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Queens Hotel, Leeds
City Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK
associated engineer
Oscar Faber
date  1936 - 12th November 1937
UK era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  SE297334
Queens Hotel (now known as The Queens) was constructed for the London Midland & Scottish Railway, and is adjacent to Leeds Station. Now Grade II listed, the hotel's glamorous Art Deco style remains an attraction but the building is also a landmark in building services engineering. It was the first establishment to incorporate many of the features we now take for granted in hotels — en-suite bathrooms, central heating, air conditioning and double glazing.
However, the present building is not the first hotel on this spot. It replaced a Victorian hotel, also called Queens Hotel and constructed in 1861-3. This served rail travellers using Wellington Street Station (1846), Leeds Central Station (1854) and New Station (1869) — all gone — and closed in 1935.
The present hotel is founded on the series of brick vaults that previously supported the three stations and associated railway buildings, including the Mill Goyt culvert that passes west under the concourse to join the River Aire. The terminus station Leeds City was built in 1938 and combined parts of the original Wellington Street Station and New Station with a new north concourse, but in 1963 was demolished and rebuilt as the current Leeds Station.
The hotel's site, between the main rail terminus and a power station (now demolished), and surrounded by cobbled streets, made double glazing and proper ventilation essential. The open coal fires used for heating in the previous building were rejected in favour of a mechanical ventilation system designed by engineer Oscar Faber that served all rooms with filtered air.
Architects William Curtis Green, who had designed the Dorchester Hotel in London (1930-1) with engineer Sir Owen Williams, and William Hamlyn, the London Midland & Scottish Railway’s Chief Architect, specified en-suite bathrooms in all bedrooms — making this the first British hotel with such facilities.
The steel frame building is clad in brick and stone, faced with white Portland stone ashlar blocks. It is eight stories high, incorporating two mezzanines and an attic. The front facade is symmetrical, with 17 central bays flanked by three projecting bays at either end. The central entrance is signalled by a balcony.
Stairwells are located in bays four and 14 and feature full-height windows above third floor level. Access directly to the station is provided at ground level at the eastern end via passageway for vehicles supported on three drum columns. Interior architectural details include a barrel-vault in the entrance hall. The lift doors and stair banisters are of brass. The conference room was lined with panels of goatskin as an acoustic measure.
On the day the hotel was opened by Henry lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood — 12th November 1937 — a single room cost 10 shillings and sixpence a night — or less than £18 today. The whole hotel cost some £500,000 to build. British Transport Hotels owned the building between 1948 and 1981, when it passed to the Forte Group, who were taken over by Granada in 1996. It was heritage listed in 1981.
Quintessential (Q) Hotels bought it in 2003 and restored it at a cost of £10.5m. The work retained many of the original features, as well as upgrading the facilities. The former French dining room, grill room and brasserie were converted into a ballroom with various additional function and conference rooms. A new restaurant was built on the lower ground floor. A glazed and lighted ceiling cupola was cut into the existing flat roof of the Palm Court to give the impression of daylight.
Architects: William Curtis Green and William H. Hamlyn
Architect (2003): Scott Brownrigg and Ransley Interiors
Research: ECPK

Queens Hotel, Leeds