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Report - Driscoll House, London - 30/9/2007

Discussion in 'Other Sites' started by paulo999, Oct 1, 2007.

  1. paulo999

    paulo999 28DL Regular User
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    Visited with Payno. The only way I can beat her shots now is to post first!

    There are alot of words here, but trust me, there's also alot of photos to follow. :thumb

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    Driscoll House first opened as Ada Lewis House in 1913 - named after the widow of philanthropist Samuel Lewis. Like the nearby London Park Hotel - it provided low cost accomodation for working adults. At London Park, men, and at Ada Lewis women.

    In 1965 Terry Driscoll, an engineer and founder of the curiously named International Language Club, bought the building and began an institution that would live on long past it's sell by date.

    Initially he set out to follow the original aims of the institution, to accomodate women. In one of the bathrooms on the third floor, lies a calendar. "Driscoll House - THe Ladies Hotel", dated 1970. Some years later he opened his doors to both men and women. The only bias - albeit an unwritten one - was that international visitors were preferred.

    Driscoll, it seemed, had a passion about bringing together people from different countries. Especially those who could not otherwise afford short term accommodation in one of the world's most expensive cities. A room cost £150 per week. But it was more than just the room - breakfast and dinner were included, and at the weekends there was lunch provided too. If the only money you had was your rent, Driscoll House would make sure you survived. Long term elderly residents paid even less. And in summer, Driscoll would sponsor and house Russian children to come and stay to learn English.

    The facilities were spartan. 200 rooms, mostly just a single bed, sink, a wardrobe and a chest of drawers - with communal baths and toilets at the end of each corridor. Downstairs, there were two dining rooms, four TV rooms, eight pianos(!), the kitchen, and a laundry where residents could hand wash in large sinks and use the old mangle. In reception they sold small items like chocolate, and postcards - even some featuring pictures of Terry Driscoll himself. Odd though that may seem, Terry Driscoll was pivotal to the hotel - in many more ways than simply being the owner.

    On Sundays he would prepare a speech to give a lunchtime, announcing events in London, news from previous residents, and perhaps his own views on world affairs. Every Christmas he would dress up as santa and hand out presents.

    This quirky culture and routine remained unchanged for nearly forty years. On the local forum site, www.london-se1.com, one visitor noted: "There have literally been no changes made to the inside of this building; its like walking on to a movie set in 1910". The green and red tiled walls, enamelled signage showing bedroom numbers, the reception office with it's steel framed window panes. With the exception of adding smoke alarms, almost nothing in Driscoll House was ever modernised, since it was built in 1913.

    But despite such an austere environment, many residents seemed to adore the hotel and forgive it's faults. "one of the things that would bring me back to Driscoll House was its amazing cast of characters", said the same visitor. Another wrote:

    Terry Driscoll had build a quirky little community of visitors, many of whom would send letters of appreciation after returning home. For other visitors it would be their first foothold in London. A safe place to stay, to share experiences with other people in the same boat, and ultimately find work and start a new life.

    For some, it wasn't a means to an end - it was their life. Driscoll House had it's share of long term residents, including one woman who was believed to have been there for fifty years.

    In the later years though, the hotel was showing it's age. Competition opened up in the area - student hostels with late bars, club nights, and good times for all. At Driscoll House the numbers dwindled, and with it the community atmosphere that the hotel was known for.

    In November 2005, aged 93, he was fined £16,000 for breaching food hygeine regulations. He told the court he'd sold Driscoll House for more than £1m.

    From the sale came a planning application - for the "redevelopment" of Driscoll House. Many residents assumed this meant a conversion. In reality, the plan was for Driscoll House was to be demolished, to make way for key worker housing. Some locals were shocked.

    At this point, it appeared to be game over. Driscoll would retire, and a unique local building would be lost, along with the opportunities it offered so many visitors. It seemed unlikely that - with London's desperate need for affordable housing - Driscoll House would survive. And despite it's local fans, the slightly sinister Baroque styling wasn't to everyone's taste. "It's like something the munsters would live in" said one resident.

    Almost out of the blue, after some relatively low level lobbying, Southwark Council refused the planning application in December 2005. Four months later, the lobby group filed an application for listing status - which was finally granted in December 2006.

    Even before the listing though, Terry Driscoll had a change of heart. He would keep Driscoll house open for three more years. The hotel would have a last lease of life in it's original guise and purpose, set to finally close in 2009, nearly forty five years after his original purchase.

    Despite his advancing years, Driscoll was enduring presence - he continued to work in the hotel, and it continued to function as it always had. In April this year, he celebrated his 95th birthday in the hotel.

    It was to be his last. In June, Terry Driscoll fell ill and died in hospital shortly after.

    Driscoll appeared to be a deeply religious man - the common areas of the hotel were adorned with religious iconography - and in keeping with this and his status in the community, his funeral was held at Southwark Cathedral. At the service, the Dean of Southwark highlighted Christ's words: "'In my house there are many dwelling-places", in reference to Driscoll's work over the years.

    Local MP Simon Hughes said "Terence Driscoll was a larger than life individual, who ran a unique sort of hotel for many years in our borough. Many people from all over the world will miss him and certainly there will not be his sort of gentleman active in public life in Southwark again.

    Despite the plan to remain open until 2009 - without Terence Driscoll - it seemed - there could be no Driscoll House.

    The weekend after the funeral, Driscoll House closed.

    Many months later, with almost no artefacts left following a clearance auction, snapshots of Mr Driscoll can still be found on a wall inside Driscoll House.


    Sources & Links:

    Driscoll House, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driscoll_House

    Fined, Food Hygeine: http://www.southwark.gov.uk/Public/...ewsArticle&articleId=14916&dbLocation=0,3,300

    Funeral: http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/2803

    Redevelopment: http://www.hamilton-assoc.com/projects/project-89/

    Acknowledgment to "Andrew.H" of www.london-se1.co.uk, author of the wikipedia article.
     
    #1 paulo999, Oct 1, 2007
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2007

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  2. paulo999

    paulo999 28DL Regular User
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    Re: Driscoll House, London - Report 30/9/2007

    Main Entrance

    1466057075_cb5a91cbf6.jpg

    Rear Courtyard

    1466846760_8a3b9d6460.jpg

    Main Staircase, from Lower Ground to Reception

    1466859966_da8912a5e7.jpg

    Main Staircase, from Top Floor

    1464532337_bfd3c5de15.jpg

    Main Staircase, viewed from upper floor corridor

    1465938377_d748163203.jpg
     
  3. paulo999

    paulo999 28DL Regular User
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    Re: Driscoll House, London - Report 30/9/2007

    Enamel Signage, Main Stairwell

    1465274114_608536eded.jpg

    Upper Floor Corridor

    1464407787_e1f4da612b.jpg

    Detail, South Stairwell

    1465258686_1462061712.jpg

    Detail, Upper Floor Bathrom

    1465467960_89e85471f1.jpg

    Enamel Signage, Upper Floor Corridor

    1464592627_b826891078.jpg

    Calendar, from 'women only' period

    1464388601_145c64e7d4.jpg
     
  4. paulo999

    paulo999 28DL Regular User
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    Re: Driscoll House, London - Report 30/9/2007

    Reception Office

    1465945657_bfdba23b50.jpg

    Fuse Cabinets, Reception Office

    1466802706_ef99ab7301.jpg

    Detail, Reception Office

    1466817544_fd4e9b57d2.jpg

    Sinks & Washboards, Laundry

    1466026985_7b9336caec.jpg

    Drying Cabinet, Laundry

    1466032207_10346aa274.jpg
     
    #4 paulo999, Oct 1, 2007
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2007
  5. paulo999

    paulo999 28DL Regular User
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    Re: Driscoll House, London - Report 30/9/2007

    Rear Hallway, Lower Ground

    Before closing, the common areas had a large number of religious artefacts and pictures. A few remain

    1466035855_c9065968bd.jpg

    External religious decoration remains. Mosaic, West Face

    1466785534_e50b2402e5.jpg

    Photograph of Terry Driscoll giving a speech in Driscoll House

    1465941263_f6b93ebc25.jpg

    Visitor's Immigration Card

    1464630793_a946084a14.jpg
     
  6. paulo999

    paulo999 28DL Regular User
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    Re: Driscoll House, London - Report 30/9/2007

    Detail, Unidentified Wood Panelled Room, Lower Ground

    1466870226_dede586d3b.jpg

    Menu & Serving Hatch

    1466852158_696d6ed435.jpg

    Aga cookers, Kitchen

    1466892448_40ea245bb0.jpg

    Detail, The BBC1 Room

    1465975129_5f012859dc.jpg

    The BBC1 Room

    1465970815_58aca553cd.jpg

    The ITV Room

    1465979923_62c0a7bf0a.jpg
     
  7. paulo999

    paulo999 28DL Regular User
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    Re: Driscoll House, London - Report 30/9/2007

    On the opposite wall were cards from past residents, along with pictures of the hotel and recent events.

    1469679621_ea64cd0a01.jpg
     
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