Henley’s Heritage – Imperial Hotel

The Imperial hotel was built in 1897 to the designs of the London architect William Theobalds opposite the station, a location chosen in order to attract visitors arriving by train.  Shops were built on each side and the roof of the hotel was decorated by a finial in the shape of a dragon.

When the Imperial hotel opened it wasn’t licensed.  In 1903, owner Joseph Kendall of South Croydon applied for a licence.  In a letter sent to Licensing Justices he said, “I undertake promise and affer that there shall be no Bar or Saloon upon these premises in respect to which the license is granted.” In 1916 Joseph died and his widow did not wish to continue running the hotel.  The hotel was closed and taken over by the military until the end of the first world war.

In 1919, Albert Halliday took over the hotel and was refused a licence. He had previously been the landlord of the Angel on the Bridge.  Mr Desire Croce of Milan held the licence from 1919-1921.

In 1922, owner Peter Testa applied for a licence for Music and Dancing for a dance club.  A dance club was held every Saturday evening and a dinner dance once a month.  Tickets (including dinner) were 7s and 6d.  Dancing only was 2s 6d.  The Dance Club flourished and the licence was continued to be renewed and in 1931 a full license was granted for not just guests of the hotel to buy drinks!

From 1981-93 the Imperial was known as the Edwardian, but in March 1993 the building was bought by Stephen Binns and his wife Nucharee, who comes from Thailand.  After extensive re-decorating, including putting in new bathrooms, they reopened the hotel as the Imperial in time for the Henley Royal Regatta in 1993.  Mr & Mrs Binns brought a Thai influence to the hotel, not only introducing a replica of a Thai temple into the restaurant but also providing a menu of both Thai and European food.

The hotel closed in 2006 and was due to reopen in 2014 after refurbishment by current owner Dr Raymond Crockett however it has remained closed.

In September 2021 a large quantity of cannabis was seized by the police from the hotel.

2 comments
  1. Vanessa Tomlin says:

    Hi
    Saw tins and was so excited that it might be coming back!
    So sorry that there is no further news. I went there many times in my 20s.
    I remember the Thai,and sitting in the front bar.
    Fabulous place.

    Reply
  2. Richard Radford says:

    Wow, yes I also though that perhaps finally something was happening with this lovely old building, but nope!
    It’s a disgrace that it has sat empty for so many years and no one seems to know anything about it. I’m not sure why there is such a reluctance to discuss the fact that the owners are neglecting the building and it’s a really sad sight, especially for visitors to the town when they come out of the station – not a great first impression of Henley!
    I’ve asked before, but does anyone really know what’s going on? The town council don’t seem willing to do anything.

    Reply

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