History at The Athenaeum : Dawn Geddes
This months Mayfair Insider series features Freelance Journalist Dawn Geddes, who tells of her family stay at The Athenaeum
19th March 2018
Before it was a hotel, The Athenaeum was an illustrious mansion called Hope House, named after the Member of Parliament, Henry Hope. None other than Charles Dickens – author of Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol and The Old Curiosity Shop and as much a literary icon today as back then – loved the mansion for its extravagant interiors. Such an accolade was just the start of the celebrity endorsements The Athenaeum has received ever since.
Over the years, Hope House became the home of the Junior Athenaeum Club and later, a luxurious Art Deco apartment block. It first became a hotel in the 1970s, created by British entertainment group, The Rank Organisation. The purpose of the iconic hotel this group created was to accommodate movie stars whenever they were filming at the famous Pinewood and Ealing Studios in London. This was when the showbiz credentials of The Athenaeum were truly established.
During this time, it wasn’t uncommon for hotel staff to spot the likes of Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, several Bond girls, Cary Grant and Joan Collins in the hotel. Over the years, Elizabeth Taylor enjoyed drinking champagne at the hotel bar. Steven Spielberg created an editing suite within one of The Athenaeum’s residences when he was working on E.T., Close Encounters and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Boy band Take That famously announced they were splitting up from the penthouse of The Athenaeum. And in a rather bold move, the executive manager of The Athenaeum once gently scolded Russell Crowe for leaving his room untidy!
This executive manager had some star quality of her own. Sally Bulloch was a former child actor, having starred in The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s. She went on to become the nanny for actor and comedian Peter Cook’s children, through whom she had met stars such as Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Her brother – Robert Watts – was also a movie producer who worked on Star Wars and the first three Indiana Jones films. Needless to say, given the Russell Crowe incident, she wasn’t intimidated by celebrities! There are various tales of her enjoying drinks in the hotel bar with the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Dionne Warwick, Harrison Ford, Sandra Bullock and Warren Beatty. It’s not just movie stars who have stayed at The Athenaeum either. Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher were both guests at different points in time.
The legacy of The Athenaeum being a celebrity haunt has continued to the modern day. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West stayed in The Penthouse at The Athenaeum in 2012. Recent visitors also include Christian Bale, Samuel L Jackson, Natalie Portman and Harry Styles, to namedrop but a few!
Our history, address and private accommodation options have made The Athenaeum an incredibly sought-after hotel over the decades. We’re proud of the vibrant, respected and talented guests who have called The Athenaeum ‘home’ for a while. It’s a fact: The Athenaeum and showbiz go hand-in-hand.SEE ACCOMMODATION
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