York is a city of astonishing architectural feats.The Grand is one of them. It was built in 1906 as a ‘Palace of Business’ for the North Eastern Railway Company, then one of the richest businesses in Britain.
We returned The Grand to the splendour of its Edwardian heyday, a time when the railways were central to the life of the nation. Look carefully and you will see reminders of this proud history everywhere.
The North Eastern Railway Company
One of the four great railway companies to emerge up during the Industrial Revolution, The North Eastern Railway (NER) was founded in 1854. At that time, its railway route had a length of 720 miles stretching from Leeds to the Yorkshire Coast, and from York up through the North East up to Berwick.
By the late 1800s the board of the North Eastern Railway had decided it needed a headquarters that reflected its standing as one of the most powerful public companies in Britain. Its HQ was already in York, located within the upper floor of the original station (which has recently been converted into offices for City of York Council). NER acquired several plots opposite the station building and work on the new offices began in 1900.
Character Comes With Age
The design was carried out jointly by William Bell, who produced the basic structural design, and Horace Field, who worked on the exterior embellishments and interior detail. Their design is believed to have won a silver medal at an exhibition in Paris in 1904.
It was decided that only the best materials should be used in the construction, despite the fact that the country was, at the time, in recession. The interior of the building is typified by high ceilings, tall windows, lofty arches and wide open corridors and spaces. These, in combination with the use of Belgian marble and creamy Huddlestone stone lend the building a very light, airy and spacious feel. The building is also unaffected by outside noise despite its city centre location, the original building having been installed with double-glazing to keep out the noise of the trams that used to run by it.
The original building was intended as a place of business, but it was not designed to be purely functional. The building is vast and impressive but also characterised by wonderful detailing - such as the intricate wrought-iron balustrades, luscious garland ceiling plasterwork and skilfully carved stone flourishes - and elegant individual spaces like the oak-panelled boardrooms and the eye-catching octagonal central hall on the first floor landing.