Kimpton Clocktower Hotel

(Redirected from Refuge Assurance Building)

The Kimpton Clocktower Hotel is a historic hotel structure at the corner of Oxford Street and Whitworth Street in Manchester, England. The building was originally constructed in segments from 1891 to 1932 as the Refuge Assurance Building.

Kimpton Clocktower Hotel
View from Oxford St/Whitworth St Intersection
Oxford Street façade with clock tower in 2021
Former namesPrincipal Manchester
Alternative namesRefuge Assurance Building
General information
StatusGrade II*
TypeOriginally offices for Refuge Assurance; Hotel since 1989
Architectural styleEclectic Baroque[1]
LocationOxford Street, Manchester
CountryUnited Kingdom
Current tenantsKimpton Clocktower Hotel, Kimpton
Renovated1912, 1932, 2016, 2020
ClientRefuge Assurance Company
OwnerInterContinental Hotels Group
Design and construction
ArchitectAlfred Waterhouse, Paul Waterhouse, Stanley Birkett


Refuge Assurance CompanyEdit

The first phase of this Grade II* listed red brick and terracotta building was designed for the Refuge Assurance Company by Alfred Waterhouse and built 1891–1895.[2] The inside was of Burmantofts faience and glazed brick. The ground floor was one enormous open business hall.[3] It was extended, with a striking 217-foot (66 m) tower, along Oxford Street by his son Paul Waterhouse in 1910–1912.[2] It was further extended along Whitworth Street by Stanley Birkett in 1932.[3]

What is now the ballroom was previously the dining hall for employees, with males and females being required to sit separately. Around 2,000 staff were employed. Women had to reapply for jobs if they married,[4] and some areas of the building were for men only.[5] The ballroom in the basment was used as a dance hall for workers in their lunch hour.[6]

After occupying the building as offices for nearly a century, the Refuge Assurance Company moved to the grounds of Fulshaw Hall, Cheshire on Friday 6 November 1987. The Refuge Assurance company had discussed converting the building into a new home for the Hallé Orchestra with one of Manchester's cultural patrons Sir Bob Scott for over a year. The £3 million funding required for the project did not materialise and the Halle subsequently moved from the Free Trade Hall to the new Bridgewater Hall upon opening in 1996.[7] Local architecture critic John Parkinson-Bailey noted that "one of the most prestigious and expensive buildings in Manchester lay forlorn and empty except for a caretaker and the ghost on its staircase".[7]

Conversion to hotelEdit

The massive structure was converted to a hotel by Richard Newman in 1996 at a cost of £7 million, and was named the Palace Hotel, owned and operated by the Principal Hotel Company.[8] Principal Hotels was sold to Nomura International Plc in 2001,[9] and they rebranded the hotel as Le Méridien Palace Manchester. When Le Méridien Hotels faced financial difficulties,[10] the hotel was bought back by a reconstituted Principal Hotels in 2004[11] and again renamed the Palace Hotel. When Principal Hotels decided to brand all their hotels with their corporate name, the hotel was renamed The Principal Manchester, in November 2016.[12] The current glass dome in the reception area was taken from a Scottish railway station during the conversion to a hotel.[4]

In May 2018, the hotel was sold to the InterContinental Hotels Group.[13] It was announced in February 2020[14] that the hotel would be renamed the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel in March; as part of InterContinental Hotels Group's Kimpton Hotels brand. However, the hotel was forced to close before the renaming, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[15] It reopened under the Kimpton name on October 1, 2020.[16]

The hotel is purported to be haunted.[6] One of the staircases is said to be haunted by a grieving war widow who committed suicide by throwing herself down it, throwing herself from the top floor.[4] The staircase in question was only accessible to men at the time.[5] Room 261 is allegedly haunted, with reports of the sound of children playing at night.[17]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Historic England. "Refuge Assurance Building (1271429)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  2. ^ a b Former Refuge Assurance Company Offices, Heritage Gateway, retrieved 24 October 2009
  3. ^ a b Hartwell, Clare (2001), Manchester, Pevsner Architectural Guides, Penguin Books, p. 180, ISBN 978-0-14-071131-8
  4. ^ a b c Evans, Denise (6 September 2016). "New Palace Hotel tours reveal secret and hidden rooms". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Principal Manchester Hotel: A Glimpse into the Past & Future". 23 January 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ a b News, Manchester Evening (31 March 2011). "I would go out tonight: Johnny Marr shares his midnight Manchester odyssey with the world". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 11 April 2021. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  7. ^ a b Parkinson-Bailey. Manchester: An architectural history. p. 227.
  8. ^ "The Palace Hotel - Oxford Street & Whitworth Street". Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  9. ^ "Nomura International PLC's Principal Finance Group Buys Principal Hotels - Juergen Bartels Joins Management Team".
  10. ^ "RBS takes its partners in the le Meridien hotel reshuffle". 7 December 2003.
  11. ^ "Troy lands Palace again". 13 August 2004.
  12. ^ Roue, Lucy (29 September 2016). "The Principal Manchester heads for 'principal' role in city". Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  13. ^ "IHG adds 13 luxury and upscale hotels in the UK". 4 July 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  14. ^ "The old Palace Hotel's landmark clock tower is changing AGAIN as Principal brand stripped". Manchester Evening News. 26 February 2020. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  15. ^ "Manchester hotel jobs at risk as redundancy consultation begins". 6 July 2020.
  16. ^ "Kimpton Clocktower Hotel Open in Manchester".
  17. ^ "MANCHESTER ~ Palace Hotel……. | GHOSTLY TOM'S TRAVEL BLOG…." Retrieved 11 April 2021.


  • Parkinson-Bailey, John (2000). Manchester: An Architectural History. Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719056062.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 53°28′28″N 2°14′25″W / 53.4744°N 2.2403°W / 53.4744; -2.2403