Since 1865, a hotel has stood proudly on this site. Built in 1861 by local architect Augustus Livesay, the hotel was originally known as Southsea House and was constructed as a large private home for Sir John and Lady Morris. The house was situated in an almost identical position to the front half of the existing hotel but was at that time surrounded by woodland – Stone Woods – and the Royal Albert Yacht Club.
In the latter part of the 19th Century, around 1865 during a boom in construction and tourism around Southsea, the house was converted into a hotel by William Kemp Junior. The Queens Hotel became one of the first hotels in Portsmouth, others at the time included Portland Hotel (1847) and The Royal Beach (1866). It was a grand building focusing on leisure and relaxation for the upper classes with suites, in-house staff for guests and access to the private garden, with views across Southsea Common and the Solent that are still enjoyed by guests today.
In 1902, plans for a new hotel were submitted by the owner, G. H. King, after a fire sadly swept through the original building the year before. The new Queens Hotel was to be a much grander, purpose-built hotel with rooms for 63 guests and 33 staff, designed by London based architect, Thomas William Cutler.
The hotel that stands to this day was built in the Edwardian Baroque style, which had been growing increasingly popular as a style for public buildings across the British Empire after 1901.
T.W. Cutler’s designs for the hotel consisted of only the front half of the building we know today; the Lobby, Libby’s, Dukes and the Princess rooms are all that visitors before 1910 would have seen. The main entrance to the hotel would have been on Osborne Road, beneath the ornate carved detailing of the hotel’s name with the two female figures topping the pillars each side of the doors. What is currently used as the main entrance was the second terrace, with stairs that led down to the larger landscaped garden which wrapped around the two sides of the hotel. The designs were grand and lavish with no expense spared. It was designed to make a statement, incorporating carved columns, engravings and details that still exist today, such as the marble pillars supporting the impressive painted-glass dome and the maritime paintings below. These features demonstrate the level of grandeur and luxury invested in the hotel at the time and give an indication of the type of guest that would have stayed.
Portsmouth’s principal hotel and Southsea’s crowning jewel opened its doors once more on 19 May 1904 to grand fanfare and public celebration, being described by the Portsmouth News as a ‘Residential Palace which is certainly a credit to the town’.
The hotel’s popularity grew within its new grander building and in 1909 it was decided the building would be extended to accommodate more guests. Sadly, the original architect, T.W. Cutler, passed away in 1909 and so the established London practice, Sir Arthur Blomfield and Sons, were hired to take on the extension work. The new designs saw the hotel almost double in size but continued to use Cutler’s style to preserve the overall language of the building, while making slight adjustments and modifications to enable Blomfield and Sons to put their own ‘stamp’ on the building. This means that many people today cannot tell the difference between the two halves of the building. There is, however, several small clues hidden around the hotel that hint at the history of the structure. The extension was completed in 1910.
The hotel has also hosted a number of famous guests over the years. These include: former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson, who filmed two episodes of Mr. Bean in Portsmouth in 1992, including one in the hotel itself – ‘Mr. Bean in Room 426’ and, more recently, the actress Joan Collins, who filmed scenes for her movie ‘The Time of Their Lives’ in the Elizabeth Ballroom. Other notable guests include: General Eisenhower, Beatrix Potter, King George V and Queen Elizabeth I, the Queen Mother.
Over the years, the hotel has changed ownership several times and as fashions and styles have changed, many of the original features have been lost or covered through the various makeovers she has seen.
Celebrating its 115th anniversary in 2018, the Queens Hotel has continued to remain a local landmark in Portsmouth since its reconstruction in 1903. Its prominent location on the corner of Southsea Common coupled with its standout design makes the hotel a key feature of Southsea’s urban landscape and a building that is loved by so many.