Standing on Bondgate Within in the Northumberland town of Alnwick is the White Swan Hotel. Behind its traditional stone facade is a hidden gem. The exterior of the hotel gives a clue; a small brass plaque states that "situated within this hotel is the first class lounge from the S.S. Olympic (1910-1936) twin ship to the legendary S.S. Titanic."
The hotel not only contains much of the first-class lounge, but other fittings from the ship. The revolving door at the entrance to the hotel came from the Olympic as did the staircase which can be seen on entering the hotel. This originally formed part of the aft grand staircase.
Inside, past the reception and lounge area, through a corridor, visitors find a small flight of five stairs, with the same balustrade from the main staircase, leading to double doors. Opening the doors leads into hotel's restaurant, marketed as the 'Olympic Suite'. Although not in the same configuration as aboard the Olympic, the panelling of the first-class lounge has been used to fit out the room, in a more elongated shape than aboard ship.
A Special Number of the Shipbuilder journal considered that "full advantage has been taken of the great size of the Olympic and Titanic to provide passenger accommodation of unrivalled extent and magnificence" and that "everything has been done in regard to the furniture and fittings to make the first-class accommodation more than equal to that provided in the finest hotels on shore."
The 1911 Shipbuilder Special Edition enthused about the lounge, "situated upon the promenade deck A". Shipbuilder described it as "a noble apartment in the Louis Quinze style, the details being taken from the Palace at Versailles. Here passengers will indulge in reading, conversation, cards, tea-drinking, and other social intercourse". Further, Shipbuilder provided dimensions to the room, recording a length of 59 feet, a breadth of 63 feet, and a height of "no less than" 12ft 3in.
Shipbuilder described the room, with its walls "covered with finely carved boiseries in which, without interfering with the symmetry of the whole, the fancy of the carver has shown itself in ever-varying detail. At one end is a large fireplace, and at the other a bookcase from which books can be borrowed". The fireplace is now the central feature of the room; the whereabouts of the bookcase are unknown. The Shipbuilder journal (and period photographs) show a central, recessed plastered ceiling with an ornate electrolier light fitting. Today, the electrolier resides in Cutler's Hall in Sheffield.
Speaking from my own experience, it is the strangest of sensations walking into the former first-class lounge, now serving as the hotel restaurant. Though the layout of the room does not represent the exact layout as aboard ship, the impression is still magnificent. The carving of the paneling and columns, and around the mirror over the fireplace is rich and detailed. The room felt quite eerie when empty, and I imagined all the people who had spent time in that room. The room came to life when meals were served.