Design + Architecture

Hotels With A Past

by Cathay Che

Where: Oxford, England
What it is: A swank 50-room hotel
What it was: A medieval prison

The story: Some hotels have history, and some have history. Built in 1230 on the grounds of the Oxford castle, this fortress was used to lock up murderers, dissidents, and enemies of the state; amenities included dungeons, chains, and unpleasant gruel. This singularity of purpose was maintained until 1996, when it was revamped for a slightly different clientele. Opened in 2005, the Malmaison Oxford is one of a 16-property British chain that emphasizes youthful ambience and quirky style (note the checkerboard carpets and velvet jester chairs). The building retains many of the original architectural elements from its penal days, such as the central three-tier corridor; some rooms—sorry, "cells"—have their original iron doors. The deluxe suite is in the former warden's residence and includes a screening room and a large Victorian bathtub. Whether or not you book it for a weekend of solitary confinement is totally up to you.

Be sure to check out: The two untouched prison cells, complete with dirty bunk beds and window grates.

Malmaison Oxford
Tel: 44 186 526 8400
Standard "cells" from $260

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.



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