April 4, 2011

Brown's hotel and Bell

I came across an advertisement for Brown’s Hotel in Dover Street, which appeared in an 1887 book about the London season.

I’m always fascinated by old ads: not only is the language quaint and decidedly un-commercial, but they state things that today we would find self-evident.  This ad mentions, for example, the availability of electric lights in all rooms, lifts and telephones.  (Remember, this is 1887).  Just to clarify, there was no extra charge for the electric light.  As an aside, when ads cease to mention the unique selling point of telephones in bedrooms, then we can safely assume that telephones have become invisible and taken for granted.

Compare Brown’s with the Midland Grand Hotel (St. Pancras) which threw open its doors in 1873.  Despite its luxurious fittings and decor, the building had no running hot water or plumbing.  A battalion of maids had to run upstairs with buckets of hot water for the guests’ baths, and down again to empty chamber pots.  If I were a hotel maid, I would much prefer to work at Brown’s. 

I have also read (unverifiable) accounts that Alexander Graham Bell stayed at the hotel on his first visit to Britain to demonstrate his new invention.  It is also said that the first telephone call in Britain was made from the hotel by Bell.  I shall take this with a fistful of salt until I can find a source.  No end of famous personalities are connected with Brown’s and much is made of the Kipling connection (there is a suite dedicated to him).  If, however, the historical connection with Bell is correct, then the hotel management seems a bit bashful about it.

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Digital Telephone Book by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.