We’re sitting in the hotels once underused reception area, today reincarnated as The Coral Room, otherwise known and Bloomsbury’s grand cafe. Michael Neve is talking to me about The Bloomsbury, the hotel in the centre of the eponymous neighbourhood. His second home, he knows perhaps all there is to know about the place; every corner, every room, every single detail of this buildings history, past and present. He’s a gentleman, and his long commitment as General Manager at The Bloomsbury shines.
Michael tells me how The Bloomsbury’s story began in someways back in 1928. It was in this year that Sir Edwin Lutyens was commissioned by the YWCA Central Club to design the building. From the north-east English island of Lindisfarne to far-flung New Delhi. Today, the area is still called ‘Lutyens Delhi’ in his honour! The old Central Club building on Great Russell Street, is Lutyens’ major contribution to London. The buildings rich historical detail, sturdy foundations and elegant, pared-down façade has led it to be lauded as his ‘finest neo-Georgian building’ in the capital by Chairman of the Lutyens Trust, Martin Lutyens.
Lutyens, greeted with the colossal task of designing the YWCA’s Central Club, he responded with an essay in austere and materially rich neo-Georgian architecture. Years later the building was listed as a striking example of the inter-war style by an international master. As Michael guides me about The Bloomsbury’s corridors, it is clear to see his legacy lives on today still in the building, with its rich heritage clearly apparent from the moment it comes into view. “The Corinthian pilasters that flank the doorways, the original windows facing outwards and the street-lamps which line the hotel’s side lane reveal something of the internal aesthetics; bold and beautiful without ostentation” he says, “We may in The Bloomsbury today, though the YWCA’s spirit is still very much at the centre of how we operate as a hotel.”
The Doyle Collection, which Michael exclaims is very much a family company, bought The Central Club in 1998. While staying faithful to the original building, a hefty renovation was carried out. Key features of the original building including the old Chapel and the library dedicated to Irish poet Seamus Heaney were retained. The structural and decorative features were fully renovated and the building was returned to its former glory; The Bloomsbury was born.