Midland Hotel, Morecambe

Standing on Marine Road West in Morecambe the Midland Hotel is one of Britain's finest twentieth century Modernist buildings. The hotel was built by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway company, one of many hotels built by the company at station termini across the country. The hotel's position on the sea-front, opposite the railway station, was an advantage to the railway company's passengers at at time when car ownership was still an expensive luxury hobby.

The hotel was designed by English architect Oliver Hill (1887-1968) in the Streamlined Moderne style. Hill's earlier works were in the Arts and Crafts style but his later work in the Modernist style is arguably his finest output. The hotel features sculptures by the famous British designer and sculptor Eric Gill (1882-1940), who was also responsible for sculptures for the BBC's Broadcasting House in central London and 55 Broadway, the headquarters of London Underground.

Hill's design uses a curved form, following the alignment of the sea-front. The concave side of the hotel forms its main elevation, with the convex side facing out to sea. The eastern range of the hotel comprises a single storey structure with a rotunda facing seawards. Built over a reinforced concrete frame with brick walls, the hotel is rendered in 'Snowcrete', a type of Portland-limestone cement with a brilliant white pigment that has good durability against weathering, giving the hotel a brilliant white appearance.

The hotel is built across three storeys, with two wings either side of a central core, housing a magnificent spiral staircase. Within the wings at ground floor level of the hotel are the main public rooms of the hotel, originally a central entrance hall with dining room and cafe to the east and lounge and writing room to the west. The second and third storeys were given over to hotel accommodation.

The landward elevation of the hotel features a central convex core with the entrance at ground floor level and three slender windows extending through the second and third storeys. Above is a parapet with two ornamental carved sea horses by Eric Gill. The wings have square windows with a projecting architrave. The seaward elevation features large, square windows to the ground floor and recessed balconies to the second and third storeys at the centre of each wing.

The interior of the hotel has a stunning spiral staircase at the centre of the hotel with landings extending to each wing. The ceiling of the central core has a circular mural by Eric Gill. An additional bas-relief carved out of Portland Stone, also by Eric Gill, is found in the hotel entrance foyer.

After the end of the Second World War the hotel suffered a slow decline in its fortunes. In part this way due to the changing fashions in tourism, with increasing numbers of people spending their holiday time aboard rather than at British seaside resorts. Additionally the hotel passed through multiple owners and the structure of the hotel was not maintained.

An ambitious multi-million pound refurbishment programme undertaken by the developers Urban Splash began in 2006 and was completed in 2008. The refurbishment saw the restoration of her stunning exterior and the hotel's surviving Eric Gill artwork and sculptures, including the hotel's iconic sea horses. New features are a 'mansard' roof extension providing additional rooms and a glass extension to the ground floor which serves as the hotel's restaurant.

The hotel provides 4-star accommodation. The building was awarded Grade-II* listed status on 8 October 1976.

Posted by Richard Coltman on Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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