*“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”
When Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote this in his historical Italian novel, “The Leopard “, he may just have spared a thought for his travels in Europe in the 1920s and his frequent visits to London and the Great Central Hotel. It is now known as The Landmark- simply step out of the back door of Simply Food on Marylebone Station, as I did yesterday, and you will find yourself beneath its magnificent “Porte cochere”.
Then as now, this architectural feature undiscriminatingly shelters those who arrive from the elements. The advent of the Roaring Twenties saw the inner courtyard transformed into a dance floor. In earlier times, carriages reached the heart of the hotel before their occupants descended in privacy and comfort.
On the 19th March, 1908, one such party arrived direct from Holloway Prison and comprised Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the Suffragettes, and other newly released comrades arriving for a “Welcome Back from Prison” breakfast.
On the 18th October, 1902, the fear of civil unrest was such that police guards were posted outside the hotel’s Wharncliffe Rooms. Inside, 300 people were attending the first service of the Jewish Religious Union. Miss Lily Montagu had laid the groundwork for this by arranging the first meeting of this Union “for the Advancement of Liberal Judaism ” at her sister’s house. She was influenced by the reform-oriented Biblical scholar, Claude Montefiore, and it was he who delivered the address at this inaugural service.