Stepping into the tastefully decorated 29-room, 5-star Batty Langley’s Hotel on a cobbled-stoned street in east London’s historic Spitalfields district is like stepping into the pages of a Charles Dickens novel.
To create a sense of 19th century authenticity, the owners scoured auction houses nationwide to find suitable period furnishings. They succeeded. Immeasurably.
Replica Corinthian columns border the entrance steps and gilt-framed oil portraits adorn the walls of the hotel’s namesake Bartholomew ‘Batty’ Langley, an 18th-century architect, landscape gardener and author, and his wife Catherine as you enter the lobby, with shapely statue lamps atop the reception desk.
Nearby is a book-lined library with floral upholstered armchairs, velvet drapes, a stone fireplace with standing lamps on the mantelpiece. Oil paintings of ships at sea decorate the walls illuminated by plentiful natural light that flows in through a skylight.
Further along the corridor is the ‘Tapestry Room,’ every bit as charming and quaint, hung with 17th century tapestries, entitled ‘The Folly’ and ‘The Fountain.’ It features a large antique book case which doubles as an honesty bar, a vintage collection of smoking pipes and heavy drape curtains.
French doors open onto an elegant private courtyard with a functioning period fountain. At one end of the room is an open fireplace flanked by built-in bookcases. Comfortable sofas and chairs form an ideal breakout space. An antique table with seating for up to six overlooks the courtyard.
An adjoining room features wall-to-wall books (around 3,500, I was told) and comfy armchairs fit for Dickens himself to pen his latest novel at leisure. By coincidence, the home of the iconic English author, where he wrote ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Nicholas Nickleby,’ now a museum, is not too far away.
Many of the rooms at the Batty Langley’s Hotel are named after individuals who lived in the area centuries ago, including including a courtesan, a musician, actress, landlord, painter and master carpenter.
Architecturally, this Georgian hotel, with sister hotels ‘The Rookery’ in Clerkenwell and ‘Hazlitt’s’ in Soho, has been shaped out of two houses originally built in 1724. The former homes of weavers, heavy wooden looms were once housed on the upper floors.
Our upper floor room, named after Sarah Marchant, the wife of a weaver in the late 18th century, was cozy and spacious, with traditional English décor, and reached via a wood-framed elevator. It featured an old-style privy, wash-basin taps shaped like swans, a delightful double shower with brass piping and a television discreetly hidden behind a glass cabinet on the wall. Toiletries are by REN. Interestingly, the wooden backdrop to our bed featured the carved portrait of an unkownn lady.
Not only does the hotel’s setting on cobblestoned Folgate Street resemble a scene from a period drama such as Downton Abbey, it is also a restful place to lay one’s head, especially so for a property in central London with its soaring glass and steel structures nearby in Bishopsgate.
While busy Liverpool Street Station is only a five-minute walk away by foot, the city business district couldn’t feel further away, unless it is a Friday evening, in which case you might find suited brokers, lawyers and entrepreneurs in the popular Water Poet pub opposite the hotel.
While there is no restaurant at the hotel, a small room service menu is available with dishes such as sandwiches and risotto. Breakfast is served in your room on huge wooden trays. We enjoyed smoked salmon bagels with cream cheese, with lemon halves wrapped in muslin. You can also choose bacon baguette, freshly baked pastries, juices, coffee and tea.
While staying at Batty Langley’s don’t miss Dennis Severs’ House a few doors down. The small museum illuminates the history of this corner of London, relating the story of a family who lived at Number 18 for generations.