This sad boarded up building in Aberdeen Place, on the market now for £4.25 million and put in the top 10 endangered list by the Victorian Society in 2007 is testament to one man’s optimism. It was built as the palatial Crown Hotel in 1898 by Frank Crocker who had heard that a new rail terminal was to be built here.
He spared no expense; every wall, window and ceiling is decorated in sumptuous style, with elaborate stucco featuring frolicking cherubs, with fine pillars and nice Victorian wood panelling. It had a grand saloon with marble bar-top and pilasters, marble stringing, marble archways, even a great marble fireplace; with a magnificent Jacobean-style coffered ceiling of the most intricate plasterwork; and acres of gleaming woodwork.
[P]robably the craziest was perhaps the bust of Caracalla a sly demonstration that the pub’s designers were quite conscious of the excess to which their client was pushing them: Caracalla was a Roman emperor known for his architectural excesses and his complete insanity.
Alas for Crocker! The truth is that while London as a whole may have welcomed the influence of the railway, most of the historic landlords and the well-heeled residents of this part of St John’s Wood did not. Their opposition forced the railway builders to tunnel under Lord’s Cricket ground and then the line turned left a few degrees at St John’s Wood, to terminate not at his doorway, but about a mile away, where Marylebone Station now stands, so expensive was this tunnel that the train operators were forced to economise on their own stations, that is why Marylebone Station is modest compared to say, St Pancras.
The Crown Hotel was a palace in the middle of nowhere; the grandest folly in London so tragic that London has been laughing about it for over a century. Crocker, naturally, went bust and then killed himself by jumping out of an upstairs window.
If you want to see what it looked like back in the 1960s the pub was used in a scene from the film Georgy Girl.
6 thoughts on “Crocker’s Folly”
A sad tale indeed and a testimony to life’s ironies.
While we might wish to preserve buildings such as this, the problem is what to do with them. They cost money to maintain and that money has to come from somewhere. Unless someone is willing to take it on – perhaps turning it into offices or private flats – I don’t see what its future can be.
It will be interesting to see the outcome – please keep us posted.
Unfortunately Crocker’s Folly has been on the market for a number of years now, I don’t expect they will find a willing buyer with deep pockets to convert the building sympathetically in this current economic climate.
I live in Maida Vale and have long lamented the poor state of Crocker’s Folly and its impact on the asthetics of the area. After looking at plans submitted by the current owner to Westminster Councils Planning Office, I was shocked to see that its the Council that’s to blame for the poor state of Crocker’s Folly not the current owner.
Planning applications have been made to return the building to its previous use as a pub and hotel. However, the Council has dug in their toes and insisted that the top 3 floors must be used as a house in multiple occupation (HMO). Notwithstanding that the use of the top 3 floors as a hotel was granted in 1992 and that its use as an HMO has never been granted.
Given the amount of investment required to restore this grand old building to its previous and rightful state, an HMO use is not a financially viable option and obviously the reason the current owner has been unable to proceed.
After all these years you would have thought some use could have been made to this wonderful building.
Thanks for your contribution
I’m pretty sure the Marylebone Sta & Frank Crocker suicide is myth as I think the GCR plan to build the station close to Marylebone Rd was clear well before the Crown started building. However, it’s an amazing edifice & surely deserves better than overflow parking for a Lebanese restaurant, which seemed its only use when I last passed. Further updates welcome!
I would have thought it would make perfect apartments, “executive” apartments seem to be springing up everywhere.