Records of Dorchester Hotel Ltd, hotel managers, London, England

Scope and Content

  • Register of members c1929-1939
  • Papers relating to share capital, finance and other London hotels 1935-1937
  • General papers relating to Dorchester Hotel Syndicate Ltd, undated

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1929  , Lord Morely put Dorchester House up for sale, situated on the corner of Park Lane and Deanery Street, London, England. Sir Francis Towle, the managing director of Gordon Hotels , saw this as a prime site for a luxury hotel. However, his company was not willing to take on a new development at the time but found backers for their scheme in the form of the Prudential Insurance Co Ltd who were willing to put up £625,000. Towle also approached Sir Malcolm McAlpine, a partner in Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons , civil engineering contractors, London, to whom he offered the construction contract on the condition that Malcolm's company matched Gordon Hotels contribution of £315,000, which Malcolm accepted. Gordon Hotels invited the Prudential and McAlpine to form a new company, the Dorchester House Syndicate Ltd , to take responsibility for the land and construction and management of the new hotel. However, the Prudential added a condition to their loan whereby they would put up no more than £350,000, the cost of purchasing the House, until construction work to the value of £200,000 had been completed. This condition was refused and the Prudential's money withdrawn. However, the same day, Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons agreed to replace the Prudential's loan offer with their own money and found themselves putting nearly £1 million in to a venture in which they had a construction contract worth an estimated £900,000.

The Dorchester House Syndicate Ltd was incorporated ad a limited liability company in August 1929  , with a share capital of £5,000 with 50 percent held by Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons , 40 percent by Gordon Hotels and 10 percent by Towle. The property was purchased by McAlpine on behalf of the Syndicate and after clearing the site building of the reinforced concrete hotel commenced. Following arguments over the design of the building the original architect resigned but the Dorchester Hotel was completed on schedule and opened in April 1931  . However, this was a bad time for the hotel to open as it had to compete with the already established Savoy, Ritz and May Fair, and also the Depression of the 1930s was taking its hold. Gordon Hotels managed the hotel on behalf of the Syndicate but were unable to show a profit and it was 1936 before even a modest profit was made. In 1937  , McAlpine offered Gordon Hotels the option of buying out McAlpine or being bought out by McAlpine. In March of that year, McAlpine took control of the Dorchester and Dorchester Hotel Ltd was registered in July to acquire the business of the Dorchester House Syndicate Ltd .

Through the 1939-1945 World War the Dorchester was considered one of the safest places in London during the bombings due to its reinforced concrete structure, with many government ministers moving into the hotel and even General Eisenhower staying there. Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd retained ownership of the Dorchester until 1976  when it was sold to a consortium of Middle East businessmen.

Russell, Iain F. Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons: The Early Years(Wiltshire, 1988)


The material has been arranged into series as shown in the scope and content. Within series, items are generally arranged chronologically.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Deposit : Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd : 1985

Other Finding Aids

Digital and manual file level lists of the surviving records of Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd, subsidiaries and related companies are available in the searchroom ref: UGD 254

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S) 3111) and London (NRA32523)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures

Custodial History

Held by Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd, Kettering. Transferred to Glasgow University Archive Services in 1985 during the preparation of the company history.


None expected

Related Material

The records of the following Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons companies are held by Glasgow University Archive Services:

GB 248 UGD 254/1 Records of Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd

GB 248 UGD 254/2 Records of Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons (London) Ltd

GB 248 UGD 254/3/1 Records of Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons (Scotland) Ltd

GB 248 UGD 254/3/2 Records of Sir Robert McAlpine Properties (Scotland) Ltd

GB 248 UGD 254/4 Records of Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons (Midlands) Ltd

GB 248 UGD 254/5 Records of Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Ltd

GB 248 UGD 254/6 Records of Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons (Ireland) Ltd

GB 248 UGD 254/7 Records of Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons (Birmingham) Ltd

GB 248 UGD 254/10 Records of Dorchester House Hotel

GB 248 UGD 254/11 Records of Victoria Agency Ltd

GB 248 UGD 254/18 Records of McAlpine Ferro-Concrete Co Ltd

Material in other repositories: no material associated by provenance

Additional Information

This material is original

Compiled by David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, 30 January 2003

No alterations made to date

Geographical Names