THE RITZ LONDON. A RICH HISTORY
The Ritz London opened its doors on 24th May 1906 on the Piccadilly site of the Walsingham House Hotel, formerly the Bath Hotel. Conceived by renowned hotelier César Ritz, The Ritz owes its architectural design to the successful partnership formed in 1900 between Frenchman Charles Mewés and Englishman Arthur Davis.
Together they had designed the Hotel Ritz in Paris and the Carlton Hotel in London’s Haymarket and in 1904 they began The Ritz in London. César Ritz’s innovations for the hotel were, at that time, quite unique with bathrooms for every guestroom, double glazing, a sophisticated ventilation system, and brass, rather than wooden, beds. The first steel framed building of any significance in London, The Ritz was praised for its brilliant refinement of detail and articulation. With its French chateau style architecture and Louis XVI furnishings, the hotel was, according to César Ritz, “a small house to which I am proud to see my name attached”.
The Ritz opened to great acclaim from both the visiting public and the world’s press and was an immediate success. Throughout its 108 year history The Ritz has attracted the famous and the fashionable. During its early years, the hotel enjoyed the patronage of The Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VIII, and the English aristocracy. King Alfonso of Spain and Queen Amelie of Portugal met in the hotel; Pavlova, the Russian Prima Ballerina, danced at The Ritz; the Aga Khan and Paul Getty had suites; and Churchill, de Gaulle and Eisenhower met for summit meetings in the Marie Antoinette Suite during the Second World War. The Ritz also became the favourite of Hollywood stars; Charlie Chaplin required 40 policemen to escort him through his fans into the hotel in 1921, Nöel Coward wrote songs at The Ritz and Tallulah Bankhead sipped Champagne from her slipper during a press conference in the 1950s.
In 1995 The Ritz was returned to private British ownership when it was bought by Ellerman Investments. Almost immediately, a meticulous and complete refurbishment began on the Grade II * listed building. Eighteen years later The Ritz has been fully restored with no detail, either in the public areas or behind the scenes, left untouched.
In January 2002, The Ritz London received a Royal Warrant for Banqueting and Catering Services. Awarded by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, The Ritz was the first hotel to have been honoured with this prestigious award.
More recently in November 2006 The Ritz opened William Kent House, also Grade II * listed, which is situated at No. 22 Arlington Street overlooking Green Park and adjoining the hotel. Designed in the 1740s by the 18th century architect William Kent, from whom the house now takes its name, the historic mansion was known as Wimborne House when The Ritz opened in 1906. Acquired by the hotel owners in 2005, almost a hundred years after Cesar Ritz first tried to purchase the house and was rebuffed by Lord Wimborne, William Kent House underwent an extensive period of restoration and refurbishment prior to the re-opening of its magnificent new reception rooms. In keeping with the guidelines set down by English Heritage, the exquisite collection of lavishly decorated private dining rooms and residential suites have been retained in their original Italian Renaissance style décor and the majesty of William Kent House is now resplendently reborn.