• The architects used styles from European buildings of the sixteenth century to evoke a sense of opulence
  • Frequented by high profile guests over the years: Winston Churchill stayed here in 1909
  • The General Newsroom frontage is decorated with classical motifs and Greek muses (goddesses of the arts and science)

“The finest hotel in the Midlands”

Everything about the Grand Hotel was designed as a statement in luxury and opulence: from its European Renaissance style exterior and “wedding cake” top to public rooms full of marble fireplaces, onyx pillars and elegant chandeliers. Not long after it opened in 1898 it was described as “the temporary home of the elite of English Society and generally admitted to be the finest hotel not only in Leicester, but in the Midlands”. Guests enjoyed the very best amenities including a coffee room and Palm Court.

It was built between 1897 and 1898 by two local architects, Cecil Ogden and Amos Hall, who was responsible for the frontage facing Belvoir Street, in what has been described as a 'grand Franco-German Renaissance’ style.  In effect, this was a building which had to look distinctive and stand out from the many warehouses and factories nearby of similar size and scale, so the architects used styles from Europe of the sixteenth century to evoke a sense of opulence.  It replaced the Blue Lion Coaching Inn, a Victorian public house, which was demolished along with the Carlton Hotel and the Conservative Club.  Two years after its completion, Amos Hall returned to add a further statement of grandeur, adding the ‘wedding cake’ top to the corner of Granby Street and Belvoir Street, in a design which was influenced by several of Sir Christopher Wren’s London churches.  Hall also designed Leicester's Silver Arcade.

Famous guests

In its hey-day the Grand Hotel played host to celebrities and high profile figures in society and politics. Winston Churchill, then a Liberal MP and Home Secretary, stayed here in 1909. Many society balls were held in the grandeur of the hotel’s King’s Hall.

Guests at the Aero Club Ball, 1930. Amy Johnson is in the centre

The distinguished guests at the Leicester Aero Club's annual ball in 1930 included aviator Amy Johnson who just two years previously had become the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.  Her host was Leicestershire brewer, politician and philanthropist William Lindsay Everard, a lifelong supporter of aviation who founded the Air Defence Cadet Corp which is now the Air Training Corp. 

The General Newsroom

Facing the Grand Hotel, on the corner of Belvoir and Granby Streets, is the Grade II listed General Newsroom, another fine example of Leicester’s late-Victorian heritage. This impressive building is decorated with classical motifs and the Greek muses, (goddesses of the arts and sciences). Newspaper reading rooms provided information about the contemporary world and assisted in public education and civic engagement.

The first general newsroom built in 1837, demolished in the late 1890s. Leicestershire Record Office

It replaced an earlier General News Room and Permanent Library which was designed by local architect William Flint, and opened in 1837. It was where the citizens of Leicester could read the latest local, national and international news.  The present building, which served the same purpose, was also the design of a local architectural practice, Henry Langdon Goddard, and opened in 1898.

Goddard based his design on the work of the London architect John Belcher, richly decorated with numerous exuberant features including eight of the nine muses and other classical reliefs set into shell-like niches. In Greek mythology, the muses were deities who gave artists, philosophers and individuals the necessary inspiration for creation their art, music and writings. 

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Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Early 20th Century Leicester

(1910 – 1973) The diverse industrial base meant Leicester was able to cope with the economic challenges of the 1920s and 1930s. New light engineering businesses, such as typewriter and scientific instrument making, complemented the more traditional industries of hosiery and footwear manufacturing.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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