So having taken the wise decision not to stay with my son in his student house, I went for the opposite end of the scale and treated ourselves to a night at the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel in the centre of Manchester. What a spectacular Grade II listed Gothic building it is, built in 1895 and for many years it was the head office for a life insurance and pensions company, known as the Refuge Assurance Building. Alfred Waterhouse did the plans – he was also responsible for one of my favourite buildings in the world – The Natural History Museum in London, and you can tell. The Clock Tower part came later, added by his son, after Alfred had died. It’s an impressive 217 feet high and topped by a four face clock and has apparently been a reliable reference point for Mancunians to set their watches to for years, although I’m not sure how many people set their watches these days now we all have phones.
After the insurance company moved, it became a number of different hotels. It wasn’t taken over by the Kimpton Brand Portfolio until April 2020 and I guess it must have had a pretty slow start, given the pandemic would have badly affected business like everything else, but now it seems to be thriving. The staff are charming, the space is glorious and the location is perfect. They offered us welcome drinks in a cute little bar that evening, which was a lovely touch.
This is the lobby, displaying the wonderful bronze horse sculpted by Sophie Dickens, Charles Dickens granddaughter:-
We had a red phone in our room too:-
Huge bedrooms, with incredibly high ceilings – whoever got the job of doing all the curtains would have been delighted:-
Setting off to meet my son and all his mates for dinner:-
Here was The Refuge, an interesting bar, where they served our breakfast around the corner. I just love all the proportions:-
The splendid library, just a ten minute walk away:-
The art gallery, featuring some wonderful Lowry paintings:-