Metropole Hotel Hidden Areas

It’s not clear whether or not the words ‘Norman’ and ‘George’ refer to one or two individuals. The date of the engraving though is certain – ‘1960’. A second inscription, located directly above a huge drop, reads ‘George Johnsto’. Hopefully a George Johnston didn’t falling reaching out for that final ‘n’.

When I wrote about the Metropole Hotel two weeks back, I had no idea that I would get to see its two remaining chimneys up close. Brick and terracotta detailing on the colossal corner flues that only the birds get to see serves as a reminder of this building’s calibre. It was dreadful that AVP industries took control in 1959 and added flats onto the roof. Presumably the letters were carved onto the chimney by those carrying out the work. Incidentally, AVP removed all of the hotel’s other chimneys.

The opulence of the Metropole is legendary yet it’s what happens behind the scenes, in the not so glamorous areas, that fascinates me most. Take the basement for instance (which is reached by a slim set of steps with bright pink walls – a colour chosen by the staff apparently). Of course, there is not a single guest bedroom down below but there is the most complicated array of machinery, pipes and cables imaginable. And it takes years to really get to know this sort of building as I found out from maintenance man David Wilson who was kind enough to show me around.

One interesting hidden spot that the public don’t get to see is a series of rooms beneath the pavement at the front of the building. At that point, I’d long since forgotten which gadgets do what but I do remember glimpsing the largest gas meter imaginable! I also recall shafts in these rooms’ ceilings once served as coal holes. The covers have long since been removed from the pavement above unfortunately.

The country’s first licensed casino opened in 1962 in what was once the Metropole’s chapel. When the conference rooms were added behind the hotel, they were simply wrapped around the chapel. From above, it’s possible to see its grand Victorian roof emerging from amongst the dreary flat roofs and, from the inside, it’s possible to see the ornate original exterior terracotta mouldings within one of the conference centre service corridors.

Many thanks to David for the excellent tour and for being such a great ambassador for the hotel.