Report - - Driscoll House, London - 30/9/2007 | Other Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

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


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
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


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/TextOnly/DisplayTemplate.aspx?mode=NewsArticle&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.
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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Re: Driscoll House, London - Report 30/9/2007

Main Entrance


Rear Courtyard


Main Staircase, from Lower Ground to Reception


Main Staircase, from Top Floor


Main Staircase, viewed from upper floor corridor



28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Re: Driscoll House, London - Report 30/9/2007

Enamel Signage, Main Stairwell


Upper Floor Corridor


Detail, South Stairwell


Detail, Upper Floor Bathrom


Enamel Signage, Upper Floor Corridor


Calendar, from 'women only' period



28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Re: Driscoll House, London - Report 30/9/2007

Reception Office


Fuse Cabinets, Reception Office


Detail, Reception Office


Sinks & Washboards, Laundry


Drying Cabinet, Laundry

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
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


External religious decoration remains. Mosaic, West Face


Photograph of Terry Driscoll giving a speech in Driscoll House


Visitor's Immigration Card



28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Re: Driscoll House, London - Report 30/9/2007

Detail, Unidentified Wood Panelled Room, Lower Ground


Menu & Serving Hatch


Aga cookers, Kitchen


Detail, The BBC1 Room


The BBC1 Room


The ITV Room



28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
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.


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