The Grand Hotel first occupied part of the building constructed by Isaac Horton, on Colmore Row and Church Street between 1877 and 1879, with 100 bedrooms and a first floor reception. It was let to Arthur Field, a hotel operator from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and opened on 1st February 1879.
Initial trading was not as good as was hoped for and by 1880 Mr Field was in arrears. By February 1890 he owed £7,902 10s 6d and the hotel was taken back by Hortons and closed for refurbishment. The refurbishment cost £40,000 and was supervised by architects Martin & Chamberlain. When it re-opened in June 1891 the local press hailed it as “greatly changed and vastly improved” and hoped that “the fortunes of the hotel had been once and for all assured”.
In 1893 work began on the last of the 5 buildings that currently comprise the Grand Hotel, and the only one to be specifically designed as a hotel. Again Martin & Chamberlain were the architects and they created a 7 storey building, plus 2 more floors of rooms in the roof, on Barwick Street containing the Grosvenor Suite and 75 new guest rooms, and added 2 storeys to the Church Street wing. This was opened in 1895.
For the next 74 years the hotel was operated by Hortons. During this time it played host to royalty, politicians and film stars as well as staging many dinners, concerts and dances in the Grosvenor Suite. The room had many admirers including Sir John Betjeman who described it as “a unique, simply stunning, masterpiece.” The list of those attending functions at or staying in the hotel included King George VI, the Duke of Windsor, Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain, Charlie Chaplin, James Cagney and Joe Louis to name but a few.
Further refurbishments took place such as hot and cold water facilities in the bedrooms in 1929 and a full reconstruction of the whole ground floor in 1936. This included the creation of an “Up to date American Bar” opened by the vaudeville artist Will Mahoney. The hotel generally traded profitably but setbacks were common and attributed to factors such as the war in South Africa (1900), both World Wars and the Coal Strike (1926 & 1927).
Despite its fame and prominent position in Birmingham life the hotel ran into financial difficulties in the late 1960’s and was closed in 1969. Col GTS Horton, the company’s Chairman commented at the time “We tried everything we knew to pick the old place up but the truth is that this hotel is too antiquated for this day and age.”
In 1972 Hickmet Hotels took a 43 year lease from Hortons and the hotel was renovated, at a cost of £500,000, and re-opened. Hickmet soon got into trouble and in August 1974 a receiver was appointed and although they regained control of the hotel this was short lived and the receiver stepped back in in June 1976.
In 1977 the lease was taken over by Grand Metropolitan Hotels who invested £1.5million to “give back the air of quality and grandness”. In 1982 they transferred the lease to Moat House Hotels (subsequently Queens Moat). Little capital investment was made during the late 1980’s and 1990’s and the lease was ultimately surrendered it back to Hortons in August 2002 by which time The Grand was well below the standards required for a modern hotel and was closed. It has remained closed ever since
During its later years, despite its deteriorating condition, it continued to host many dinners, conferences and dances culminating in a farewell concert to close the Birmingham International Jazz Festival by King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys that “turned the Grand’s last stand into the wildest of wakes. A fitting farewell to the grand old lady”.