brown’s. It was a comparatively simple matter to join the two hotels and at the same time add a fifth floor to both. On Albemarle Street a new front of stucco and an entrance portico were built and two panels of blue and gold mosaic, bearing the legend of Brown’s and St George’s Hotel, were placed on the wall - both still exist today. 1890, June: An important meeting took place in what is now known as the Niagara Room. The International Niagara Commission, under the chairmanship of Lord Kelvin, decided “in favour of the adoption of electrical methods as the chief means of distributing Niagara power”. 1905: The hotel acquired three more Albemarle Street houses and structural alterations took place. This paved the way for more public rooms, the contemporary dining room, lounges and a writing room. The panelling and woodwork installed in these public rooms was of the highest quality and is still very much in evidence today. 1996: By this point a Forte hotel, Brown’s was sold to Raffles. 2004: Forte bought back the hotel. 2005: The hotel reopened after a significant renovation programme.
Famous visitors to Brown’s have included: From the World of Politics Napoleon lll and Empress Eugenie Theodore Roosevelt Queen Emma Regent of the Netherlands Queen Elizabeth of Belgium (lived at the hotel during World War I) Haile Selassi King George ll of Greece King Zog of Albania Cecil Rhodes From the World of Business and Finance John Pierpoint Morgan From the World of Science Alexander Graham Bell From the World of Culture Rudyard Kipling Agatha Christie
During the 1880s, Spain was in political turmoil. The reigning monarch Alfonso Xll was opposed by Don Carlos The Pretender, who resided for a time at Brown’s. A staunch supporter of Alfonso’s was also a guest at the same time as Don Carlos but neither was aware of the other’s presence in the hotel due to the resourcefulness of the staff. ------ When a gentleman travelling to London by train was asked by a fellow passenger in which hotel he stayed in London, the gentleman simply replied: ‘I don’t stay in an hotel, I stay at Brown’s’. That was in the 1880s. ------ The exiled King George of Greece stayed at the hotel from 1924-35. Before leaving to return to his throne, he decorated the general manager with the Knight’s Cross of the Royal Order of the Phoenix.
104 Rooms
14 Suites
Harbours of peace and privacy, the unusual family rooms are extremely popular. 12 of them feature a master plus second (single) bedroom and separate bathroom, while an additional four family rooms feature a master plus second twin bedroom and separate bathroom.
Some of the hotel's suites, are named after historic events which either took place at Brown's or were relevant to the site on which the hotel is built: the Clarendon Room is a tribute to Lord Clarendon; the Niagara Room refers to the meeting of the Niagara Commission when the concept of hydro-electric power was agreed; the Kipling Room is a tribute to Rudyard Kipling, who wrote some of his finest work whilst staying at the hotel.
1837, an award-winning restaurant ------ The Library provides a smaller, more informal setting for lunch ------ George's Bar ------ The Drawing Room
Relax at The Drawing Room, famed for its sumptuous afternoon teas, whilst relaxing in a comfortable armchair in front of a roasting fire.
Health centre
The hotel has several meeting rooms, all equipped with the latest technology.
An elegant setting suggests an elegant attitude.
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Our Select Member Hotel

Country: England
City: London
Opening date: 1837

Note from the Host

General Manager Peter G. Davis
Hotel Manager: Jason Harding
Concierge: Ashley Harman


Albemarle Street, Mayfair
W1S 4BP England, London

Tel: +44 (0)20 7493 6020
Fax: +44-171 493 9381

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