Nov 27

The marvellously quirky Art Deco Midland Hotel

by in Accommodation, Holiday, QT Review

The Midland Hotel glitters with Art Deco design. Opened in 1933, it is 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.

Midland Hotel & Rotonda Bar

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

Eric Gill's Neptune, Triton & 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 confused Lancashire with Yorkshire!), Blackpool Tower, a Midland Railway steam train and, of course, the Midland Hotel taking pride of place.
Eric Gill mural

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,

The Rotunda Bar

“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.” from The Midland Hotel History.  Whatever, it has a romance, style and elegance that would have delighted them all.

I live in nearby Carnforth (where the classic film ‘Brief Encounter’ was shot) 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, as you can see …

Afternoon tea for TQT

The Midland Hotel is one of a choice selection of lovely English Lakes Hotels in Lancashire and Cumbria.  A version of this article originally appeared on the Visit Britain SuperBlog

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10 Responses to “The marvellously quirky Art Deco Midland Hotel”

  1. From Zoë Dawes:

    You can book afternoon tea and an Art Deco tour of the hotel via the website – highly recommended. The tour gives a really fascinating insight to another world and time.

    Posted on November 27, 2011 at 9:48 pm #
  2. From Roy Marvelous:

    It does look marvelously quirky!

    Posted on November 28, 2011 at 12:53 am #
  3. From Zoë Dawes:

    It certainly is Roy. Not sure if you spotted the reference to Marion Dorn; she did a lot of work with Cunard on their cruise liners, including most famously the Queen Mary and Oriona.

    Posted on November 28, 2011 at 11:11 am #
  4. From Suzi Bunting:

    A lovely write up zoe for the Midland Hotel, the uniqueness and special elements of the hotel are wondefully protrayed. You should treat yourself and have an over night stay in the spectacular rooms where you can lie in the bath and view the wonderful sunsets over Morecambe Bay.

    Posted on November 28, 2011 at 2:56 pm #
  5. From Zoë Dawes:

    Thanks Suzie – your description of that view from the bath is most tempting!

    Posted on November 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm #
  6. From Ross:

    That looks fantastic, I love art deco architecture! I remember seeing the building on the TV programme coast about a year ago, I had forgotten about it till I read your article. I like the look of the afternoon tea!

    Posted on December 6, 2011 at 6:36 pm #
  7. From Zoë Dawes:

    It is an exceptional hotel Ross – and the tea was delicious!

    Posted on December 8, 2011 at 5:48 pm #


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    […] The Art Deco Tour, Midland Hotel: Morecambe is not necessarily the most obvious place to find one of the UK's best-kept Art Deco gems, but then travel is full of surprises.  Renowned (and definitely bonkers) sculptor Eric Gill produced some of his best work for this hotel; my brother and I had an absorbing insight on one of the hotel's tours, followed by excellent afternoon tea. History, art, culture and cake in one afternoon – heaven. […]

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