The original Midland Hotel dated from early Victorian times but in the early 1930's the owners, London Midland and Scottish Railway Company (LMS), wanted to replace the original with a more modern structure.
LMS wanted an iconic building - "a building of international quality in the modern style" Architect Oliver Hill was selected to create the design.
Oliver Hill was not an obvious choice, he had only recently taken to ‘modernism’, having been trained in the ‘arts & crafts’ tradition, and he’d never designed an hotel before. However, he relished the opportunity LMS gave him, "a unique opportunity of building the first really modern hotel in the country”.
The Midland also gave him the chance for a ‘total design’ - building, decor, furniture, staff uniforms even the towels in the bedrooms.
Plans were approved in January 1932 and building started in August with a budget of £72,000.
Construction was of steel frames with concrete slab floors and brick walls, with external rendering a mixture of cement and carborundum polished to a marble-like finish. A crushed blue glass and carborundum coating finished the window architraves and projecting ledges and the undersides of balconies were glazed blue-green.
The hotel opened in 1933 to great acclaim:
- Architecture Illustrated produced an entire issue on the Midland.
- Country Life’s reporter described the illuminated spiral staircase as "a fairy staircase that one would willingly climb till it reached to heaven."
- Lord Clonmore in the Architectural Review wrote "(The Midland) . . . in complete harmony with its natural surroundings…it rises from the sea like a great white ship, gracefully curved."
The Midland was the place – Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, Gloria Vanderbilt, Winston Churchill, Oswald Mosley and Noel Coward are among the famous names said to have stayed.
Six short years later it all ended with the declaration of war at 11am 3rd September 1939 within only a few hours the hotel was deserted - Sir Henry Wood and music hall star Florrie Ford recorded as the last to leave.
The Midland became a military hospital for the duration – the ground floor became a 40-bed ward, two suites became operating theatres. Nissen Huts, providing extra beds, filled the grounds.
The Midland was returned to LMS in February 1946, but the building was in such poor repair the hotel could not be reopened. LMS considered selling the property but in 1948, unable to find a buyer, they refurbished the building and The Midland re-opened in July.
Following nationalisation of the railways, the hotel was sold to Lewis Hodgson in 1951, for £50,000.
After the heydays of the 50’s and early 60’s, as the British holidaymaker began to favour the Mediterranean over Morecambe, the hotel went into decline
In 1976, The Midland gained Grade 2 Listed building status, but the building continued to decay.
In 2001, new owners had plans to refurbish it to its original splendour, but the money never materialised.
Urban Splash took up the challenge of the Midland in 2006 and it reopened in 2008.
Miles Falkingham, director of Architects, Union North, said:
“We were very clear on how the project should go, and that we had to maintain a careful balance between rescue and renovation. We worked very closely with restorative architectural consultants Avanti Architects, who have a lot of experience working with Oliver Hill buildings, and with them set the conservation priorities out so we could then work on the commercial function of the building. Although we were keen to put the original character back in to the site we also did not want to create a pastiche or a museum, but a forward looking hotel that will operate for years to come.”
The Midland is still owned by Urban Splash, with day-to-day management in the hands of ELH Ltd.
I’d like you to visit The Midland - buy a drink, take afternoon tea, eat dinner or stay overnight – just spend some money so this beautiful hotel remains a viable business and doesn’t fall into disrepair again.
I want to photograph the the finest examples of Art Deco Architechture in the UK, and some of the less fine too - please email me your suggestions - especially private houses - here's some I've already photographed
Express Building, Manchester - 65-67 Bold Street, Liverpool