British Transport Hotels

British Transport Hotels

British Transport Hotels (BTH) was the brand name of the hotels and catering business associated with the nationalised railway system in Great Britain from 1953 to 1983.


At the nationalisation of the railways on 1 January 1948, hotels and catering came under the control of BTC's Railway Executive. However, on 1 July 1948 they were separated from direct railway control and placed under British Transport Commission's Hotels Executive, chaired by Lord Inman, who was later succeeded by Sir Harry Methven. This arrangement lasted until 1 October 1953, when the Executive was abolished and direct responsibility assumed by the Commission. They became part of a Division known as the British Transport Hotels and Catering Services. In 1963, the division was formed into a subsidiary company, British Transport Hotels Ltd. On the break-up of the British Transport Commission in 1963, ownership passed to the British Railways Board, who later re-branded the on-railway catering business as Travellers Fare. The Board also promoted its hotels through Golden Rail package holidays.

The Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher decided to privatise the non-core businesses of British Rail (engineering, hotels, property and shipping). Provision was made for this by the Transport Act 1981, BTH being sold piecemeal between 1981 and 1983. Some of the hotels continue to operate under a variety of owners but at least one (the Zetland at Saltburn) has long since been turned into apartment dwellings.

Artefacts from railway-owned hotels are included in the remit of the National Railway Museum at York. The collection includes china, glass, silverware, uniforms and other, more ephemeral items.



On vesting day, 1 January 1948, the British Transport Commission took over several dozen hotels from the private railway companies, including (these lists are currently incomplete):

;From the Great Western Railway:

* Great Western Hotel, Paddington, London (today known as the Hilton London Paddington)
* Manor House Hotel, Moretonhampstead, Devon (today known as Bovey Castle)
* Tregenna Castle Hotel, St. Ives, Cornwall
* Welcombe Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

;From the London, Midland and Scottish Railway:

* Ayr Hotel, Ayr
* Midland Hotel, Bradford
* Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool
* Caledonian Hotel, Edinburgh (today known as the Caledonian Hilton), at the former Caledonian Railway's Princes Street station.
* Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire
* Queen’s Hotel, Birmingham
* Queen’s Hotel, Leeds
* Lochalsh Hotel, Ross-shire, at the former Highland Railway's Kyle of Lochalsh railway station.
* Midland Hotel, Derby
* Midland Hotel, Manchester
* Midland Hotel, Morecambe
* Turnberry Hotel, Ayrshire

;From the London and North Eastern Railway:

* Great Eastern Hotel, Liverpool Street, London
* Great Northern Hotel, King’s Cross, London
* North British Hotel, Edinburgh (today known as the Balmoral Hotel), at the former North British Railway's Edinburgh Waverley railway station.
* North British Hotel, Glasgow
* Royal Station Hotel, Newcastle
* Royal Station Hotel, York

;From the Southern Railway:

* Charing Cross Hotel
* Grosvenor Hotel, Victoria

Catering, station refreshments and on-train catering

Also inherited at this date were the companies’ on-railway catering interests: station refreshment rooms and restaurant/buffet services on trains.

While many railway hotels were next to major stations, facilitating onward travel, others such as Gleneagles and Moretonhampstead were destinations in their own right, part of a railway company strategy to induce demand for its services. The GWR had also promoted the idea of the ‘holiday let’, using ‘camping coaches’, redundant carriage bodies sited in West Country beauty spots. Its ambitious plans for the post-war period included further diversification through the establishment of holiday camps. These plans were cut short by nationalisation, though the idea was put into practice with great success by chains such as Butlin’s.

In contrast, the nationalised hotel chain did not expand, other than through reversion of leases, and investment in hotel assets was a relatively low priority. The reason was partly financial, as the railways struggled to reconcile an unsustainable capital structure with falling revenues, but also political. For most of their existence the nationalised industries operated under Conservative governments, who did not wish to see them diversify at the expense of private sector interests. As the railway industry itself declined, so the number of railway hotels was also reduced.

According to "The Times" (Thursday 18 February 1965, p. vii), at that time the hotels forming the chain were:
*Aberdeen: Station Hotel
*Ayrshire: Turnberry Hotel
*Birmingham: Queen's Hotel
*Bradford: Midland Hotel
*Cornwall: Tregenna Castle Hotel
*Derby: Midland Hotel
*Devon: Manor House Hotel, Moretonhampstead
*Dumfries: Station Hotel
**Caledonian Hotel, at the former Caledonian Railway's Edinburgh Princes Street railway station.
**North British Hotel, at the former North British Railway's Edinburgh Waverley railway station.
**Central Hotel, at the Caledonian Railway's Glasgow Central railway station.
**North British Hotel
**St Enoch Hotel, at the former Glasgow and South Western Railway's St Enoch railway station.
*Hull: Royal Station Hotel
*Inverness: Station Hotel
*Kyle of Lochalsh: Lochalsh Hotel, at the former Highland Railway's Kyle of Lochalsh railway station.
**Charing Cross Hotel
**Great Eastern Hotel
**Great Northern Hotel
**Great Western Hotel
*Leeds: Queen's Hotel
**Adelphi Hotel
**Exchange Hotel
*Manchester: Midland Hotel
*Newcastle: Royal Station Hotel
*Perth: Station Hotel
*Perthshire: Gleneagles Hotel
*Peterborough: Great Northern Hotel
*Saltburn-by-the-Sea: Zetland Hotel
*Sheffield: Royal Victoria Hotel
*Stratford-on-Avon: Welcombe Hotel
*Sutherland: Dornoch Hotel
*West Hartlepool: Grand Hotel
*York: Royal York Hotel A new hotel was built in St Andrews in about 1968.


* Whitaker's Almanack (various dates)

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