Friday, 20 March 2009

Malmaison Oxford

This week, I went to May's graduation ceremony from her postgraduate diploma in Software Engineering at Oxford University. To mark the occasion we stayed in the Malmaison hotel in the centre of Oxford. We'd stayed there once before back in 2006, just after it opened, but I'd forgotten just how jaw-droppingly incredible it is. Set within the grounds of Oxford Castle, the building is Victorian and was one of Her Majesty's prisons up until 1996. The Malmaison overhaul of the prison was part of the overall redevelopment of the Oxford Castle site that was funded by a lottery grant in 2006.

The conversion of the hotel is truly amazing, as my pictures below hopefully attest:

The main hall, hotel rooms are within the converted cells.

The ex-visitors hall champagne bar (panorama made with the excellent autostitch)

Wandering around, I just kept thinking how happy the architect must have been with landing the project. Perhaps even more so when the regeneration of Oxford Castle won the 2007 Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Project of the Year award.

On our visit in 2006, we stayed in a room in what used to be the prison warden's quarters. It was very nice, but this time we thought we'd go all out and get the deluxe room in the prison hall itself. Our room was originally 3 cells (holding a total of 9-12 inmates!) with 2 cells used to create the bedroom and 1 for the ensuite bathroom which included a rolltop bath and 2 person shower. The "cell" doors are original, as are the tiny, high up windows. The room was very comfortable, if not bordering on luxurious and thankfully the terrible mobile phone signal resulting from being boxed in was compensated by free wi-fi. We ate in the brasserie on the 2009 offer and as they were quite full and we were a party of 5, they put us into one of the private dining rooms.

If you're in the area, I'd highly recommend at least a visit to look around, if not an overnight stay. If you do go, be sure to head for the basement where there are 2 original cells to peruse. To give you an idea of price, we paid £119 for our room.

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