Number 63 Bayswater Road
This address has been owned by Soroptimists since 1948, when members of the organisation made the momentous and far-sighted decision to provide members with a ‘home in London’.
The lovely Victorian building was built between 1865 and 1870 and for most of its first seven decades of existence, it was a private address. Amongst its residents, it housed the Royal Consul for Italy, his wife and son. In the late 1880s the lovely Italianate leaded bay window in the front bar was designed and installed by William Arthur Smith Benson, a major designer from the Arts and Crafts Movement. He was also responsible for the installation of the wall lights in the entrance hallway. It has been said that he dedicated the window to his wife, Venetia, the youngest daughter of Alfred Hunt, the famous water colour artist, whom he married in 1886. It is the only surviving Benson window of its type, the other example having been lost in wartime bomb damage.
5 January 1946 was a decisive date in the history of the Federation of Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland. At a Board meeting that day, the Governors decided to recommend to the next Annual Conference that a headquarters be established, if possible by 1948. At the Conference in November 1946 under the Presidency of Miss FM Bailey MBE, FCIS, the membership endorsed the recommendation and from there the idea of a residential club took shape.
A Premises Committee was established and tasked with finding a suitable property to include office accommodation (the Federation was for many years a tenant), a place for members to meet each together, cloakroom accommodation, catering facilities and hotel accommodation for visiting Soroptimists.
It is said that members of the Premises Committee walked miles, up and down streets, in and out of buildings and up and downstairs, in search of the right property. On 26 June 1948 the Premises Committee inspected 63 Bayswater Road, London, W2 – which had been offered to Mrs. Sykes BA, a Soroptimist and a property owner. It was that rare object, an unrestricted freehold property. At the time of inspection, it was being run as a high-class flat letting house, and soon was to become the Soroptimist ‘home’ in Central London.
The Club was financed by forming a Society, under the Industrial Provident Societies Act, to which Soroptimists could contribute by subscribing for shares so that it would be owned by members and controlled by a Committee of Management. Still a Friendly Society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, Number 63 (Soroptimist) Ltd now welcomes non members too. Shares are still available for purchase by Soroptimist members in any of our Federations.
Now boasting a gold three-star AA rating and a place as finalist in the AA’s Friendliest B&B in London in 2016, our small bijou hotel offers a comfortable ambiance. It provides a convenient base for members to meet up for friendship gatherings, sightseeing, shopping, theatre trips or business. It is also a great base in central London to pop in for refreshments, workspace or just a chance to ‘chill’ between meetings.
All 16 rooms are en suite, with TV, wifi, hairdryer, telephone, tea and coffee facilities, prices are competitive and include a freshly cooked breakfast. There are nine single rooms, six twin rooms and a suite which can accommodate three or four.
Number 63 has two meeting rooms for hire, one of which can be set out boardroom or theatre style with capacity for up to 32, and the other can seat 15 boardroom or workshop style. Full presentation systems including interactive whiteboard are available. There is also a breakout room which can be hired for small meetings of seven or less or for interviews.
This lovely Victorian building with beautiful views over Kensington Gardens has been tastefully modernised without losing any of its period charm. There is a lift to all four floors and Number 63 offers all home comforts with a staff team committed to ensuring a pleasurable stay.
Liz Batten – “A History of Number 63”