The Grand Hotel on Colmore Row was first designed by Thomson Plevins and was constructed between 1877 and 1879.
It was built for Isaac Horton, a local property developer and founder of the Horton dynasty, who spotted a demand for hotel rooms for traders arriving in the city at Snow Hill Station.
The building was subsequently extended several times to increase its capacity and facilities and the composition of the French-style façade bears witness to these early alterations.
In 1890, architects Martin & Chamberlain were commissioned to design a major extension to complete the Grand Hotel. They extended the building to the rear along Barwick Street and completely refurbished the existing interiors to appeal to a more luxury market.
The Martin & Chamberlain extension contains the best interiors in the whole hotel, including those of the Grosvenor Suite, whose richly decorated French style plasterwork and later art deco light fittings, led the space to become iconic in Birmingham’s social scene in the 20th century.
Indeed, the role of the building within the civic life of Birmingham was just as important as its physical structure.
The opulent hotel played host to royalty, politicians and film stars, as well as staging many dinners, concerts and dances in the Grosvenor Suite.
The list of those attending functions at or staying in the hotel included King George VI, the Duke of Windsor, Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain, Charlie Chaplin, James Cagney and Joe Louis to name but a few.
The removal of unsympathetic additions has exposed layers of history throughout the building. A stunning staircase with marble columns and cast iron balustrade leads upstairs to a further suite of reception rooms.
Long corridors lead to scores of hollow bedrooms, many stripped back to their bare structure. The stripping-out of rooms above the Grosvenor Suite has uncovered the giant steel trusses, which support the enormous clear spanning ceiling below.
It is believed to be one of the first structures of its kind in the country.
The hotel ran into financial difficulties in the 1960s and from the early 1970s it was leased to a number of hotel chains which each in turn attempted to modernise the building.
The lease was ultimately surrendered back to Hortons’ Estate in August 2002, by which time The Grand was well below standards and closed.
Hortons' Estate has since kept the Grade II* listed building wind and watertight at considerable expense, to prevent further damage.
With financial support from English Heritage, they have embarked on complex and challenging restoration works, committed to returning the building to its former glory.
All of the 1970s interiors have now been stripped out to get back to the Victorian detailing.
Extensive façade restoration works are nearing completion, meaning the scaffolding, which has shrouded the building since 2003, can be removed and the building can return into public consciousness.
Further internal restoration is planned, which will create 152 rooms, eight suites and a new bar and restaurant. It is Hortons’ intention to renovate the Grosvenor Suite, making it once again the centrepiece of the hotel and of civic life in Birmingham.
Article by Matthew Goer, Director, Associated Architects
Published in the Birmingham Post, 18 December 2014