This extrovert building was put up in Langham Street in 1901, at the very end of Victoria ‘s reign, as a Nurses Home. It was designed by A.E. Thompson and developed by Baron Howard De Walden at the behest of his mother who was patron of the project. Lady Howard De Walden enlisted the help of Florence Nightingale in the design of the building and Florence was “anxious to have the Nurses Home as nearly perfect as a building can be.”
Baron Howard De Walden is a title of peerage Created in 1597 by Elizabeth I for a member of the Duke of Norfolk’s family (who had provided Catherine Howard as Henry VIII’s short-lived fifth wife who he later beheaded). The 8th Baron who held the title when this building was erected was T.E. Tommy Ellis who led a colourful life. Not only an exceptionally wealthy landowner he was also a playwright, learnt to speak Welsh, a powerboat racer who competed for Great Britain in the 1908 Olympics and also had a 23 year legal dispute with John Lewis of the famous shop. Ellis was his landlord.
(The Howard De Walden title comes these days with a £4bn fortune. It has not stopped the current heir apparent Peter Czernin from developing a successful career as a film producer including The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)
The black and cream tiled exterior of the building remains in tact but the interior has changed its function over the years, from Nurses Home to a period as the Langham Street Clinic, which was London’s biggest abortion clinic in the 1970’s and the scene of many anti-abortion protests, and eventually the stylish hotel – the Langham Court Hotel – it is today.
Not everybody likes it though. It was described as “a neo-Gothic hygienic aberration” by the architectural critic Nikolaus Pevsner.