October 30, 2007 / 2:00 PM / 11 years ago

Savoy Hotel sells history ahead of refurb

LONDON (Reuters) - In just over a month London’s Savoy Hotel will take its first break from playing refined host to the wealthy, aristocratic and artistic patrons who have been coming to stay for more than 100 years.

The exterior of the Savoy Hotel is seen in an undated publicity photo from Fairmont Hotels. In just over a month London's Savoy Hotel will take its first break from playing refined host to the wealthy, aristocratic and artistic patrons who have been coming to stay for more than 100 years. REUTERS/Fairmont/Handout

The hotel with a grand history, a panoramic view of the Thames River and a prominent location near to some of the London’s most popular attractions plans to auction off some 3,000 articles and close ahead of a 16-month refurbishment.

The lots on sale will include a mahogany bureau from the Monet Suite, where the French impressionist Claude Monet stayed and painted the River Thames, and a George III chest of drawers from the Richard Harris Suite, named after the actor who took up residence there.

Although it might seem The Savoy is selling off the family silver, its management says nothing intrinsic will go.

When the restored Savoy reopens in 2009, it will be expected to have just as much character as the original built in 1889 by the theatrical impresario Richard D’Oyle Carte. Its art deco heritage and English design will be preserved.

“People have an affection for it and we want to retain that,” general manager Kiaran MacDonald told Reuters. “We have a responsibility and we don’t want to take that lightly.”

The approximately 100 million pound refurbishment has been entrusted to Pierre-Yves Rochon, who was also responsible for renovating the illustrious George V hotel in Paris.

Work includes upgrading the suites, as well as the other guest rooms, the corridors and reopening the River Restaurant, which, like the suites, overlooks the Thames.

It was a very big financial decision to close while the work took place, but the five-star hotel “could not envisage disrupting our guests on a daily basis,” MacDonald said.


The proceeds of the auction could provide some compensation, although a donation from the sale, expected to raise more than one million pounds, will go to charity.

In theory, some lots could sell for very little as there are no reserve prices.

But given the possible association of everything going under the hammer with guests ranging from The Beatles to Marilyn Monroe, it is more likely curtains, mirrors, silver plate, chandeliers, a white grand piano, a ballroom floor and much else besides will sell for a great deal.

Bonhams, the prestigious auction house arranging the sale, can barely contain its genteel excitement.

“It’s a bit of a landmark for us and for them,” said Harvey Cammell, who is directing the Savoy sale, which takes place from December 18-20.

“We have country house sales that last for two-to-three days, but it’s very rare to have a three-day sale in London.”

Apart from the items from the famous suites, the sale’s other attractions include a three-tiered planter that stands in the hotel’s forecourt, which is the only place in Britain where vehicles can drive on the right.

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