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Lost history proves Grand find; Hotel renovation uncovers fascinating curios from 140-year-old landmark.

Byline: Tamlyn Jones Business Correspondent

ARESIGNATION letter from 1916, a bizarre note from a disgruntled member of staff and the fanciest of Victorian menus are some of the curious objects discovered during the PS40 million restoration of one of Birmingham's most iconic landmarks.

Developer Hortons' Estate has been restoring the historic 1879 Grade II*-listed Grand Hotel in Colmore Row to its former glory - and recovered some intriguing slices of history along the way.

The redevelopment will see new bars and offices as well as the rebirth of the city's most well-known hotel.

But the renovation, which has taken four years so far, has also offered a fascinating glimpse into life in the building before it closed in 2002.

Among the items discovered were a calendar of Christmas parties for 1973 (with tickets for a masked ball going for PS3.50 each) nautical doodles and a photo of a construction site like no other as workers wearing waistcoats and bowler hats build the Grosvenor Suite.

Other finds include: 1) Strange note On February 12, 1960, waiter Thomas Carmody, aged just 16 1/2, slipped a note under the floorboards at The Grand. His chilling message, scrawled on the back of a restaurant menu, said: "I will come back from the dead to see you."

Thomas would be 72 now. Is he still alive, or is he stalking The Grand's corridors in spirit form? 2) Doodles Being in land-locked Birmingham obviously made this artist pine for the sea and distant climes.

Nautical-themed doodles were found on the walls of the former manager's office. 3) Menu, dated 1899 It seems Birmingham was a foodie's haven in the late 1800s as a typewritten menu offered "plaice a l'Orly", "Ox tails a la jardiniere" and "gelee au maraschino".

4) Christmas at The Grand This flier promoting Christmas celebrations in 1973 includes a New Year's Eve ball promising "one of the most glamorous and popular events" in the Yuletide calendar.

Tickets cost PS6.75 including champagne but a deposit of PS1 per person was required for advanced bookings. 5) Resignation On May 1, 1916, The Grand's manager resigned, giving two months' notice. His formal note was found in a safe. Off to war perhaps? 6) Coins There was much excitement when a construction worker declared he had found an "ancient coin" on site.

But as Hortons' chief executive Tony Green said of the 1948 half crown piece: "Ancient? I used to get one of those as pocket money!" 7) Branded crockery and chamber pot There was no danger of forgetting where you were when dining at The Grand as the hotel's bespoke bone china Wedgwood crockery bore the Grand Hotel crest - as did its chamber pots.

8) Signs As new office tenants move into The Grand's refurbished Imperial and Whitehall Chambers, there is an old list of those occupiers who preceded them.

9) Tiles A fireplace with its attractive tiled surround was salvaged during the refurbishment of the office suites at The Grand.

It turns out the brilliantly coloured ceramics were coveted De Morgans, designed by William De Morgan, a key proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement in the late 19th and early 20th century.

10) Water Bottles Hundreds of glass water bottles were found in The Grand's basement where the hotel boasts two freshwater wells.

These are 238ft deep and still in good working order, making a great source of water for an on-site microbrewery or gin distillery.

11) Old photograph The Grand was one of the first buildings to use steel girders to support its structure.

A photo shows a glimpse of an original girder and workers wearing shirts and waistcoats - with not a hard hat or high-vis jacket in sight. Piano (Not pictured) A piano was found in The Grand's Grosvenor Suite - it is claimed a ghostly pianist has been heard to tinkle its ivories from time to time.

Communications (Not pictured) Long before emails, a hotel's internal communications included a bell system while money was moved around using pneumatic tubes.


The Grand Hotel, in Colmore Row
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 1, 2016
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