For most Londoners, the Charing Cross Hotel is an afterthought to the station it sits atop, something used by visitors to London rather than the suburban commuters who use the station on a daily basis. Yet it's been there for as long as the station itself, is Grade II listed, and was designed by EM Barry, son of Sir Charles (who was responsible for rebuilding the House of Commons).
Fair to say its got a bit of history then — and it shares that history on its walls in a mini-museum on the first floor.
It's not officially advertised as a museum. Actually, it's not officially advertised at all — it's more of a display located in a first floor corridor. We discovered it back in 2017 when we sneaked into the hotel to try to identify the origins of that mysterious Villiers Street footbridge, but we've now been back to have another look.
First up is this lovely vintage-style poster advertising the hotel, which reminds us of those old-fashioned London Underground posters. The date isn't clear, but that tobacco and sweets kiosk outside was one of several demolished in 1958, according to an information board further along the corridor.
Then there's this menu from the hotel restaurant. The date isn't known, but it's in shillings and pence (and English and French, suggesting the hotel catered to a large French contingency).
This floor plan shows the third floor, and was actually drawn up when a new heating system was installed in the 1950s, before the extension across Villiers Street (accessed by that footbridge) was added.
Here's another picture of that exterior, this time showing what the hotel looked like when first built in 1864. It's a shame those turret-y tops are no more:
It's tough work designing a hotel. Planning goes into every last detail, including the furniture to go in the rooms. We wonder if these desks are still in use today.
The history of the immediate area is also addressed, with this image of the Eleanor Cross, a monument you probably recognise from the forecourt outside the station
Here's a floorplan of the adjoining Charing Cross station, back in the days when a station restaurant was more than a branch of Burger King:
But wait, what's that in the top corner? Apparently the station had its own beer cellar, something we firmly believe every station should still have.
A word of warning: the hotel is rather swish inside (it's a 4*), but it's a different kind of swish than the outside would have you believe; gone are the traditional interiors and instead it's very modern and purple. Very purple. It's an acquired taste...
Amba Hotel Charing Cross, The Strand, WC2N 5HX. Why not have a look next time your train is delayed? Go through reception, up the staircase to the right, when you get to the first floor, head left towards the restaurant, but turn right before you get there.