Some 1000 years ago, William the Conquerer owned the premises. The Dorchester (London) prepares for jubilee in 2011, when it turns 80.
The Dorchester is one of the premier addresses on Park Lane, the golden avenue of London.Its history is amazing - find more under the link to the right.
How the Stage was Set
HISTORY IN BRIEF 1751: A grand house was built on the site of the present hotel by a certain Joseph Damer, who when he became the Earl of Dorchester in 1792 renamed the mansion Dorchester House.
1929: Sold to a public company, Dorchester House was demolished to make way for a grand hotel. 1931, April: The Dorchester opened its doors for business.
1066: The present site of The Dorchester is said to have belonged to William the Conquerer and was for centuries the property of the Convent of Westminster. 1751: Joseph Damer built a grand new house on the site 1792: Joseph Damer became Earl of Dorchester and named his mansion Dorchester House. 1852: The freehold was sold to the millionaire industrialist Robert Stayner Holford who commissioned the Italian architect, Lewis Vulliamy, to build him a new and even more splendid Dorchester House on the land. This palatial building, with its monumental facade modelled on Rome's Villa Farnese, took over twenty years to complete. After his death, the building changed hands several more times and for a short period at the beginning of this century housed the American Embassy. But its magnificence was short-lived. 1929: Despite a public outcry, the site was sold in July 1929 to Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons Ltd in association with Gordon Hotels. Dorchester House was demolished within months to make way for a new hotel, destined to be the most modern and luxurious in Europe. Sir Malcolm McAlpine and Sir Frances Towle, chairman of Gordon Hotels, shared a vision of the 'Perfect Hotel'. It should be ultramodern and ultra-efficient, with every convenience modern technology could supply, from telephones in every room to draught-proof windows and sound-proofed walls. The project was entrusted amid great controversy to Sir Owen Williams, who reveled in the freedom of design afforded by new hi-tech building materials. The development of reinforced concrete allowed him to create vast public spaces completely uncluttered by pillars, to float unsupported balconies from the walls of the hotel and flank the facade with octagonal window towers. Forty thousand tons of soil were dug out to create basement kitchens, garages and luxurious Turkish baths, while over the public rooms he swung a raft of concrete three feet thick, to support eight floors of bedrooms. At this point, the architect Curtis Green was asked to contribute architectural embellishments to the elevations and exteriors. Owens promptly resigned, yet work continued without interruption. 1930: Throughout the autumn of the hotel rose at a dizzy rate of one floor per week. 1931: The roof went on in November, and on April 18th, 1931, the new hotel opened its doors with a Gala Luncheon in the Ballroom. No-one had ever seen anything like it. The colossal, pillarless Ballroom, with its mirrored walls set with sparkling studs (the design remains unchanged today), could accommodate a thousand in splendour. The guest list was no less impressive: Margot, Countess of Oxford, the Earl of Rosebery, the Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, The Marchioness Curzon of Kedleston, Lord Halifax, even the dour Lord Reith. At once The Ballroom was adopted by the Smart Set for the grandest balls and parties of the Season. Throughout the thirties The Dorchester remained synonymous with all that was most fashionable and opulent in British Society. 1938-39: The threat of war seemed only to quicken rather than diminish the appetite for partying, and a new bar and two new banqueting rooms (the Holford Room and flower-pink Orchid Room) were added to the hotel in 1938 and 1939. The barman, who was something of a London legend for his dexterity with the cocktail shaker, mixed a Martini, a White Lady and a Manhattan, poured them into glass phials, and had them sealed into the wall of his new bar to serve as a pattern for posterity. 1939: When war was declared on 3rd September 1939, London emptied overnight. But as the Phoney War dragged on, guests began to drift back to The Dorchester. Its construction of reinforced concrete had won it a reputation as the safest hotel in London, and a number of Cabinet Ministers, including Lord Halifax and Duff Cooper, moved in for the duration. When the Blitz finally began, the restaurants were moved to the Gold Room and the Ballroom to avoid the danger of flying glass. The Canadian diplomat, Charles Ritchie, likened dining during the Blitz to cruising on a luxury liner on which the remnants of London Society have embarked in the midst of this storm. Through the thick walls and above the music of the band one could hear the noise of the barrage and at intervals the building shook like a vibrating ship with the shock of an exploding bomb falling nearby 'I cannot believe that bombs would dare to penetrate this privileged enclosure'; And indeed they did not. The only direct hits sustained by The Dorchester was a handful of rapidly extinguished firebombs. Soon the great literary and political hostesses, Mrs Grenville of Polesden Lacy, Lady Sybil Colefax and Emerald, Lady Cunard, forced by short rations and lack of servants to abandon entertaining at home, moved their celebrated dinner parties to The Dorchester. T S Eliot and Edith Sitwell, Harold Nicholson and Cyril Conolly, all the great, the good and the gifted were summoned to their tables 'and discreetly presented the following morning with a bill for 10/6d. When bombs fell, Emerald Cunard would crawl under the table and read Proust and Shakespeare to her imprisoned guests. But it was her invitations that were most coveted'; for her dinners alone were free! 1942: America entered into the war, and General Eisenhower and his forces moved into Europe. The General had originally set up home at Claridges, but was forced to flee by the 'whorehouse pink' of his room. He settled with relief into two rooms on the first floor (now the Eisenhower Suite) where, to give him greater privacy, Winston Churchill had a wall built between his balcony and the one next door. The wall remains to this day, as a memento of this most distinguished visitor. 1945-55: For many of London's grand hotels, the decade following the war was a period of sad decline. The Dorchester, however, always less stuffy than many of its peers, seemed to go from strength to strength. It was popular with the industrialists, actors and entertainers who formed the new elite of the post-war world, while the Ballroom and banqueting rooms were constantly busy with the fund-raising efforts of the numerous charities set up in the aftermath of the war. The Royal Family was assiduous in supporting these charitable causes, and The Dorchester was regularly honoured with their presence. 1947: In that year The Dorchester truly stepped on to the Royal stage. For it was here on July 9th that the news was announced of Princess Elizabeth's engagement to Prince Philip and it was in the hotel's Park Suite that Prince Philip held his stag party on November 19th the same year. The forties saw Lord Beaverbrook as a regular visitor and by the fifties, the hotel was bursting at the seams. A seemingly endless stream of the famous found that a visit to London was incomplete without a stay at The Dorchester: Alfred Hitchcock, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Brigitte Bardot, Danny Kaye to name but a few. It was therefore decided to extend towards Deanery Street. Just as in the Thirties, The Dorchester led the way in hotel design, creating thirty new bedrooms all with private bathrooms plus something entirely new: the first purpose built luxury hotel suite in London. And to decorate it, they hired Oliver Messel, the most celebrated theatre designer of the day. Invited to give his imagination free rein, Messel created a pastoral extravaganza, with flowers, fruit and fern fronds bursting exuberantly through gilded lattice work, while on the floor above, the Penthouse dining room was transformed into an enchanted forest. These rooms were completed shortly before the Coronation (to mark which Messel festooned the facade of the hotel with gigantic swags and drapes). The response was instant and overwhelming. So great was demand, that the only solution was to add another floor to the hotel, with room for four more equally attractive suites. Messel's legacy, of joy in theatricality, remained with The Dorchester over succeeding years, reaching its apotheosis in the Sixties, in a series of breathtaking State Banquets. Rather less regal, but no less lavish were the legendary parties of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, both much loved Dorchester regulars. Whereas the great industrialists and financiers, politicians and power-brokers have always cloaked their visits with discretion, succeeding generations of artists and performers have invested the hotel with something of their own flamboyance. The Oliver Messel Suite was the particular favourite of both Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich, while Cecil Beaton was waspish about the paint work and rhapsodic about the view. Both Judy Garland and Duke Ellington made The Dorchester their London base, while Somerset Maugham would stay for two or three months every year. 1960s; In the Swinging Sixties even the Beatles couldn't resist the hotel's charms. But it is actors who have always been most beguiled by the peculiar glamour of The Dorchester: not only Burton and Taylor but the velvet-voiced James Mason, Charlton Heston (who liked the Italian marble baths), Yul Brynner, Julie Andrews, Warren Beatty, Peter Sellers, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kim Basinger. The Dorchester remained in the McAlpine family until the mid-Seventies, when it underwent a number of changes of ownership. After nearly 60 years, The Dorchester was no longer, by any means, the pattern of modernity envisioned by Towle and McAlpine. The present owners conceived an ambitious plan to return The Dorchester to its former pre-eminence: all the services of the hotel would be completely overhauled to equip it for the twenty-first century, while at the same time, the areas of historical importance, particularly the Promenade, the Grill Room and the Oliver Messel Suite, would be carefully restored to their former glory. To achieve this, it would be necessary to close the hotel for two years. The view in the trade was that this was folly, that guests would never return. How wrong they were! 1979: The historic cocktails were uncovered during building work in 1979; and by all accounts were as good as on the day they were mixed! 1990: The Dorchester reopened in November 1990, sparkling, refreshed, with superb new facilities including the Oriental Restaurant, the Boardroom Suite and the luxurious new Dorchester Spa. Within a week, our loyal guests had reclaimed their favourite tables in the Grill Room, dined intimately in the Oriental's private rooms, and clinched the deal in the Boardroom. A few months later the luxurious Spa opened its doors to those keen to have their cares banished by the sympathetic attentions of the spa team.
Legions of illustrious guests have graced The Dorchester over the years. They include: From the World of Politics General Eisenhower Winston Churchill Thaksin Shinawatra, exiled Prime Minister of Thailand (resides at the Dorchester, having arrived in the UK the day after the coup d'état of September 19, 2006) From the World of Literature Noel Coward Somerset Maugham (who would stay for two or three months every year) Jack Higgins Jackie Collins From the World of Entertainment Marlene Dietrich Judy Garland Duke Ellington The Beatles Burton and Taylor James Mason Charlton Heston (who liked the Italian marble baths) Alfred Hitchcock Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh Brigitte Bardot Danny Kaye Yul Brynner Julie Andrews Warren Beatty Peter Sellers Tom Cruise Nicole Kidman Arnold Schwarzenegger Kim Basinger
Royalty and political leaders, both British and foreign, have been frequent visitors. Princess Elizabeth, the present Queen, attended a dinner party at The Dorchester the day before her engagement was announced on 10th July 1947, and it was here that Prince Philip celebrated his stag night on the eve of his wedding. He has subsequently been a regular guest of honour and renowned after-dinner speaker at events and charity functions held in the hotel, and on 26th October 1990, unveiled a plaque commemorating the reopening of The Dorchester after a two-year closure for refurbishment. ------ During World War II, several members of the government as well as service chiefs moved into The Dorchester on a semi-permanent basis. General Eisenhower, then occupied with the planning of the Normandy invasion, set up headquarters in the hotel in 1944. ------ Early on, The Dorchester became a haven for figures from literary and artistic circles. In addition to the famous Foyles Literary Luncheons, beginning in the 1930s, the hotel has also welcomed writers and artists such as novelist Somerset Maugham (a frequent guest up to his death), the poet Cecil Day Lewis and the painter Sir Alfred Munnings. In more recent years, Jack Higgins and Jackie Collins have been frequent guests. ------ The list of visitors to The Dorchester from the entertainment world is of prodigious length. To name but a few: Danny Kaye, who originally appeared in cabaret at the hotel for £50.00 a week in the 1930s, became a lifelong regular guest... Elizabeth Taylor, always occupying a suite, came with a succession of husbands... Sir Ralph Richardson, who tended to arrive by motorcycle, bringing his crash helmet into lunch... Alfred Hitchcock, who viewed The Dorchester as ideal for a murder given the scope for burying bodies in Hyde Park across Park Lane. ------ When the bar was rebuilt in 1938, Harry Craddock, one of the most famous barmen at the time, produced three of the most popular cocktails of the day - the Martini, Manhattan and White Lady - and sealed them in phials, which were set into the wall of the bar 'for posterity'. When the bar was reconstructed in 1979, the cocktails, scroll and recipes were found to be in excellent condition. ------ Leading chefs have long been responsible for The Dorchester's culinary renown. The current Executive Chef is German Henry Brosi. His predecessors include the internationally famed Anton Mosimann, fellow Swiss chef Willi Elsener, Eugene Kaufeler and Jean Baptiste Virlogeux. One of the great chefs of his day, Virlogeux's inventiveness was severely tested during the Second World War both by food rationing and the government-imposed maximum price restriction of five shillings for a three-course meal. ------ The hotel was featured in ITV's X Factor, in October 2006, as the location for Sharon Osbourne's Bootcamp stages of the competition.

Christopher Cowdray, Roland Fasel

Managed by: Part of the Dorchester Collection
197 / 55 Rooms
55 Suites
24-hour Room Service In-suite check-in Rooms / suites for guests with disabilities Rooms / suites for non-smokers Individually controlled air conditioning E-butler services Multi-channel TV (42" plasma screens in 90 rooms) High-speed Internet access UK and US modems DVD and CD connections Printer, fax, scanner, copier Microsoft Office applications Video and music on demand Internet radio Multi-line telephones Dual-voltage power supply
Oliver Messel Suite
The Grill Room - serving traditional British fare ------ The Promenade ------ The Dorchester Bar ------ China Tang - offers Cantonese cuisine ------ The Krug Room ------ The Penthouse and Pavilion
If money is no option, why not try the Oliver Messel Suite? This magical suite on the top floor has been favoured for half a century by ilthe likes of Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward, Bob Hope and Sylvester Stallone. Created by Oliver Messel, the famous theatre designer, it has an ante-room, sitting room, double bedroom and bathroom - a further bedroom may be added. There are wonderful views across the rooftops of London from the spectacular private terrace. If you want to venture out, top notch London shopping awaits in Bond Street and Knightsbridge, while attractions such as Buckingham Palace, the West End theatres, the Royal Albert Hall and the National Gallery all lie within a stone's throw of the hotel.
The Dorchester Spa, managed by Elizabeth Arden, includes sauna and steam rooms.
The hotel has impressive banqueting facilities, including the 10,300 sq ft ballroom.
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Our Select Member Hotel

Country: England
City: London
Opening date: 1931, April 18th

Note from the Host

General Manager Nigel Badminton


53, Park Lane
W1A 2HJ England, London

Tel: +44 (0)20 7629 8888
Fax: +44 (0)20 7409 0114

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