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1880 – Palace Hotel & Hydropathic Establishment, Southport, Lancashire

Architect: Mangnall & Littlewood

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Developed by the Southport Hotel Company (funded mainly by Manchester merchants), the Birkdale Palace Hotel was built on a 20 acre site fronting the Birkdale shore. The 200ft long luxurious hotel opened in 1866 at a cost of £60,000 and was a very grandiose building, having magnificent reception rooms and 75 bedrooms.

A long standing rumour was that the hotel had been built the wrong way round, so instead of the hotel front facing out to sea, it faced inland. It was also said that the architect, William Mangnall of Mangnall & Littlewood then committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the building. Unfortunately for lovers of ghost stories, research has revealed that there is no evidence that the hotel was built the wrong way round and William Mangnall actually died of consumption at Lord Street, Southport, two years after the hotel was opened.

In 1881 the hotel was completely refurbished and the grounds were reduced to five acres, as the hotel had previously gone into liquidation. A variety of baths were installed, a pipe built to draw in salt water from the sea and an elevator installed to all floors. It re-opened with over 60 staff, as a Hydropathic establishment. Later, electric lighting was installed, produced by a steam driven generator. The hotel was still in use up until the 1960s, when its final owners, Heddon Hotels, went into liquidation and were wound up in 1967. The hotel was demolished in 1969.

“The directors of the Palace Hotel Company, Southport, Lancashire, have taken powers to add a hydropathic establishment to the hotel, and have given their architects, Messrs. Mangnall and Littlewoods, of Manchester, instructions to erect baths on a magnificent scale, and superior to any hydropathic establishment now in existence. The foundations for the work were completed in June, and contracts for the superstructure were let to Mr. Bridge, con- tractor, Southport, in July, and it is expected his contract will be completed in six months from that date. The new wing will be on the north-east side of the present building, and co- extensive with the present frontage, and will consist of a new dining-room, capable of dining ISO persons — the present dining-room will be converted into a coffee-room. Also a large handsome room, SOft. long by 40ft. in width and 26ft. in height, will be erected for recreation purposes, and to be used also as a promenade, similar to the large thermal establishments on the Continent. It will also be used as a concert room and theatre, and will seat 600 persons comfortably ; at one end a platform will be erected, to be occasionally used as a stage. There wiU be eight baths for ladies and the same number for gentlemen. Six of these, in each case, wUl be constructed with marble and tiles, on the tank principle, with double dressing rooms and all other conveniences, similar to the last new baths at Buxton ; each will be supplied with hot and cold, sea and fresh water, and will be fitted with douche and shower-bath to each. In addition to these baths, there will be medicated-baths, where the various German waters, similar to Homhurgh and Weisbaden, will be applied ; there will also be a room fitted up for inhaling medicated vapours.

There wUl also be ascending and descending wave and spray-douches, sitz-vapour, and Russian-baths, and the Turkish-baths will be the most complete in the kingdom ; there will be two hot-rooms, and a sea-water plunge-bath connecting the same with the cooling and dressing-rooms to accommodate 20 visitors at one time. These will be luxuriously fitted with marble and tiles, and have coloured glass in the ceilings. All the rooms will be specially well ventilated, and heated by the circulation of hot-water. Machinery will be put down for pumping sea-water ; with the application of settling-tanks and filter- beds, a sufficient quantity of sea-water will he obtained, so that it can be supplied for other purposes if required. There will also be erected in conjunction with the hotel, but approached from Weld-road, a refreshment cafe, with separate rooms and entrances for excursionists. The building will accommodate 130 to 140 visitors. The new buildings will have a parallel frontage with the present building, and are designed in keeping with the present hotel, and will be constructed chiefly of ornamental brickwork, stone being introduced for strings and cornices, &c. The cafe will have overhanging-eaves, and be of appropriate design, similar to the cafes met with on the Continent. The works will be pushed on as quickly as possible, for use during the next season. In the mean time, the hotel is under the able management of Mr. Frederick Ferris Baker, who so successfully conducted the Victoria Hotel, at Southport, for several years.” Published in The Building News, August 27, 1880.