Another week in Birmingham, four nights away from home staying in the luxurious environs of The Paragon Hotel, a huge edifice that I liken to The Overlook Hotel from Stanley Kubricks film “The Shining” – no, from outside I know it doesn’t look much like The Overlook, but inside, downstairs in the public areas, those huge high ceilings, the endlessly long corridors so wide that a person could easily drive down in a couple of Range Rovers abreast – I walk down these corridors every morning for breakfast and at every turn of a corner I expect to see that little kid riding his tricycle full pelt toward me.
The Paragon has a past that the current owners are pleased to publicise, a hospital they say, a hospital for the poor opened in 1903 by a Princess no less, and you can certainly believe that its been a hospital in its past, as I write this very piece the ceiling in my bedroom must be at least twenty feet high, the two narrow old wooden sash windows only one foot less high than that, its built in the Gothic style and is a Grade II listed building – sounds nice ?
Just don’t go looking on TripAdvisor for any recommendations is all I’ll say.
In fairness the rooms I have stayed in here have been nothing like those rooms described on TripAdvisor although its common knowledge that if you stay on floor three upwards then you venture into the area of the hotel that has not been refurbished yet, not at all – this is where the stag nights and coach parties get stuffed on weekends when the place is full.
Through the week and perhaps because my company use it regularly I have rooms on floors one or two, the refurbished rooms, and they are fine, clean, cleaned every day, good quality linen, TV and free internet – and a self service breakfast where I go back for third and fourth helpings most days.
And yet I have heard whisperings that the hotels history might not be as grandiose as they like to claim for rather than being a grand gothic hospital for the poor, it was actually a grand hostel for the poor – that is “hostel”, meaning “dosshouse” – yes, I am staying in a former dosshouse.
The full history of the Birmingham Rowton House is here, (some way down that page actually), a place where the homeless and dispossessed could find lodgings in wooden cubicles for 6d a night, clean sheets for 1d extra, food served in its magnificent dining hall, a reading room for those dossers who could read, and a tailor and bootmaker on the premises too, room for 819 men to stay the night and a “Situations Vacant” service for those wishing to seek low paid work in the locality – I’m staying in a workhouse.
Such is life’s great tapestry, I wouldn’t hear of it any other way.