Paddington's Victorian hotel reopens, still the 'Gateway to America', but now via Heathrow

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The Independent Online

A London hotel which opened during the industrial revolution as the "Gateway to America", reopened yesterday after a £60m restoration.

When it was built in 1854, the Great Western Royal Hotel in Paddington, west London, became one of the symbols of the great age of travel, as envisaged by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineer of the Great Western Railway and one of the era's most influential civil engineers.

Victorian high society used the hotel as a starting point for rail journeys to south coast ports where they embarked on steamships bound for America. Regular Atlantic crossings began in the same decade as the hotel was built.

The Hilton London Paddington, as it is now known, was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh yesterday. Its classical façade has been restored and its interior renovated to recall its art deco period. Platform 1, a new mural by Kate Lovegrove in the 1920s style, graces the landing between the main lobby and the Grand Ballroom.

The owners of the 355-bedroom hotel claim it, too, will serve as a gateway for the modern traveller, who can reach Heathrow airport on the Heathrow Express train.

It is also the centrepiece development of the Paddington basin – an area undergoing a £200m regeneration including improvements to the railway station and marina.

Neil Mathieson, the general manager of the hotel, said: "With only 15 minutes to Heathrow, the hotel is closer to the airport than any other city hotel. This is a great benefit to the traveller."