OLIVER P. BERNARD: THE MAN WHO PUT THE STRAND PALACE HOTEL FIRMLY ON THE MAP

The Strand Palace Hotel is famous for many different reasons, from its iconic exterior and innovations such as opening London’s first hotel Carvery, to its rich and vibrant history. But perhaps it was the magnificent Art Deco renovation in 1929, designed by well-travelled architect and designer, Oliver P. Bernard that really put the Strand Palace Hotel well and truly on the map.

Born in Camberwell, south London on the 8th April 1881, Oliver Bernard was the son of Charles Bernard, a theatre manager, and his wife Annie Allen, an actress. Having spent an unhappy childhood in London, he left for Manchester following the death of his father in 1894 to take a job as a stagehand in a theatre. He educated himself by reading John Locke, John Ruskin and other such enlightened philosophers and thinkers of the time.

The next job Oliver took was cabin-boy on a Norwegian barque. He sailed twice to Montreal before finally settling in London once again to begin his apprenticeship as a Scenic Painter’s Apprentice, training under renowned Scenic Artist, Walter Hann. Then in 1905, he travelled to New York, where he worked with Klaw & Erlanger Theatre Production Company, climbing his way up through the ranks to become Principal Scenic Artist, before returning to London in 1912, to become Scenic Director of the Quinlan Opera Company. His extensive experience in theatrical set design paid off when in 1914, Oliver was commissioned to carry out design work at the Royal Opera House in London’s Convent Garden.

In 1916 Bernard enlisted into the Royal Engineers, serving for three years in war torn France and Belgium during World War I and earning himself both a Military Cross and an OBE. Following the end of World War I, Oliver realised that his passion was still very much in the field of design and as he began taking an interest in industrial design and trade, he left the drama of the theatrical world and started consulting for the Board of Overseas Trade and the British Government. It was during this time that Oliver got the opportunity that he had long been waiting for, when he successfully procured a position as consultant artistic director to catering company, J. Lyons & Co., defining much of their later house style and designing interiors for their Oxford Street, Coventry Street and Strand ‘Corner Houses’.

Strand Palace Hotel Foyer

The Strand Palace Hotel entrance and foyer

Meanwhile 20th century Britain was going through some huge changes in fashion, architecture and film and soon the Art Deco movement was influencing world-renowned hotels such as the Savoy, Claridges and the Sheraton on Park Lane. Inspired by both Art Nouveau and Futurism, the straight edge shapes and block colours became hugely popular in the 20’s and 30’s. It was a machine age style, which utilised the innovations of the times such as plastics, chrome and aluminium. At a time of economic depression and the approach of war there was a desire for escapism.
But few Art Deco buildings could match Oliver P. Bernard’s spectacular design that established the Strand Palace Hotel as one of the most powerful examples of the Art Deco movement and one of the most celebrated hotel interiors in London.

Greatly influenced by his background in theatre and his experiences abroad, Oliver designed and built a stunning foyer using traditional and new materials making innovative use of glass and lighting. The walls were clad with pale pink marble and the floor with limestone, which accentuated the kaleidoscope of light reflecting from the surrounding balustrades and columns. The balustrades, columns and door surrounds were made of translucent moulded glass, chromed steel and mirrored glass that teased the light to create a futuristic feel with the use of basic diamond shapes.

The design was so uniquely brilliant that when the foyer was refurbished in 1969, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London rescued what was discarded, including the incredible revolving doors that had put both Oliver P. Bernard and the Strand Palace Hotel on the map. When he died in 1939, aged 58, the Strand Palace remained his greatest achievement.

Although the famous revolving doors and hotel foyer have disappeared, you can still view the wonderful skill and talent of Oliver P. Bernard if you are visiting the hotel today. As you descend into the lower ground floor of the hotel to the conference rooms, you will be stunned by the magnificent Art Deco staircase and its surrounding details including the unique English Heritage listed rest rooms.

Strand Palace Hotel Revolving door

The famous revolving doors of The Strand Palace Hotel

If you enjoyed this particular story, you are bound to love our next blog on the Strand Palace Hotel during the war. So do pop back next week for more news on our fabulous history!

West End Show of the Month – May

Located within easy walking distance of the West End, our team at Strand Palace know a thing or two about theatre and about the fabulous range of shows currently running in London. Each month, we pick one of our favourite productions playing nearby and give you some advice on visiting London’s famous Theatreland. 

This month… The Commitments

About the Show

1980s Ireland isn’t exactly a breeding ground for soul music. However, this does not deter the show’s main protagonist Jimmy Rabbitte, who is trying to form a group of soul musicians that will rival the American greats. After assembling a ragtag crew, Jimmy chooses The Commitments as their name and gets to work trying to secure fame and fortune for the Dublin gang.

Based on the celebrated novel of the same name by Roddy Doyle, The Commitments has previously been transformed into a well-received Irish film. Now Roddy Doyle’s script is being directed by Jamie Lloyd at the Palace Theatre.

Insider Tips

The Palace Theatre is just over ten minutes’ walk from Strand Palace Hotel. Make the most out of your stay with us and heed these handy theatre tips:

Dig out your soul collection before going! Try A Little Tenderness and Mustang Sally are just some of the classics you will tapping your foot to on the night of the show.

The Stalls, Dress Circle, Grand Circle and balcony all have their own bars, making it simple to get a drink during the interval.

London Theatreland says the show is for those aged 12 and up, so leave younger children behind and make your trip to the theatre a date night or a night out with the teenagers.

Speak to our concierge for advice and deals on theatre tickets and we will do our best to find you some great seats.

Before and After

There are plenty of bars and restaurants near the Palace Theatre as well as in-house dining options here at Strand Palace Hotel to enjoy before your night out in the West End. Have afternoon tea in our Lounge Bar before the big performance, fill up on delicious Indian dishes at Dawaat or indulge in some succulent cuts of meat at the Strand Carvery. After the show, return to Strand Palace for night cap in our opulent Mask Bar and chat about your favourite moments from the evening’s performance.

Need a hotel near the Palace Theatre? Strand Palace Hotel is just a short walk away from the venue and has plenty to keep you entertained on its premises.

Where to Watch the London Marathon This Weekend

Whether you are cheering on friends and family or just want to spot a few of the ridiculous costumes, the London Marathon is a must-see. Ever since the first race was held in 1981, it has been one of the most popular events in the London calendar and is always great to catch on television – and even better in person.

This Saturday, 35,000 people will be taking part in the 26-mile race, but if you fancy something a little more sedate, you can watch from the sidelines or drink to the runners’ good health in one of the pubs close to the course.

The London Marathon begins in Greenwich Park and ends on the Mall – just a short walk from Strand Palace. But there are lots of great places to watch between these two points. As a hotel near the race route, we’re pretty well acquainted with the ways of the London Marathon, so we’re offering you some advice on how best to spend the day.

Canary Wharf

The business hub of Canary Wharf hosts the runners as they tackle miles 15 through to 19, so by this stage, the sweat will be pouring and the competition will be heating up. After showing your solidarity from the sidelines, stop at Tom’s Kitchen for a hearty brunch to keep you going throughout the day. Runners are told to keep hydrated but it is important for spectators too, so get a drink from its diverse bar menu. If you are staying at Strand Palace Hotel, Canary Wharf is only about half-an-hour away on the Tube.

Tower Bridge

Some of the most sought-after spots for spectators are those here on London’s famous Tower Bridge. The image of runners crossing the iconic bridge is a spectacular sight, and they pass by here twice. But this area is notoriously crowded, so be prepared to jostle with other spectators for a prime viewing position.  Just south of Tower Bridge, you’ll find the Draft House pub close to the route. Pop in for pub grub and a beer after battling the marathon crowds. If you’re travelling here from Strand Palace Hotel, take the Tube from Embankment station to Tower Hill.

Victoria Embankment

If you’re staying at Strand Palace Hotel and want to avoid congested public transport on the day, just make the five-minute walk down to Victoria Embankment, where you can see the penultimate mile of the race. After cheering on the runners for the home stretch, unwind at nearby Gordon’s Wine Bar, which lays claim to being the oldest wine bar in London. Candles are the order of the day in this establishment, making it an intimate setting in contrast to the busy streets on marathon day.

Need a hotel near the London Marathon? Choose Strand Palace Hotel and enjoy easy access to the race route and the best pubs and restaurants along the way.

WITH YOU ALL THE WAY

The Strand Palace Hotel is committed to supporting London’s most iconic sporting challenge as well as one of the UK’s most deserving charities, Parkinson’s UK.
It is now less than 24 hours until more than 36,000 runners take on the Virgin Money London Marathon, one of the largest and most prestigious marathon races in the world. Combining elite athletics, mass participation and record-breaking fundraising into one race, the course passes through the streets of London from Blackheath to the famous finish line at The Mall.
For the past ten years, the Strand Palace Hotel has welcomed over 300 wonderful individuals who run the marathon to raise funds for leading charity, Parkinson’s UK. What they eat and drink is as important to the participants’ run around the gruelling 26.2 mile course as the marathon itself and subsequent recovery in the days after the race.

The hotel has provided complimentary rooms for post recovery showers and deep tissue massages for marathon runners battling the physical and mental fatigue that can take over at the end of the race. Scientific studies have proven that cold showers subjecting legs to 10-15 minutes of cooler temperatures helps the body recover from the micro trauma of pushing your threshold pace.
The first hour or so after exercise is also crucial for recovery fuel. The enzymes that convert carbohydrate to glycogen are primed for action, and muscles extract blood sugar from the bloodstream so refuelling is crucial. One of the many reasons why the hotel’s post-race pasta buffet lunch goes down so well with all of those running for Parkinson’s UK!
As part of their commitment to supporting London’s iconic sporting challenge and one of the UK’s most deserving charities, the Strand Palace Hotel is offering a prize gift of overnight accommodation with breakfast.
Whether you are running, walking or cheering from the sidelines, the Strand Palace Hotel wishes everyone good luck and all the best for Sunday!

Preview: The Business Show at the Excel

Budding business owners and established entrepreneurs will want to get down to the Excel Exhibition Centre on 13 and 14 May for The Business Show. If you are in the business world – or want to be – and are looking for inspiration, as well as advice on how to grow your business, this two-day event can help. With more than 250 seminars and 170 workshops taking place, you are sure to learn a thing or two. 

Whether you are visiting London for the event or just want to find out more about it, here is a preview of what you can expect.

Angels Den and Tweet Meet

Does that all sound like gobbledegook? The modern world of business is constantly changing, but luckily this exhibition can get you up to speed and even help you find new opportunities for growth. 

Take a look at the Angels Den, for example. Sponsors Angels Den are laying on an event in which plucky business people will have the chance to present their idea to angel investors. The angels – individuals with money to burn, who are interested in investing in a start-up – will listen to pitches from several entrepreneurs. You can send in an application to present your own plan, or just observe others in action.

The online world plays an increasingly large role in contemporary business, so it is important to make full use of the opportunities it provides. The Tweet Meet area is designed to help you do just that by connecting with contacts you have already spoken to online and encouraging attendees to build relationships. Check the Twitter feed at the Tweet Meet to find out the latest conference information.

Exhibitors, keynote speakers and masterclasses

The exhibition will also include various exhibitors, seminars and classes. A diverse range of brands will be exhibiting at the Business Show, including the likes of Alibaba.com, who help connect sellers to customers, Zenith Street Limited business consultants and 99designs, a graphic design marketplace.

A host of keynote speakers will also be taking to the stage. Among them will be Brad Burton, one of the country’s top motivational speakers and Charlie Bigham, the man behind Bighams – the upmarket ready meal company whose products have graced the shelves of Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.

In addition to Angels Den and Tweet Meet, other masterclasses will also be presented. Dale Carnegie Training will be there to show you how to energise your team and BusinessesForSale.com will take you through the ins-and-outs of acquiring or selling a business.

Getting to the show

The Excel venue is located near many convenient transport options. It is near both London City Airport and Custom House Dockland Light Railway (DLR) stations. To get to the centre from Strand Palace Hotel, hop on the District Line at Embankment station and change to the DLR at Tower Hill. For more show information, visit the website.

Need a hotel near the Excel Exhibition Centre? Strand Palace Hotel is just a short ride away. We’re also near Covent Garden, South Bank and Soho; ideal for sightseeing, shopping, dining and entertainment after the exhibition.

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