A central London hotel with history
As guests walk up St. Ermin’s Hotel’s tree-line courtyard, they are not just entering a luxury hotel they are revisiting history.
St Ermin’s is built upon the site of a 15th century chapel dedicated to St. Ermin (a derivation of St. Armel). In the mid to late 19th century, Westminster underwent great changes and expansion, resulting in the creation of St. Ermin’s Mansions by E.T. Hall in 1889, the building that now forms the basis of St. Ermin’s Hotel.
In 1899, the mansion blocks were finally converted into a hotel, the new owners embarked on a major refurbishment, involving the redesign of the interiors. This work was undertaken by the famous Victorian theatre designer J.P. Briggs, who created a dramatic collection of reception rooms with rich plasterwork. This vintage marketing brochure from around 1910 illustrates some of this spectacular craftsmanship, much of which is still in evidence today. Like the present St. Ermin's, the previous owners understood that modern technology enhanced the guest experience, they mention the installation of telephones in all bedrooms, rather than an antiquated bell system.
In 1940 Winston Churchill, held a historic meeting at St. Ermin’s Hotel. He asked a group of remarkable people to join him in ‘Setting Europe Ablaze’ – this elite set, were to become the founding members of the SOE (Special Operations Executive). The unit carried out covert operations during WW2, from their headquarters – an entire floor of St. Ermin’s Hotel, whilst MI6 were stationed two floors above. SOE agents’ printed secret coded messages on pieces of silk, an original sample hangs in the Lobby, hunt it down and try to crack the code. In the 1950's the spy Guy Burgess (part of the infamous Cambridge five) handed over secret papers to his Russian counterpart in the Caxton Bar.
St. Ermin’s continues to play an important part in London’s history, as it is rumoured that a tunnel runs from underneath the grand staircase in the Lobby all the way to the houses of Westminster.