Yesterday’s Charm, Today’s Heritage

Boutique hotels like Malmaison Oxford and Hotel du Vin Bristol are defining a new era with their repurposed buildings and rich history.

When a sugar house and clay pipes manufacturing centre became defunct, it wasn’t quite imaginable that almost 300 years later, it could be transformed into a trendy boutique hotel – Hotel du Vin Bristol, City Centre.

The trendy boutique hotel of Hotel du Vin Bristol, City CentreImage Credit: @hotelduvinbristol

From sugar house to trendy boutique hotel

The 18th-century row of warehouses, located close to Bristol’s renovated docklands, is now a hot property in urban-industrial retrofits comprising 40 rooms. While it’s easy to get rid of structures that have fallen into disrepair, it is more challenging to update them for contemporary purposes, especially for luxury spaces like hotels.

What made the refurbishment even more challenging that the structure was previously used as a sugar house – the contamination from chemicals had to be addressed before preservation could even begin – and then also made derelict and abandoned for over 12 years, adding time to the reconstruction process.

Bistro at Hotel du Vin Bristol, City CentreThe rustic Bistro at Hotel du Vin Bristol, City Centre

Restoring a prison

On the other hand, the group’s Malmaison Oxford property – a prison till 1976, and then a storage facility – was restored between 2004 and 2006, but not without its own set of surprising challenges: Archaeological discoveries!

Each find had to be logged and catalogued with the local museums, and careful planning had to be considered to maximise architectural features and incorporate these into the revamped design of the building.

A former prison is preserved in Malmaison OxfordThe main structure of the former prison is preserved in Malmaison Oxford

Items such as the original cell doors and prison bars were maintained, though the cells have been combined to form spacious bedrooms.

But the restoration and refurbishment of such buildings is not just confined to its walls – any undertaking to preserve such old spaces also has an impact on the surroundings.

A luxurious room at Malmaison Oxford that was once a prison cellWho would have guessed this luxurious room was once a prison cell?

Making a positive difference 

With the close work between the hotel, authorities and heritage conservation societies, it helped to ensure that the repurposing of both buildings was done in a sympathetic manner while still referencing its previous use and history.

For the Bristol property, the hotel has revived not only the building but also the neighbourhood, providing tourism and jobs to the city.

Malmaison Oxford facade that was carefully preservedMalmaison Oxford

For Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, it has always been important to resist the theme park-like category and instead, bring to the fore the history of each building by incorporating key elements into the design of the hotel.

With an increasing number of discerning travellers choosing boutique heritage properties over chain hotels for its charm, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin aims to give every guest a unique stay experience with its quirky designs, fascinating history and Gold-Standard service.

Adapted from Fraser Cachet Issue #28 © Frasers Hospitality and SPH Magazines


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