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Hotel History

1246  Count Peter of Savoy builds the Savoy Palace on land by the side of the river Thames, given to him by Henry III, whose wife is Count Peter’s niece.  The Savoy Palace later becomes the home of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and is burned to the ground during the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381.  However the estate has become part of the Duchy of Lancaster, which it remains to the present day.

1875  Theatrical impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte commissions lyricist William Schwenk Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan to write a one-act comic opera which he stages at the Royalty Theatre.  “Trial by Jury” opens in March and is an enormous success.  This marks the beginning of a collaboration between Gilbert, Sullivan and D’Oyly Carte that will last for over twenty years and see the creation of a total of thirteen classic operas.

1881  Emboldened by the continued success of his productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas, Richard D’Oyly Carte decides to build his own theatre in which to stage them.  The Savoy Theatre, named after the Savoy Palace site on which is it built, opens in October this year with the transfer of Gilbert and Sullivan’s latest opera, “Patience”.  Every one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s subsequent operas is premiered in the Savoy Theatre, and the entire canon becomes known as the Savoy Operas.

1889  After nearly five years of building, The Savoy opens on 6th August.  Built by Richard D’Oyly Carte on land adjacent to his Savoy Theatre, the new Savoy hotel offers accommodation for the many tourists, especially Americans, who have travelled to London to see the Savoy Operas.  Additionally restaurants, bars, lounges, private dining rooms and banqueting suites offer a variety of choices for Londoners wanting to enjoy themselves in these new surroundings.  The main restaurant is opened by noted hotelier Cesar Ritz, who later becomes general manager, and installs an old friend, August Escoffier, “king of chefs and chef of kings”, in the Savoy kitchen.

1904  The Strand Blocks of The Savoy open in this year, on land which the hotel has spent nearly a decade purchasing around the Savoy Theatre, immediately to the north of the original hotel.  Having acquired all the freeholds and businesses in this area, the site is levelled and rebuilt in about a year.  The development is laid out around the approach-road Savoy Court, with a new Front Hall and new locations for the Savoy Grill and American Bar, all now facing the Strand.  Of all the businesses acquired to make way for this scheme, only one is retained.  The historic restaurant Simpson’s-in-the-Strand is rebuilt into the east block, and reopens in 1904 with most of its old staff back in post.

1910  In under ten weeks the entire River Front of The Savoy is removed and replaced.  The balconies which run along this side of the hotel, and from which Monet painted his famous views of The Thames between 1899 and 1901, are removed and the Front extended forwards slightly to create space into which additional bathrooms will be added to the hotel.  Two new floors of guest rooms are added, and a new ballroom, larger than any other banqueting space in the hotel, is built into the central courtyard of the river block.

1930 The 1904 sculpture of Count Peter of Savoy is winched back into his new vantage point on top of the striking new “Savoy” sign which is the latest piece of art deco design to be added to The Savoy.  From Kaspar, The Savoy’s lucky black cat sculpture, to the stunning modernist illustrations of The Savoy Cocktail Book, the hotel is filled with elegant new features in the modish art deco style.

2005  On 19th January, The Savoy is purchased by a consortium headed by , HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin AbdulAziz Alsaud, who hands the management contract to Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

2007  The Savoy’s general manager Kiaran Macdonald rings a bell at mid-day on the 15th December in the Front Hall, and declares The Savoy officially closed for the first time in its 118-year history, in order to begin a complete restoration of the entire building.  At the time this is slated to cost around £100 million, and take about 15 months.

2010  On 10th October (“10-10-10”), The Savoy finally reopens to the public, after what has become a £220 million restoration project that has taken almost three years to complete.  The opening is marked by the arrival in The Savoy’s own Rolls-Royce Phantom of the first guest to check in to the hotel after re-opening, the actor, writer, and broadcaster Stephen Fry.  HRH Prince Charles declares The Savoy officially (re)open on 2nd November, after having been closed for almost three years.  He unveils a plaque to commemorate the event, in the presence of the hotel’s part owner, HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin AbdulAziz Alsaud , and his wife, Princess Amira.

2014  The Savoy celebrates its 125th anniversary year.  A variety of events mark the occasion, including historical tours with The Savoy’s archivist , a special exhibition of press cuttings of reviews of the hotel from 1889 in the Savoy Museum, anniversary cocktails created by both the American Bar and the Beaufort Bar, and a new edition of the Savoy Cocktail Book. 



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