Sunday, 23 January 2011

Savoy Hotel, Strand WC2

The Strand frontage of the Savoy is a bit of a jumble, dictated by the way it expanded from the Embankment around the Savoy Theatre. The northern extensions were planned by T.E. Collcut in 1903.
Collcutt created the deep entrance courtyard beloved by pub quiz question-setters because it is the only street in Britain where you drive on the right. The tight roundabout at the end is said to be the reason why London's black cabs have to turn on a sixpence.
The main entrance was emphasised by a grand arcade of Ionic columns in the attic storey, with classical figures in the spandrels. Two pairs of figures are repeated along the arcade. The whole facade is made of Doulton's Carrara Ware.
The figures must have been difficult to see properly even before the Art Deco canopy was installed in 1929. At present, the eye is drawn away from them to the enormous billboard for the latest Savoy Theatre production.
The figures represent the luxury of ancient Sybaris, with food and wine, drama and music. The story goes that one Sybarite had a bed made of rose petals but was unable to get a good night's sleep because one of the petals was folded. I suspect this demanding standard of luxury is very typical of the Savoy's clientele.

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