< UNITED KINGDOM | LONDON: St. Ermin's Hotel
St Ermin’s Hotel is built on the site of a 15th century chapel dedicated to St. Ermin (a derivation of St. Armel). In the mid to late 19th century, Westminster
underwent great changes and expansion, resulting in the creation of St. Ermin’s Mansions by Edwin T. Hall in 1889, the building that now forms the basis of St. Ermin’s Hotel.
In 1899, the mansion blocks were converted into a hotel. The new owners embarked on a major refurbishment, involving the redesign of the interiors. This work was undertaken by the famous Victorian theatre designer J.P. Briggs, who created a dramatic collection of reception rooms with rich plasterwork. Vintage marketing brochure from around 1910 illustrates some of this spectacular craftsmanship, much of which is still in evidence today. Like the present St. Ermin's, the previous owners understood that modern technology enhanced the guest experience, they mention the installation of telephones in all bedrooms, rather than an antiquated bell system.
During the 1930s the hotel and the next building were used by officers of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6) located close by. The likes of Ian Fleming, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Laurence Grand, H. Montgomery Hyde and Eric Maschwitz were all known to have worked from the building and throughout the Second World War, it operated as a convenient annex by SIS surrounded by other secret organizations.
In addition, the hotel’s Caxton Bar was used regularly by SIS, MI5 and Naval Intelligence Division case officers to meet their agents. Eventual defector Guy Burgess frequently met his Russian counterpart in the bar to hand over top-secret government files. In 1940, Churchill, asked a group of individuals that were later to become the SOE, to “set Europe ablaze” and they initially housed themselves over an entire floor of the hotel. The St Ermin’s Hotel Intelligence Book of the Year was instigated in 2012 in recognition of this unique relationship with the intelligence communities.
The hotel’s exceptional position is, perhaps, largely responsible for its interest to those for whom discretion is key; St. Ermin’s Hotel is now immediately opposite the Metropolitan Police headquarters at New Scotland Yard, a stone’s throw from Whitehall, just to the north of Parliament Square and across the river from the new headquarters of the British secret service.
St. Ermin’s continues to play an important part in London’s history, as it is rumoured that a tunnel runs from underneath the grand staircase in the Lobby all the way to the houses of Westminster.
In 1988, with 'undercover' name "Carillon du Lac", located in Zurich / Switzerland, St. Ermin's Hotel was used as a filming location for "The Bourne Identity", thriller/action movie starring Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith.
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