It was the chairs that first caught my eye – two huge, strangely shaped blue-green seats like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. They were placed directly in front of the enterance to the Midland Hotel. Not the most beautiful of objects, but so very distinctive – people apparently either love or hate them. So, when English Lakes Hotels took over the hotel from Urban Splash following their sympathetic restoration work, in 2009 and had them removed out of sight, I decided to start a campaign to bring back the quirky chairs ...
This hotel glitters with Art Deco design. Opened in 1933, it is built on the site of a much older hotel, built in the 1840s when the railways first started bringing holidaymakers to the seaside resort of Morecambe, in north Lancashire. Architect Oliver Hill was chosen to create “a building of international quality in the modern style”; he more than fulfilled that brief. The sensuous lines of the outside are synonymous with Art Deco: from the front and the rear of the hotel it has a beauty and grace that defined that movement. There are very few such buildings left in the country and this is, without doubt, one of the finest.
Sculptor Eric Gill’s Sea Horses welcomes visitors from on high and the motif is repeated in sparkly mosaics on the floors inside. The interior is quite simply unique. Marion Dorn, a well-known textile designer, produced the beautiful rugs, which have been recreated and placed around the foyer. The precious frescoes by Eric Gill are as fresh and bright today as they were when he sculpted them in the 1930s. His most famous piece, ‘Odysseus Welcomed from the Sea by Nausicaa’, carved from Portland stone, is behind the Reception Desk. It’s inscribed with the optimistic message, "There is good hope that thou mayest see thy friends"… Look upwards to see the lovely ceiling medallion of Neptune, Triton and mermaids
In the South Room, not always open to the public, Gill produced a wonderfully idiosyncratic map of the North West, totally inaccurate and all the more beguiling because of it. Looking carefully, in the Lake District you can see Windermere, Derwentwater and other lakes scattered about, two lovers rushing towards each other like Heathcliff and Cathy (maybe he mixed up Lancashire & Yorkshire …), Blackpool Tower, a Midland Railway steam train and, of course, the Midland Hotel taking pride of place.
Due to the proximity of The Winter Gardens theatre, many actors, musicians, comedians and other performers often stayed at the Midland in its heyday. I had heard that other famous names had also been guests, so was disappointed to read the following,
“Rumours abound of famous people said to have passed through the Midland's doors during this time, such as Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, Gloria Vanderbilt, Winston Churchill, Oswald Mosley, Noel Coward among many others. Most of the stories are probably no more than embroidered hearsay and any documentation, such as the pre-war visitors' books, has long since disappeared.” The Midland Hotel History
I live nearby and often pop in for a drink in the Rotunda bar with its stunning ultra-modern chandelier and beautiful views across Morecambe Bay to the Lake District fells. For a special treat, their afternoon tea is totally yummy … So, now I’ve whetted your appetite, I hope you’ll call by some time – and if those quirky chairs aren’t back in place, tell Receptionist the Quirky Traveller wants them back!