who's in the house?: Pure theatre

The Savoy's dramatic interiors and immaculately costumed staff are a fitting testament to its thespian past

The impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte had the idea of using the profits from the Savoy Theatre on the Strand in London to build a hotel next door to accommodate theatre-goers. Construction began in 1864 and it opened on 6 August 1889, boasting a blaze of electric lights; some of the most sophisticated plumbing London had ever seen, with 67 baths in total and even a well. The hotel still operates its own electricity generating system - Strand Power Co - which supports all lifts and services in an emergency.

The Lancaster Ballroom was initially the Savoy forecourt. It was flooded for one spectacular party, the Gondola dinner held in July 1905, when guests were serenaded by Caruso, by the light of 400 Venetian lamps. This area was roofed over just after the First World War to create the new ballroom. Claude Monet came to stay as soon as the Savoy opened in 1889. He painted the Thames from his hotel room on the fifth floor, where he could view the changing light on the water. James McNeill Whistler stayed in May 1896. The drawings he made depicting the view from his room captured London at the close of the century.

The cloakroom

Joe Vassello, gentlemen's cloakroom attendant

Worked here since 1968

The gentlemen's cloakroom was renovated three years ago. It is an art- deco temple of red and white marble, chrome fittings and mirrors. Joe Vassello has worked here so long that he has seen his original customers' children grow up. This is the most enjoyable aspect of the job, meeting people. He has a silver tray of brushes for sponging or brushing down suits. Other trays contain moisturisers and aftershaves. Joe will also polish shoes and sew on buttons.

The room

Christine Gunther, room attendant

Worked here since 1997

Christine Gunther is pictured in a River Junior Suite on the seventh floor (pounds 425 a night plus VAT). This suite was designed in classic Edwardian style with mouldings, curved doors, mirrors and plasterwork. Christine Gunther cleans 10 or 11 rooms each day, often over three floors. She says: "I like the courtside rooms best because they're smaller. These riverside rooms take longer to do. Cleaning an average room takes 45 minutes. A suite can take 90 minutes. Sheets are changed every day."

The ballroom

Andrew Coy, banqueting manager

Worked here since 1997

The Lancaster Ballroom has just been totally refurbished. The original 1919 horsehair plasterwork has been burnt back and all the paint of the past 80 years removed. Gold leaf has been used to highlight the ceiling architraves. In the Sixties the colour scheme was Wedgwood blue and cream. For the Nineties the colours are warmer and the ballroom is now peach and daffodil. In the opinion of Andrew Coy, only the seventh banqueting manager since 1919, it is still "the prettiest ballroom in London".

7th Banqueting Manager since 1919

The lift

Phil Dearden, bell boy

Worked here since August

Phil Dearden is part of the concierge service and takes guests' luggage to their rooms. He uses either this red lift, the blue lift or the service lift. The red is the most dramatic, with a gilt mirror and red painted walls with gold lacquer work. The original Twenties doors to the lift were considered a fire hazard by health and safety inspectors and had to be replaced. Phil admits that during his first few weeks at the Savoy he "got lost in the corridors plenty of times - people do!"

Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    ICT Teacher

    £21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified ...

    DT Design and Technology Teacher

    £21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently for ...

    Maths Teacher

    £21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienc...

    Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

    £26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on