Liverpool’s Adelphi Hotel rather missed the boat when it was built before and after the First World War.
It was conceived by the Midland Railway Company as a companion to the Midland Hotel in Manchester, (designed by Charles Trubshaw, 1898-1904).
The Adelphi, built on a site that had been a hotel since 1828, was designed by Frank Atkinson, on a scale made possible because its Portland stone façades conceal a steel framework. The two major spaces within, the Central Court and the Hypostyle Hall, provide grand interiors which lead to ancillary restaurants and meeting rooms. A planned ballroom block beyond the Fountain Court at the east of the building was never built.
Ironically the opening of this magnificent hotel, its design and operation strongly influenced by the manager Arthur Towle’s tours of European and American hotel-practice, coincided with the shift of the major transatlantic steamship lines to Southampton. It was the very last city-centre railway hotel to be built in Britain.
When British Transport Hotels was privatised in 1984 the Adelphi was sold to Britannia Hotels, who rescued it from a state of decay in which the top two floors had been closed off and given over to the pigeons. Britannia’s restoration included converting the upper floors to modern bedrooms and building a rear extension to increase further the capacity to a total of 402 rooms.
Staying at the Adelphi is often an adventure. In times gone by I ran university extramural study tours from the Adelphi. On one occasion the maitre d’ let my group into the restaurant on the first night before I’d had a chance to register them: it proved remarkably difficult to single out my two dozen extramural students, most of them of a certain age, from the two hundred line-dancers who were also there for the weekend.
The last time I stayed at the Adelphi was for one of Ken Roe’s inimitable Cinema Theatre Society weekends. I’d been attracted by the opportunity to see On Golden Pond on the big screen at the Philharmonic Hall, but the entertainment highlight of the weekend was having breakfast with a gent who turned out to be an admiral. (He was curious to know what part of the ship I’d served on, and had to be disabused of the idea I was there for a naval reunion. On the contrary, I said, I was there to visit the bingo halls of Bootle.)
The admiral told excellent stories, including one of greeting the Queen Mother in a cloudburst, drenching her as he bowed forward, tipping out the puddle that had accumulated in his cap. He also explained how to solve the problem of spring-cleaning the bridge of a nuclear submarine when no-one below petty-officer status is allowed in. But that’s a state secret, such as you might, if you’re lucky, hear whispered over breakfast at the Adelphi Hotel.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.