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Upper Norwood's hotel of quality

Author: John W Brown

Few who pass the Quality Hotel in Church Road, Upper Norwood, can fail but to be impressed by this beautiful Italianate building, writes John W Brown

It was built in 1853/54 by James Franks, a well known local builder, to the designs of the Southwark architect, Francis Pouget. Originally known as the Queens Hotel, it was erected to provide accommodation for the many visitors to the area to see the nearby Crystal Palace on Sydenham Hill in 1854.

The Queen's Hotel originally stood in extensive grounds which were landscaped to form attractive gardens. In 1864, the hotel acquired the land opposite on which it laid out pleasure grounds, known as The Park.

When this project was completed the Hotel was able to offer its patrons over five acres of gardens to enjoy. With such unrivalled facilities it is not surprising that the hotel attracted many guests of quality and eminence including the Duke of Wellington and Florence Nightingale.


There are few such suburban establishments that can also boast of Royal patronage, for in the summer of 1887 the German Emperor, Frederick III, resided at the Queen's for six weeks. He came to the hotel on the recommendation of his doctor, Sir Morell Mackenzie, who advised him that he should benefit from the fresh air that blew across the Norwood hills. During his stay the Emperor and his entourage could frequently be seen riding through Upper Norwood.

Another famous visitor to the hotel was Emile Zola, the French novelist, who resided here for 10 months between 1898-99. Zola had fled France to escape the events which erupted there following the publication of his article "J'accuse" in which he criticised the authorities over the Dreyfus Affair, in which a knowingly innocent Jewish French army office called Alfred Dreyfus, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island for alleged treason, Zola stayed at the hotel until the case was reopened and it was safe for him to return to France.

During his residence in Norwood, Zola passed the time by taking over 100 photographs of the locality, a selection of which have been published by the Norwood Society in their book "Emile Zola Photographer in Norwood 1898-1899".

These pictures present a fascinating glimpse of the locality a century ago and include the various views of the Queen's Hotel featured in this article.

In March 1990, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu unveiled a Blue Plaque at the Hotel to commemorate Zola's stay there.

Following a change of ownership which led to a major refurbishment in 1999, the building was renamed the Quality Hotel. Much of the charm of the original building survives today to provide visitors with a glimpse of the old "Queens Hotel" that Zola made his home over a hundred years ago.

The book costs 8.99, including postage and packing and is available from The Norwood Society, 63 Bradley Road, London SE19.3NT.


Last modified: 14th January 2013 - Copyright Canning and Clyde Residents Association