The Midland Hotel - Morecambe
Source : Newsletter of the North West Branch of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation September 2002 - Issue 4
Oliver Hill's Art Deco masterpiece is under threat following the recent collapse of proposals to restore the hotel.
In May, the future for the building, and with it the image of Morecambe, looked bright. A £10m refurbishment scheme had just started on site, a huge marketing exercise was underway, and a grand re-opening was planned for the spring of 2003. After years of relentless decline, the building had reached a turning point, and was to become a five star hotel, carefully restored, and promoted as the ultimate 1930s experience.
Today, it is again abandoned, windows smashed, security fencing removed, the heating system disabled, and vulnerable to the harsh storms of Morecambe Bay. The two freehold owners of the building, who were shareholders in the company undertaking the scheme, have been served with an asset freeze order by the High Court, leaving unpaid debts to the development team, the contractor and other creditors. The hotel is now back on the market - at an unrealistic price, reflecting the financial liabilities of the owners.
This is the latest twist in the sad story of a building that inspires a particular affection and admiration nationwide. Opened in 1933, the Midland was built by the LMS Railway Company as an optimistic statement of modernism, and it put Morecambe on the map. But following wartime requisition, it suffered under a succession of unsuccessful owners, culminating in the farcical ‘guardianship’ of Les Whittingham, who arranged for the great Eric Gill stone relief of Odysseus Welcomed to the Sea by Nausica to ‘disappear’ on its return from an exhibition at the Barbican. It was finally rediscovered by police in Lincolnshire after a tip off around the time that Whittingham died in 1998. Now rescue plans are under discussion once again. The HLF has allocated £1 million to the Midland under the Morecambe THI. Lancaster City Council, English Heritage, the NWDA, and the Friends of the Midland are working together to find a long-term solution. And there is the immediate task of protecting the building against another winter.
Peter de Figueiredo, historic buildings inspector, English Heritage
Jane Hughes, Sunday 12 December 1999
Seven Months after it was put up for sale the Midland hotel, one of Britain's finest art deco buildings in the Lancashire resort of Morecambe, is still without a buyer. And it shows. Streaks of rust stain its white facade and boards cover the welcome signs. Last week the only sounds were the howl of the wind and the footsteps of an elderly deco devotee. No one has been willing to take on the Midland, even at a knock-down asking price of pounds 850,000. And the longer it waits for a buyer, the more likely it seems that the Grade II listed building, which contains artwork by Eric Gill and Eric Ravilious, will be converted into flats or a rest home.
Its decline is causing so much concern that tomorrow members of the Twentieth- Century Society will hold a meeting to discuss its fate. The hotel, once the pride of Morecambe, is already on the group's Buildings at Risk register. "The Midland is one of the best known early modernist buildings in England and we are very worried about its rapid deterioration," said the society's casework officer Stephen Senior. In a final indignity, a large stone relief by Gill - "Odysseus Welcomed from the Sea by Nausica" - was stolen last year before turning up across the Pennines in Pontefract 11 months later. Designed by Oliver Hill for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1933, the hotel was once acclaimed as a masterpiece of modernism, a shrine to sunshine, fresh air and healthy recreation. But in the chilly Morecambe winter, it looks battered and desolate. The seaward side that follows the curve of the promenade has been badly weathered and rust from the window frames and fire escapes has stained the once bold white and turquoise walls.
The rotunda cafe, decorated with Ravilious murals, which were reconstructed for an episode of the television series Poirot in 1989, is closed to the public and several of its windows have been smashed. At the gates, the shrubs are full of rubbish. Inside, the air smells of stale tobacco and there are nicotine patches around Eric Gill's famous contribution - a ceiling panel of Triton, at the top of the main spiral staircase. At pounds 22 a night, the hotel is still popular in the summer months, but out of season the guests tend to be either diehard period fans - such as the American woman who recently came down to dinner in vintage 1930s dress - former staff and retired servicemen who convalesced at the hotel when it was turned into a wartime hospital. Morecambe's winter seafront is deserted apart from a few elderly ladies in anoraks and headscarves battling against the wind. Like the Midland, the resort has been in decline for years, surviving on scooter weekends and ladies' darts. There have been a number of potential buyers for the hotel, ranked 29th in a recent poll of the nation's favourite 20th-century buildings, but the offers to buy it were either too low or came with too many conditions attached.
In the past few days another possible purchaser has emerged, but meanwhile a band of Midland Hotel devotees has formed itself into a trust to campaign for the building to be returned to its former glory and possibly to oversee its restoration. They are trying to attract suitable investors and are setting up a website to highlight the plight of the hotel. They have also secured a grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund to carry out a feasibility study next year into the Midland's future as a hotel. The local council says its hands are tied beyond drawing purchasers' attention to the grants available and refusing approval for a change of use - unless the Midland cannot survive as a hotel. The Midland remains open for business, but only just. Yet this summer, thanks to an ongoing seafront restoration programme and a new statue of the late comedian Eric Morecambe, tourist numbers have soared in the resort. And, according to Sue Thompson of Friends of the Midland, the hotel could capitalise on the growing interest in art deco.
"There was a time when Morecambe was in such a sorry state it just put people off coming entirely," said Ms Thompson, "but now things are changing and we have the chance to make the Midland a unique asset both for the town and the nation." Source - The Independent
I found this image ages ago, possibly on one of those haunted websites and called the jpeg 'Serene Joy' - whether that was the ladies' name or the name of the website I haven't been able to follow up - but sand in the conservatory is not an every day occurrence .....
Derelict but still habitable - we stayed here when this photo was taken
Still habitable - just!
No longer receiving guests
No longer safe - the Midland boarded up, dangerous and an eyesore with an uncertain future .....
Good to see that the first thing Urban Splash demolished was this extremely precarious fire escape ladder!
Seriously - what can you say about these?
As mentioned previously, it's great to see that fire escape eyesore being one of the first 'casualties' of the renovation. Urban Splash have isolated the building and surrounded it with billboards showing how it is envisioned the restoration will look.
Page updated : 28th November 2016