A PRACTICAL BEAUTY
Interview with Richard Lee Massey
The original Town Hall opened in 1910, at the height of Edwardian Architecture. It’s design reflected a new confidence and wealth in the Borough with the Council spending lavishly on fine architects, craftsmen and artists to decorate it. More building was commissioned in the 1930s and the addition contains beautiful Art-Deco interiors which have made Town Hall Hotel a famous film location.
The design has drawn plaudits from English Heritage and won accolades within the industry. Winning the prestigious RICS London award for Building Conservation, as well as the national Project of the Year Award. However beyond its incredible architectural pedigree, hotels are only legendary like THH because of the people who work in them. With this in mind we caught up with Richard Lee Massey the hotels PR director.
Firstly Richard? Who are you? Where are you from? How did you get into hospitality?
I was born and raised in Gibraltar but settled in London early 2008. After a year at Bocca di Lupo, I stepped out to forge a career in the food/drink world and started working with Nuno Mendes on London’s first supper club, The Loft Project. After this, I found myself at Viajante – Nuno’s [then] new restaurant at Town Hall Hotel — which is where I’ve been ever since.
THH hotel is sort of interesting in its timelessness being more of a resurrection. It it was a place of design and certain reverence being a Town Hall when it was built. Yet there was a long time where it was a sad shell? Can you tell me a little about the hotels history?
Originally erected in 1910, the Edwardian town hall in Bethnal Green was extended in 1937. Through the years, the building housed the area’s municipal administration but eventually fell out of use and was vacated in 1993. Used only as a film location (think: Atonement, Snatch and Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels), the building was left to decay until Peng Loh (of Unlisted Collection) came across it. Peng later worked on creating a contemporary luxury hotel that sat sympathetically within the existing building, whilst restoring and adding to its volume with a further extension — bringing an architectural treasure into it’s third age.
What is your role in the company beyond charming everyone who walks through the doors?
Nowadays, I play the role of PR Director to Unlisted Collection, an umbrella brand to sixnhotels and twenty-three restaurants across London, Singapore, Shanghai and Sydney. I focus primarily on press, marketing, socials and branding across the group.
The devil is in the detail can you share some pictures with your favorite details in the hotel? and give me a few lines about each.
– I’m particularly obsessed with the signature rooms and suites. I love how they retain important elements of the original interiors whilst innovative, bespoke furniture all aim to preserve the fine plasterwork, high ceilings and fireplaces.
– The entire design has drawn plaudits from English Heritage and won accolades across the board. But my favourite would be the patterned metal veil, laser-cut with a design inspired by the Art-deco Council Chamber. Every room is flooded with a beautiful, speckled light that shines through.
In a way the classic elegance to the THH is slightly jarring with the very urban surroundings of East London, how do you bridge the gap between local culture and arts and what the hotel itself stands for?
Although the area isn’t (or wasn’t) necessarily used to five star service, we have always aimed to offer a home away from home experience. Most of the rooms are actually apartments, so guests get to live like Londoners in an area known as one of the more creative parts of the city. We then host a variety of events including workshops, talks and screenings where we work with local creatives to offer a truly modern East End experience.
There is something extremely British about it all is that reflected in everything you offer guests? From Breakfast to cocktails? Is that deliberate?
We’ve always wanted to be as true and authentic to the building’s history as possible. Naturally, this meant offering seasonal, British menus in our restaurants, but the bar is a bit more eclectic with it’s offering. Of course, this only further cements the Town Hall as an eclectic Grande Dame of the East End.
You personally have a great eye of the timeless beauty of London’s architecture can you share any local spots you recommend people check out?
That’s always a tough question. I have lots of favourites but right now I’d be inclined to say Taberna do Mercado, Lyle’s and Lily Vanilli’s bakery on a Sunday… But I also work on my weekly newsletter, Unseen 24/7 which covers all things food, drink, travel, shopping, arts and culture in London. You can find all my other favourites here.