Royal Horseguards Hotel – Spies, Secret Places, Liberals, Cakes and Cocktails:
Despite having lived in London for over thirty years, I’ve only been into the building that houses the Royal Horseguards Hotel once before. That was for a rather grand dinner in the National Liberal Club next door. It was after 1976, the date when the National Liberal Club first admitted women as members, but I still remember it as the epitomy of an old style Members Club. And of course, on that occasion, we were not told anything about the history. The grandeur of the building as a whole and of the staircase, the largest cantilevered marble staircase in Europe is something that stayed with me.
The entrance for the Hotel is a little further down Whitehall and our visit started with cocktails and canapes in the Equus bar.
By the time we’d eaten sandwiches, scones and various cakes and canapes and enjoyed watching a range of cocktails being made we were all quite relaxed and it would have been all too easy to stay sitting in the comfortable chairs watching the world go by.
But, for me, the most fascinating part of the evening was the guided blue badge tour of the building. A Grade I listed property, The Royal Horseguards Hotel together with the adjoining National Liberal Club has a fascinating history. Built in 1884, MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service had it’s first home there, and the building has been used in the filming of the latest James Bond .
There are times when I really wish my photography was a little better, but I think it’s still worth showing my best attempt at the cantilevered staircase.
We had a chance to visit the basement which was intended to be the world’s first underground railway tunnel from Scotland Yard to Waterloo, planned to carry freight that powered by air pressure; digging was abandoned in 1868, and when the company wound up in 1882, the National Liberal Club adapted the tunnel to its present use as a wine cellar
I do love learning about those hidden places in London that we all walk past every day, which we walk past daily and seldom get to understand anything of the history of the places. Upstairs in the library of the National Liberal Club, we were reminded again of the significance of this particular building which to quote one of the founders, was created to provide a club that could be a central meeting-place for “Metropolitan and provincial Liberals, where all the comforts of life should be attainable at what are called popular prices”
So many thanks to the Staff of the Royal Horseguards Hotel and our charming Blue Badge guide for inviting us to visit, for telling us a little of the history of the place, for entertaining us so royally and thanks for cupcakes.
The Royal Horseguards Hotel
2 Whitehall Court
London SW1A 2EJ