New hotel opens in historic city centre building

Oxford Mail: Clive Viner, left, and Colin Rice outside the new hotel in St Michael’s Street, Oxford Buy this photo Clive Viner, left, and Colin Rice outside the new hotel in St Michael’s Street, Oxford

A HISTORIC Oxford building which has lain empty for more than a decade has been brought back to life as a new hotel.

The Vanbrugh House Hotel in St Michael’s Street will throw open its doors on Monday following a £1.5m restoration by Sojourn Hotels.

The move has been warmly welcomed by business leaders in the city keen to attract more tourists and business people staying overnight and boosting the local economy.

The hotel has 22 rooms which have been created from the Grade II* listed Vanburgh House, parts of which date back to the 17th century, and the former vicarage next door.

The design for Vanbrugh House was inspired by playwright and renowned architect Sir John Vanbrugh, who was also responsible for Blenheim Palace in Woodstock.

The building is owned by Oxford City Council but has been empty for more than 10 years.

Sojourn bosses worked closely with council conservation officers and English Heritage to ensure the heritage of the building was preserved.

Sojourn managing director Clive Viner said: “It has taken us three years to get to this point and gain planning permission.

“We have kept traditional features and restored the panelling, and we have even found doorways under the plaster.

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“I hope it will be a catalyst to show what can be done with these buildings.”

  • Vanbrugh House is thought to have been at least partially designed by 18th century architect Sir John Vanburgh
  • The property was used by his builders, including Batholomew Peisley who built the bridge spanning the lake at Blenheim Palace
  • Its cellars contain the remains of the city walls which ran along the north side of St Michael’s Street to the North Gate.
  • It was used as offices including solicitors Marshall and Galpin for more than half a century

Eighteen staff have been recruited at the hotel, including general manager Colin Rice, and the restaurant is open to the public. Room prices start at £99 a night.

It is the second boutique city centre hotel to launch this year following the opening of The Bocardo in George Street in April.

Graham Jones, spokesman for city centre traders’ group ROX, said: “It is filling a need. We know there is a shortfall of hotel accommodation in the city and we need to encourage more people to stay in Oxford.

“It will have a knock-on effect for restaurants and retailers with visitors spending more money.”

Sojourn Hotels was set up in 2008 and the chain has expanded to six across the country.

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