Hi Trini. How long is it since you stayed there? It is over a year since I was there, and the place certainly had gone down the hill. You just have to take a look around the outside, especially at the back kitchen door. Although it never bothered me to eat there, the place certainly had got scruffy.
Yes, I enjoyed going down to the kitchen to make a cuppa, and go up and have a chat with Murty at reception. Miss that ok, but I stay in Kings Cross now. More expensive, but very clean, and safe too. I had stuff knicked while in Driscoll, and I'm afraid I wasn't the only one. I still keep in touch with some of the ex staff, and resisdents, both ex & present.
I was in London for the Christmas holiday and stopped into Driscoll House to see who I could see and wouldn't you know it I saw Mr. Driscoll. When I told him I had read about the House being sold and torn down, he replied that Driscoll House was not to be torn down as permission had not been given. I didn't ask for details but I know residents of Southwark will be glad to hear this news. I can assume that it will stay open for the time being. As for Mr. Driscoll himself, he is 94 years young and still sharp as a tack.
It was 2001 that I stayed there last. Spent about 2 weeks. There were about 5 students there from India, Bahamas, Australia, and we met regularly for dinner to exchange our experiences of the day and of London generally. It was a lot of fun. Maybe too much fun to notice the dirty kitchen. Anyway I'm visiting London again this summer and will go there again if they are open. I can hardly believe that with all the guests having a clear view into the kitchen they would keep it dirty, but if that is the case, I'll just move out.
There's dirty and there's dirty. If there is vermin (mice, roaches, etc) in the kitchen that would be terrible. But if it was just that staff were tardy in wiping up spills from the kitchen counters and things like that, I can probably live with that.
I do hope you stay there again, and be happy. If you do, ask Murty if he knows Hedgehog?
Don't forget the middled aged girl in the kitchen washup. Sorry, can't remember her name.
Oh yes. Chris.
Good luck, God Bless, and please let us know the outcome.
Sometimes I wish I'd been born earlier.
Oh well, it's the people of that area to decide on the outcome. Just hope it is not like here. You can protest, but it is futile, within existing laws.
Part of my heart lays in Driscoll house.
I have created a Wikipedia page about New Kent Road, and this morning I went out to take some photos to add to the page. Having read on the above new story that Driscoll House was due to close at the end of last month, I went there to check for myself, and I can confirm that it is still open. The receptionist told me that it had been due to close at the end of March, but the building is now listed and will continue as a hotel until at least March 2009. Apparently, only the top of the building can be converted into flats, and from what I could figure out, that meant the second floor upwards.
I asked the receptionist if I could look around, and she said it was fine. The place is incredible. It is like something you do not see in the UK these days. It made me think of New York's Chelsea Hotel before they smartened it up. As some ex-residents have described above, the interiors are unchanged for many decades, but not well maintained or cleaned. Someone really should get in and make a documentary about the place, while Mr Driscoll is still alive (he is 94, and works in the office every day, apparently).
It is very run-down but fascinating. The corridors have various religious statues and prints, and old photos, letters and information line the walls, showing the history of the place. There is a letter from Nehru thanking Mr Driscoll for his hospitality to Indian students. The TV rooms (one for each channel, but only 3 channels!) and the reading room have beautiful green and grey tiles, old 1950s armchairs and shelves of dusty books. The kitchen and dining room looked OK to me (I know there have been hygiene problems) and there was an elderly dinner-lady type person banging pots around.
The laundry room is like something from World War 2, complete with mangle. I crept around outside the bathroom area, while someone was in there taking a bath and listening to the radio. I felt like I had slipped back into a kitchen sink drama. I took some sneaky photos of the laundry and reading room and will put them on the Wikipedia page shortly. In fact I might do a separate Wikipedia page about Driscoll House.
The reception doubles as a little shop, and sells a range of postcards of Mr Driscoll! I recommend anyone to pop in and ask if they can poke around. Mr Driscoll is normally there from 4 to 7 most days, and might be suspicious of visitors, but I also asked the receptionist if Mr Driscoll would be willing to let a small group visit one day and have a tour, and she said he probably would. Perhaps I can pursue this? He really should open it up for Open House day in September, it is an amazing slice of London social history as well as architecture and interiors..
Many residents are long-term, and stay months or even years. The receptionist told me that one woman has lived there for 50 years, in a little single room and using the communal facilities and dining room.
Andrew, do you have an address for your Wikipeda page, I'd like to see your pictures. I took some twenty (!) years ago and some of my favorites are of the green reading room and of course Mr. Driscoll. It would be nice if we could get everyones' pictures in one place and make a online photo album...
I am going to add photos to my New Kent Road page on wikipedia this week, and will probably move the stuff about the Coronet and Driscoll House to their own pages. I will post the links here when it's finished.