London

Langham Hotel celebrates 150 years

The Langham, London Image copyright The Langham, London

Billed as London's first "Grand Hotel", it is exactly 150 years since the Langham began serving the whims of the rich and famous.

The hotel, which claims to have invented the tradition of the afternoon tea, was opened by the Prince of Wales - later Edward VII - on 10 June 1865.

It became renowned for what were at the time luxury touches, such as electric lighting and hydraulic lifts.

Over the years, the Langham has played host to many notable guests, including the exiled French emperor Louis-Napoleon III, Charles Dickens, one of the "Cambridge Five" spies Guy Burgess and his wartime employer, the BBC.

Image copyright The Langham, London
Image copyright The Langham, London

The hotel sought to attract well-heeled guests and ensured staff members were immaculately dressed at all times. The five men pictured above were waiters.

Image copyright The Langham, London

During World War Two much of its regular clientele decamped to the countryside but the building in Regent Street remained open and served as a first-aid point and military post.

On 16 September 1940 it came under intense fire from Luftwaffe raiders who destroyed a large section of the west wing.

As the Langham was so close to the BBC's Broadcasting House, across the road at Portland Place, it was in constant danger from German bombers.

Image copyright The Langham, London

The BBC's wartime staff used to broadcast from the roof of the Langham, in particular the US correspondent Edward Murrow.

JB Priestley was also a guest in this period to be close to Broadcasting House for his frequent late-night transmissions of Britain Speaks to North America.

In 1941 the notorious Soviet spy Burgess was involved in what became known as the "Langham incident". An internal memo from his wartime employer the BBC revealed that he tried to break down the door of his room when he could not get in.

Image copyright The Langham, London

It was some time after the war was over before the Langham could be returned to its original splendour.

In 1965 the BBC took out a partial lease and made the bar the home of the BBC's private members club.

Image copyright The Langham, London

The royal suites were used for office printing and the grand ballroom became the registry.

Image copyright The Langham, London

The Langham was eventually returned to its original use after significant refurbishment.

Today, the hotel is still capable of attracting the well-heeled guests it could in its Victorian heyday when the likes of Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde would grace its corridors.

More recently, the hotel has played host to the England cricket team, with bowler Stuart Broad claiming the building was haunted.

Broad told the Mail on Sunday how the taps in the bathroom came on for no reason and turned themselves off, leaving him "really freaked out".

Image copyright The Langham, London

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