The Ship Hotel Chichester
Once a bustling Roman market town, the City of Chichester’s ancient streets have much architectural and historical interest. Twisting up into the West Sussex sky is the piercing spire of the 12th century cathedral, an imposing salute to medieval architecture and a fitting centrepiece to a city which sits placidly amongst the rolling green patchwork of the South Downs.
The flint-faced walls which remain to this day were inherited from the Romans and clearly define the Old City boundaries, also remaining are the clear grid patterns on which the Romans built Chichester with the main streets forming a cross encompassing North South East and West Streets. Located within the old city walls is The Ship Hotel Chichester, a Grade 2 listed building which carries the status of ‘historical importance’ within the diocese of the City of Chichester.
Home of Vice Admiral Sir George Murray
More recently, the building that is now The Ship Hotel Chichester was once the private home of Vice Admiral Sir George Murray (1759-1819), Admiral Lord Nelson’s most trusted sailor who was born and bred in Chichester. He enjoyed a particularly enduring friendship with Lord Nelson who selected Murray as his first captain on HMS Victory. Murray hesitated to accept the appointment, fearing that professional confrontations would damage their friendship. Nelson, however, assured him that even should everything go contrary to his wishes, he would waive the rank of Admiral, and explain or expostulate with him as his friend Murray (Naval Chronical, 1807).
‘No- one But Murray Will do’
The death of his father-in-law, prevented him accompanying Nelson on his last voyage at Trafalgar. With Murray absent, Nelson declined to appoint a replacement citing the most famous of quotes “No-one but Murray would do”. In 1815, he was nominated for the Kings Cross for Bravery and died in his sixtieth year in 1819.
World Famous and Distinguished Clientele
More prestige beheld the building, when General Eisenhower, Field Marshall Montgomery and Air Marshall Cunningham had dinner at The Ship just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. Nowadays, with the world-famous Chichester Festival Theatre within walking distance, the property continues to play host to a famous and distinguished clientele. Helen Mirren, Nigel Havers, Stephen Fry, Dame Judi Dench and Maggie Smith have all enjoyed The Ship Hotel Chichester hospitality.
Home from Home – A Dramatic Transformation
The Ship Hotel Chichester has recently undergone an overhaul capitalising on its grandeur, whilst remaining true to its Georgian origins. The Silkroad Interior Design, were commissioned to roll out an interior design scheme of the downstairs’ communal areas to ensure a relaxing, stylish and above all welcoming feel. The location of this hotel in the heart of Chichester needed to offer clients an oasis away from the busy and noisy city outside. Hence, the designer’s focus was to create a ‘home from home’ atmosphere without compromising the hotel’s features, whilst also celebrating the hotel’s history.
Commercial Hotel design requires a different approach to that of a residential design- the interior scheme needs to meet a variety of criteria whilst also reaching out to satisfy the tastes of the hotel’s clientele- old and new. Longevity and durability are key to any commercial design, however, a boutique hotel of this nature- which is more ‘home’ than ‘hotel’- also needs a sympathetic eye on comfort.
A Taste of Sophistication
The downstairs areas were reconfigured starting with the entrance lobby. Bespoke wooden flooring leads clients to the reception desk with this area enjoying leather effect wallpaper, and a statement piece in the form of an oversized urn and stunning moss ball – the latter can be enjoyed fully as guests climb the grand Adam Staircase to the first floor. Despite its simplicity. First impressions offer guests a taste of the sophistication and classy style of the Hotel.
The overall scheme aimed to reflect a hint of ‘colonialism’, brought about by the dark wooden flooring – coloured and distressed to reflect age and character- and the muted colours introduced in the soft furnishings and bespoke carpets which were designed especially for the hotel. The dramatic use of plants in the Dining area further nods to the days of the empire.
From the Entrance lobby, the heavily accessorised Lounge, with chesterfield and roaring log fire awaits guests. A popular meeting place for shoppers, the Lounge and Captains Bar simply buzzes with life, from those wishing only for a coffee to others who prefer the sound of corks popping. The introduction of colour is subtle, but the ‘Georgian red’ nevertheless creates an impact- carefully chosen books for the dark wooden shelving have been sourced to match the same shade of red as the newly built and well stocked bar area.
Seamless Design Which Flows Throughout
Curtains and accessories have been carefully selected to offer interest and impact- similar to that of a home- and the upholstery and fabrics chosen to blend rather than contrast. The smallest details have been taken into consideration to ensure an authentic scheme which flows seamlessly from room to room linking fabrics, colours and textures. It is the attention to the detail that elevates a good design to an exceptional one.
Leading on from the Captains Bar, the striking ‘oldest new restaurant’ in Chichester awaits. As with all businesses, the scheme had to be dictated by the numbers – table and seating occupancy was paramount both in the main Murray’s Restaurant as well as the Captain’s bar and lounge area. The dining area, whilst having to provide the maximum amount of table covers, also needed to be sufficiently accessorised to counter -balance the uniformity of a large number of tables and chairs. Sideboards, with clusters of lanterns and plants below Georgian effect mirrors add interest and light where it is most needed and the large palms create drama and height.
Practical Bespoke Flooring
The flooring plays a practical role in this area with the combined use of wood and carpet- the wood flooring creating walkways which enable the waiters and waitresses to move about freely are offset by the carpeting in the eating area which absorbs sound and creates a feeling of warmth. The common challenge is to ensure an ambient atmosphere by day as well as by night. This challenge was met with the use of the candle lanterns- perfect in the evening with dimmed overhead lighting- and by day the warm tones of the plants and fabrics retain an intimate feel.
This distinguished hotel continues to welcome a vast and diverse clientele throughout the year- from those enjoying a day of shopping or the theatre-folk who capitalise on Chichester’s excellent Theatre through to large wedding parties and corporates wishing to entertain.
This hotel could not be further from the stark and cold minimalism that is so popular in trendy London hang-outs. Without a doubt, this city hotel has retained its own charm, oozing sophistication and opulence and above all its own, very particular identity.
Glowing client reviews confirm another successful interior design project.