The first special feature of this institution is its exceptional position at the bend of the river by Cleopatra's Needle, enjoying, as it does, from its front windows and the restaurant terrace, what is probably the finest garden and river view in Europe, a panorama from Battersea to the Tower Bridge; by day, in all weathers, in sunshine or rain or in the fogs loved by Mr. Whistler, a thing of beauty; by night, with the myriads of lamps twinkling along the edge of the river, a fairy scene. No other such position can be now obtained for such a building, and it can never be deprived of it. The "thing of beauty is a joy for ever."
The next point which claims notice is the absolute and perfect quiet. The Savoy is not surrounded by the noisy clatter of a main thoroughfare; the hum of the busy town is only a far-off murmur, and in any part of the Hotel, as quiet a night's sleep can be got as if far away in the country.
The Savoy was the first hotel in the world the building and construction of which were thought out with a view to securing every perfection of modern luxury and comfort in living ; it, indeed, anticipated many such features which have since been found to be almost necessities. First of these is the number of bath rooms. Before the Savoy, there was no hotel in Europe which had more than two or three bath rooms on each floor; which rooms, therefore, visitors had -- a most objectionable thought -- to share with others, waiting their turn in dressing gown, with sponge in hand, peeping out of half-opened doors. In the Savoy, a spacious bath room -- a private bath room -- was arranged to every suite of rooms. The Hotel is, indeed, chiefly built in suites of private sitting room, one or more bedrooms, and bath room, so that visitors can enjoy the same comforts of privacy -- or nearly so -- when they desire it, as in their own houses or flats, with the advantage of being able to step out from this privacy into scenes of gaiety in the restaurant, cafe, and public rooms when they feel so inclined.
The Savoy was the first hotel in the world to abolish gas altogether, and to have the electric light kept on all night, instead of guests having to strike matches, light up candles, or turn on gas after 11.30 or 12 o'clock. It was the first hotel to adopt shaded electric light everywhere, including shaded electric bedside lights; thus avoiding glare and enabling everyone to indulge in the much-abused but delightful habit of reading in bed, and being able, be it understood, to turn out and on their light without getting out of bed and wandering about in the dark. This, like so many good "Savoy" innovations, has been copied everywhere since.
The Savoy was the first hotel in which a careful and successful attempt was made to furnish the rooms in the manner of a nobleman or gentleman's private house, without the disfiguring placards, preposterous pictorial decorations, etc., which are so offensive in the bulk of hotels. In place of the usual atrocities will be found artistic sideboards, chiffoniers and cabinets, mantel-pieces designed by Mr. Colcutt; Morris's and Jeffreys' wall papers; De Morgan's, Delft, and other artistic pottery, Japanese and China porcelain, no barbarities of green and red wine glasses, and nothing to jar on cultivated tastes, and sensitive nerves. It takes time to get these things appreciated, and a large bulk of the public requires educating up to them. But this has been done, and is continuing, and the reputation of the place in these respects is fixed.
The Savoy is the first hotel in the construction of which a carefully considered scheme was made for a complete artistic decoration of the whole of the interior. In this, as in the more homely ideas of comfort above referred to, consideration has been chiefly given -- entirely one may say -- to those inside the hotel. They are the persons to be considered. They do not stand outside and stare at it, but they spend their time and live inside it. The hotel was therefore designed "from the inside," if such an expression, which conveys what is intended, may be used. The outside, the elevation in fact, springs entirely from the internal arrangements. The exterior was therefore kept as simple and plain as possible, some artistic ornament being used along the balconies, and that being about all. The main endeavour was to get a thoroughly artistic and satisfying internal decoration everywhere. At much trouble this was done. The public hardly know how few and how difficult to get hold of are the artists, the artist workmen, and others who are able to carry out properly the work of an artist. With no disrespect to the large furnishing and decorating firms, it may be said that very few of these know how to properly carry out anything of the sort, and the result of their labour has often, one might say usually, been a barbarous and meaningless medley of inferior art workmanship. The result of what was done at the Savoy is now a matter of historic interest. Since that was built, any hotels erected putting forward any pretensions to be high-class, have, according to their lights, and the enlightenment of the promoters, less or more successfully attempted to copy these artistic features and the various provisions of luxury and comfort referred to in previous paragraphs; with a result of which those qualified can judge, and of which those unqualified may remain in happy ignorance.
The Savoy was the first hotel in the world in which lifts were arranged (and large and commodious lifts, ascending rooms in fact) to run all night, thus bringing the top floor on the level of the street below, and enabling the top floor rooms to be made as spacious, lofty, and well furnished as those of the lower floors. The top floors are, indeed, let at the same prices as the lower floors, and from the view and air are more sought after. This feature of all-night-running lifts has since been copied at most other hotels; but, before the Savoy was built, guests used, after 12 o'clock at night, to have to walk up to the top of the house if they wanted to get there.
One may refer to the wide and spacious balconies, all along the front overlooking the river view, which are suitable, and used, for promenades or sitting out on in the fine weather; not the least interesting and fascinating of these is the famous Restaurant Balcony.
The court-yard may also be referred to with its suggestion of Continental life and the Delia Robbia fountain, by Mr. Harold Rathbone. This large court-yard loses the hotel a lot of space in rooms, but ensures that all the rooms looking on it are beautifully light and airy.
A novel feature at the Savoy was the abolition of all separate charge for attendance and baths, which are included in the price of rooms. This innovation has perhaps never been so thoroughly appreciated by the public as it deserves, and it has sometimes caused the remark to be made that the charges for rooms (very slightly increased in consequence) were high. But when it is remembered that the charge usually made for attendance is 1s. 6d. for each guest and for baths in bath rooms 2s., total 3s. 6d., and that this is added to the charges for rooms at other hotels, it will be seen that the total charge at the Savoy is really- very moderate, often less than elsewhere.
A great feature of the Savoy is the amount of light and air. Note that the nearest house in front, on the south, is on the other side of the river, between a quarter and half a mile off; on the west, at Chelsea, and on the east, somewhere between St. Paul's and the Tower of London; and it will be understood the sort of space there is for light and air, air which blows from three points of the compass, from Epsom on the Surrey Hills, from Greenwich, and beyond Kew, straight on to the building.
The artesian well must not be forgotten. From this is drawn a supply of absolutely pure drinking water. In these days when microbes are dreaded, too much importance cannot be attached to this guaranteed purity (see Mr. J. H. Paul's analysis ), to say nothing of the delightful taste of this water as compared with the hard and faded taste of that supplied elsewhere. For baths the softness of this water renders it especially luxurious.
The Savoy was the first hotel in the world, the first building it is believed except one or two warehouses, built entirely of fireproof materials.
The chief materials used are brick, concrete, and girders and stanchions encased in concrete. No wood is used for any constructional part of the building, nor anywhere in the building at all except for doors and window frames, the ornamental panelling in the restaurant, and a wood floor in the ball room, laid over the concrete floor. All the rest of the floors are of incombustible coke breeze concrete without wood, and so are the partitions. Previous to the opening, Mr. D'Oyly Carte consulted his friend, Sir Eyre Massey Shaw (then better known as Captain Shaw), on the question of insurance, and got him to go over and thoroughly examine the building and the plans. Captain Shaw stated that, if the building, built as it was, were a large warehouse without internal divisions and filled with combustible material, and a fire should break out, it would be almost impossible to destroy it; but that, as it was built, divided into living rooms as an hotel, it would be in his opinion absolutely impossible that any serious fire should take place, or anything more than burning out a room; and he stated that were he the freeholder, he should not take the trouble to insure it. We may add that, for the satisfaction of those who might feel nervous, the building was so arranged, although there was no real occasion for it, that, given a person standing in any particular place, and an impossible fire breaking out, on either side of him or her, there was always a way of escape in the opposite direction. Visitors and residents in the hotel may thus feel a very comforting sense of security. This feature, it is understood, has not been reproduced elsewhere, except at Claridge's, there being no other hotel which enjoys this most important advantage.
To conclude with what has contributed no doubf more than everything else to the phenomenal success of the world-renowned Savoy Hotel -- The Cuisine. It was the aim of the promoters from the very first to establish, and they feel pride in asserting that they have established, the finest restaurant and cuisine in the world. There is only one cuisine -- the French. Upon that may be engrafted features taken from other countries -- by the intelligent French chef, and only by him. He may occasionally, as a concession, bestow upon inhabitants of other nations one of their own barbarous dishes, elevated by his refining power into something civilised, but the French cuisine, and the principles of the French cuisine, must remain supreme, if gastronomic success is to be achieved and maintained. Whatever complaints we may have against France, we must be grateful to her for the art of cookery. France is the home of high-class cookery, and in Paris are its supreme manifestations. There has never been at the Savoy, and there will never be under the present direction, any other than a French chef, and one who has been through the highest class cuisines of Paris. There has never been, and will not be, other than a French sous-chef under him, and a French "brigade'' of "chefs de parti" and "marmitons." All the dishes are cooked and served in the Parisian manner. The maitres d'hûtel are all adepts in the Parisian methods, and the waiters -- trifling detail, but which keeps up the atmosphere -- instead of being dressed in greasy dress suits, imitations of gentlemen's evening dress, wear short jackets, turnover collars, and fresh white aprons. So that, except for the greater size of the rooms, one might, in the Savoy restaurant, fancy oneself in the most popular boulevard restaurant. March, 1900.
A "Committee of Taste" for the Savoy and Claridge's Hotels (a revival of the original Restaurant Committee of 1889), among whom are now M. Luiz de Soveral, Count Albert Mensdorff, the Marquis of Granby, the Earl of Chesterfield, the Hon. Francis Bertie, and General Oliphant, all well known as connoisseurs, have kindly consented to act, and to meet from time to time to discuss and advise on matters connected with the cuisine and wines of the Savoy Restaurant and of Claridge's Hotel. On this Committee are also Sir Arthur Sullivan, Mr. Hwfa Williams, Mr. R. D'Oyly Carte, and Mr. Rupert D. Carte, who are likewise Directors of the Company. It will thus be seen that exceptional guarantees are given for the high character of the Restaurants of both Hotels and the perfection of details.
Homes of the Passing Show, "The Savoy Hotel and Restaurant", 1900, By W. C. K. W.
(William Charles Kingsbury Wilde (1852-1899), Oscar Wilde's brother.)
Note. -- This article has previously appeared in the Pall Mall Magazine, and is reproduced by kind permission of the Editor and of Mr. and Mrs. Penneli. The article signed W.C.K.W. has also previously appeared; but all the other articles have been specially written for this little book. (William Charles Kingsbury Wilde (1852-1899), Oscar Wilde's brother.)
» Further Reading: Savoy Hotel, London
A Study in Hotel Decoration
When I came to visit the Savoy, I found that a very different sentiment animated the interior decoration of the place.
It must be remembered, in the first place, that the bulk of this hotel was decorated and furnished some years ago, before the new school of decorative art had made its influence so widely felt. It must also be borne in mind that, as one of the best known hotels in the world, the Savoy appeals to a more extended class than does Claridge's. The very treatment of the bedrooms, for instance, clearly marks the difference between the two houses. At the Savoy, while these are just as richly and expensively treated as at Claridge's there seems to be a striving after a rather more ordinary arrangement. Comfort has been the first consideration, and there is none of that reticence which, as I have said, marks the other house. There is much, however, that is interesting about the public rooms of the Savoy, to which rooms apparently the chief attention has been paid. Here again the note struck is more eclectic and better adapted to the comprehension of the multitude. The heart of the Savoy, to Londoners, at least, is the Restaurant, one of the favourite meeting grounds of "smart" society. Admirably, therefore, does the opulent, but by no means gaudy treatment of this adapt itself to the ordinary circumstances of its use. For this and for the decorative work generally, Mr. T. E. Colcutt is responsible; most of the work being executed by Collinson and Locke, and Mr. George L. Locke being specially associated with the "Pinafore" room referred to later. The Restaurant, from the floor to the glowing frieze with its high relief work in gold, is panelled in mahogany, the panels relieved by a lighter coloured inlay, and the pilasters enriched by excellent carving; the deeply coffered ceiling, supported by mahogany pillars, glows with silver and gold decoration, and all this serves but to heighten the effect of luxury and comfort, and to form an efficient background for the multicoloured dresses of the feminine portion of the guests. More individualistic perhaps, is the large new Salle-a-manger. This has an arched roof with a central skylight filled with well-designed coloured glass, so arranged that at night time the light streams through the painted glass, revealing its beauties. Some very effective bas-reliefs painted in monochrome are introduced into the side panels of this room and lead down to the frieze, which is flatly treated with a design of conventionally arranged orange trees. At the far end of this room is a fine marble mantelpiece, which is almost monumental in the severity of its treatment. The wall space at the sides of, and above this, is enriched with a flat decorative design, the main feature of which is a conventional treatment of pomegranates. Underneath this dining room is the newly-built combined reception and sitting room, the Italian Renaissance style of which has probably led to its being called the Genoese Hall. As one enters it one is struck by a sense of opulent grandeur, imparted by the heavy coffered ceiling, and the panels enriched by painted figure subjects in heavy tones, while down the side of the room, opposite the windows, an arcade supported by rich red marble pillars, forms a series of alcoves with somewhat sombre tapestry panels set therein. The private dining rooms adjoining the Restaurant and christened after the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, are also worthy of remark, as are the Royal suite of rooms on the floor below. The "Mikado" room is effective with its mahogany dado, surmounted by a richly coloured stamped leather wall-hanging, and its plaster ceiling, heavily panelled and elaborately decorated. The "Pinafore" room is more modern in treatment. It has a high-panelled dado painted white, the upper panels being relieved by a series of heraldic devices painted in strong colours and gold. The frieze over has a rich raised design in gold on a background of cream colour. The ceiling is of panelled plaster, also treated in a light colour scheme of cream, gold, and buff, while the homeliness of this charming room is increased by the quaintly designed mantelpiece in one corner with an effective arrangement of coloured tiles. The foyer or waiting room across the passage from the private dining room forms an ideal lounging place, the most noticeable feature from a decorative point of view, however, being the fine baronial chimney-pieces of richly coloured marble, and of Italian design.Homes of the Passing Show, A Study in Hotel Decoration By Horace Townsend, of the "Studio" Magazine.