- The Hotel Cecil
The Hotel Cecil was a grand hotel built 1890-1896 between the Thames Embankment and the Strand in London. It was named after Cecil House (also known as Salisbury House), a mansion belonging to the Cecil family, which occupied the site in the 17th century.
Designed by architects Perry & Reed in a "Wrenaissance" style, the hotel was the largest in Europe when it opened, with more than 800 rooms.
The hotel was requisitioned for the war effort in 1917, and the very first headquarters of the newly formed RAF took up part of the hotel from 1918 to 1919.
The Cecil was largely demolished in Autumn 1930, and Shell Mex House was built on the site. The Strand facade of the hotel remains (now occupied by shops and offices, with, at its centre, a grandiose arch leading to Shell Mex House proper.
Shell Mex House is a grade II listed building situated at number 80, Strand, London, UK. The current building was built in 1930-31 on the site of the Hotel Cecil and stands behind the original facade of the Hotel and between the Adelphi and the Savoy Hotel. Broadly Art Deco in style, it was designed by Ernest Joseph of the architectural firm of Messrs Joseph.
The entrance of the building, which is set back from the Strand, is through a large gated archway. A green plaque was affixed to the wall just inside the gate proclaiming: The Royal Air Force was formed and had its first headquarters here in the former Hotel Cecil 1 April 1918.
Standing 190 feet tall, with 537,000 square feet floor space, Shell Mex House has 12 floors (plus basement and sub-basement) and is immediately recognizable from the River Thames and the South Bank by the clock tower positioned on the south side of the building (flanked by two large, hieratic figures at the south corners). The clock, which was known for a time as "Big Benzene", is the biggest in London. It has faces looking towards the river and towards the Strand. It was described by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as "thoroughly unsubtle, but...hold[s] its own in London's river front."
- Cecil HotelMouseover Enlarges