I’m trying to squeeze in one last trip before summer vacation is over, and I’m challenged with finding a charming place to stay. Today, going online to search for a hotel is relatively easy, and I am a bit obsessive about reading guest reviews to help me find the perfect place for us to rest after a busy day seeing the sights. All this research had me thinking about travel during the early nineteenth century. Where did the fashionable people stay if they were planning on spending a brief amount of time in London?
During 1814, London was full of foreign dignitaries who had come to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon at the Prince Regent’s Grand Jubilee celebration. When Napoleon sailed for Elba, France’s King Louis XVIII left Buckinghamshire for London and took rooms at Grillon’s Hotel on Albemarle Street. Another popular hotel among foreign royals staying in London was the Pulteney Hotel.
The Pulteney Hotel’s name came from Pulteney, Earl of Bath, who had resided in the building before it became a hotel. The Pulteney was located on the west corner of Bolton Street at 105 Piccadilly. It was close to Green Park, Hyde Park and St. James Park where many of the Jubilee celebrations were held.
In late March of 1814, the Pulteney Hotel played host to Catherine Pavlovna, the Grand Duchess of Oldenburg. Catherine was the widowed sister of Tsar Alexander I, and her hotel arrangements had been made by the Russian Ambassador, Count Lieven. It cost 210 guineas a week for her stay.
On June 7th, Tsar Alexander I arrived in London for the victory celebration and was invited to stay in the Duke of Cumberland’s apartments at St. James’s Palace. He declined the invitation and decided to join his sister at the Pulteney Hotel instead. Upon his arrival at the hotel, he stepped out onto the balcony to acknowledge the cheering crowds who had gathered in Piccadilly to see him.
What was it like to be a guest at the Pulteney Hotel?
While staying in London, guests had access to the well-trained Pulteney footmen. These footmen could assist you in delivering your calling cards around town to announce your arrival. Should you decide to shop along fashionable Bond Street, these footmen would carry your growing stack of purchases. And, if you were without your own carriage and understood the importance attached to handsome equipage, the Pulteney could arrange the hire of the expensive but necessary carriage to drive you about town during your stay.
After all those visits and all that shopping, you would hope you’d be able to have a restful night’s sleep. But during the early nineteenth century, London was not a serene place. In Sisters of Fortune, a biography of the Caton sisters by author Jehanne Wake, there is an excellent description of what life was like for someone residing at the Pulteney.
“The Pulteney Hotel, for which the highest prices in London were extracted from guests, was all that was most comfortable, but there was no rest to be had there. At first, the sisters took a suite of rooms arranged with their bedchambers at the back overlooking the mews. Over the cobblestones from about half-past six o’clock every morning came the dust carts with their bells and the dustmen with their chants of ‘Dust-ho!’ Then came the porterhouse carts rattling with pewter pots; then the milk carts; and then the vegetable sellers so that ‘the succession or cries, each in a different tune, so numerous when mixed with the stables housed there and stirring for the day, meant that there was an unholy noise throughout the morning.’ This cacophony was not well received by women who had only gone to bed at three o’clock in the morning. Next they moved to a suite at the front of the hotel, looking out onto Piccadilly. From about midnight…until about five o’clock in the morning a steady flow of carriages drove up and down Piccadilly, taking their occupants to and from routs and balls and gamming clubs. Should there be one half hour’s quiet, it was sure to be punctured by the watchman’s call reporting on the state of the weather.”
With a night like that, I wonder how many stars the Pulteney would have received had their guests been given the opportunity to give it a review.
Sources used include:
- British History Online: www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45198
- Hibbert, Christopher, George IV The Rebel Who Would be King (2007)
- The Georgian Index: www.georgianindex.net/London/l_inns.html
- The Shady Old Lady’s Guide to London: http://www.shadyoldlady.com/location.php?loc=273
- Wake, Jehanne, Sisters of Fortune (2010)