I am so sad after learning that my favorite London hotel is closing down permanently because of COVID. The Penn Club. Not a fancy place. Cozy as a warm teapot. Quaker-affiliated. (That’s the Quaker movement, not the oats.) No elevator. Simple, clean rooms. A full English breakfast served in a pleasant dining room at communal tables. For years I had stayed there, my mother too on a few occasions. I feel like an orphan now.
Oh, sure, London is full of hotels and I’ve stayed in many of them. But this place was special, not to mention superbly located in central London in the lovely leafy district of Bloomsbury. A 20-minute walk from St. Pancras train station where the Eurostar arrives from Paris, steps from the world-renowned British Museum and my favorite book and teashop. Gosh, I miss London.
I had some memorable moments there:
The morning I was awakened by a rustling sound at 5 a.m. I went to my window, looked down onto the street below and saw the most magnificent fox sauntering down the sidewalk. A fox! In central London! He’d been rummaging in one of the rubbish bins.
Reuniting with my two childhood friends, Kathy and Claire, in December 2018.
Meeting up with an ex-boyfriend (oh, there were so many ex-boyfriends …).
Having pleasant conversations with total strangers while tucking into a plate of sausage, bacon, eggs and baked beans with toast (English breakfast) at a shared table in the dining room.
Returning to the hotel after walking 7 or 8 hours all over the city and relaxing in the quiet Cadbury Room with the daily newspapers and surrounded by books. It was a warm and welcoming place, not swish or posh, but cozy and tranquil. I’m not a swishy person. I have friends who insist on staying in swank and trendy hotels when they travel, but I don’t.
Why is it called The Cadbury Room? Because the management maintained Quaker values of integrity, equality, tolerance and simplicity, honesty and fairness in all of their dealings. The great English confectionary companies: Cadbury of Birmingham, Rowntree’s of York, and Fry’s of Bristol were all rooted in Quakerism in their early years.
Goodbye, Penn Club. Thanks for the memories (sniff).
Here’s the email I received last week –
With profound sorrow and regret, the Board of The Penn Club must now inform you that in its present situation The Club is unsustainable and must cease business from the end of March this year.
As you know, COVID19 resulted in two closures in 2020 resulting in a significant drop in occupancy rates with serious financial consequences. Even when open between lockdowns, bookings were at a level which made The Club unviable for the foreseeable future and whilst vaccines offer some hope, too much uncertainty remains.
We recognise how very sad this news is for all users of The Club. It is especially poignant in this 101st year of existence and particularly given the money and effort invested in major upgrading over the last few years. We can take some comfort in acknowledging and honouring how special The Club has been to so many users during its history.
With sadness and in Friendship,
The Penn Club Board
On a cheerier note, here’s a blog post (link below) that I wrote way back in the summer of 2014 entitled My London – Bloomsbury. It mentions The Penn Club. If you’re in the mood for some armchair travelling, I did a whole “My London” series that covers all my trips to that great city. Just scroll up to the top of this page and click on LONDON.