Dustin is a playwright from Seattle with an intriguing problem…

His latest creation takes place in

“various locations in Seattle and London…a large part of the second half of the play takes place in a kind of run down hotel in Greenwich…mainly because of it being on the prime meridian. That fact that its run down can be fictional, but I’m looking for something old with a lot of character and a fun name to it and to know what street(s) it is on. Can you help/think of anything? “

The Phantom replies:

Curiously enough, Dustin, for a town that has many tourists, Greenwich has very few hotels with any kind of character. Most of our hotels tend to be unexciting corporate jobs – the Ibis, for example, The Novotel or even Devonport House, which is in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College, and yet still manages to be unexciting. There are a couple of rather nice (and quirky) B&Bs – Number 16 St Alphege’s Passage, for example, round behind the church – but it’s not run down.

If you want run-down, you need to cross Blackheath to the imposing-looking Clarendon Hotel. From the outside it looks glamorous indeed, surveying the heath and looking across at Greenwich Park (I’d say it was a few hundred yards from the meridian.) A series of of 18th Century buildings, I’d guess, with the name picked out in big red letters, lushly glowing across the heath at night. A glass canopy gives a dry walk from the gravel car park to the door. It all says ‘posh.’ Inside, it’s a different story. I calculate it was last decorated some time around the early 1980s, and, in hotel terms, unless you’re going for ‘retro.’ that’s a long time ago. There are a few reception-y sort of areas upstairs, with a bar, and downstairs some more not-terribly exciting bars with furniture that’s a bit too big for the size of the rooms. None of it’s truly nasty – it’s just tired. I can’t remember whether it has two or three stars, but I’d guess two.

This place could be a palace – and with a view and a building like that, should be one of the classiest hotels in London. Instead, its main business seems to be from discount coach tours and cheap package deals (doubles start at £100, which for London ain’t bad) and on that kind of custom refurbishing doens’t look like it’s going to be on the cards for some time.

By-the-by and slightly off-topic, I noticed that at Reception they were advertising for sale all three of Neil Rhind’s books on Blackheath, including the out-of-print second volume of Blackheath Village and Environs. Now, knowing that the hotel isn’t famous for its up-to-dateness, it could be an old sign – but it might be worth a try – especially if you live in the Westcombe Park area and are interested in its history.

You know, Dustin? I reckon your best bet would be to invent the run-down hotel of your dreams. Possibly around the West Greenwich area – Nevada St, Royal Hill, Crooms Hill (an ancient road) though if you really want somewhere on the meridian, you should think about creating a place on Park Vista (I THINK that it crosses it) Trafalgar Road or close to the power station. In fact – here’s an idea. Why not make the Cutty Sark pub an inn too – it may well have been at one point. It’s on Ballast Quay, it’s 18th century, it’s a few yards from the meridian, VERY pretty and it’s lapped by the Thames. If you sit outside of an evening you can sip your pint, looking out at the laser that follows the meridian line.

But maybe other people have a suggestion. Can you suggest either a run-down hotel or somewhere that could have a fictitious run-down hotel for Dustin?

Let us know how it goes, Dustin…

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