Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Chapter 7 "I see that you have brought your drawing things!"

The Great Northern Hotel circa 1900

This chapter is almost entirely set within the Great Northern Hotel at King's Cross, London.  Opened in 1854 it was the first purpose built railway hotel in the world. It was designed by civil engineer Lewis Cubitt (1799-1883), the younger brother of Thomas Cubitt, London's principal contractor in the second half of the nineteenth century. His other brother was Sir William Cubitt, the chief engineer of the Crystal Palace.  Lewis also designed adjoining King's Cross station but spent much of his career building bridges in South America, Africa and Australia.

Lewis Cubitt

King's Cross (so called after a monument to George IV demolished in 1845) was built in 1851-52 and Cubitt's elegantly simple design was partly modelled on the Moscow Riding Academy.

King's Cross Station 1852

King's Cross today

For many years the original facade was obscured by a modern (1972) extension but this was removed in 2012, revealing Cubitt's original design once more.

The Great Northern Hotel (far left) and King's Cross Station (centre) in about 1910

The Great Northern Hotel today

The Great Northern Hotel recently was extensively renovated to top five star standards and looks, from the outside at least, very much as it did in 1912 when our story is set.

The first en suite bathrooms at a hotel appeared just two years before our period, in 1910, with the opening of the Goring Hotel in London. Flush toilets only started to appear in the 1860s and all toilets and bathrooms were shared.  Hotels had to employ an army of staff to provide hot water in jugs and empty chamber pots regularly until en suite bathrooms became the norm in the 1930s   Hotel rooms would have been equipped with washstands, usually with marble tops on which sat a ewer (a large jug of water) and a bowl for washing.  Triple P has stayed in French provincial hotels equipped like this as late as the early eighties.  

Underneath would be a cabinet which held a chamber pot for use when a visit to the toilet outside the room was not convenient.  After use pots would be put back in the washstand with the lid on (nearly all antique chamber pots for sale these days are missing their lids) to be collected by the maid the next morning.

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