It was the place in Sheffield where nobody wanted a room for the night because it meant being locked up behind bars in West Bar police station, writes Graham Walker.
But the next guests to be booked in are promised a night of luxury.
The famed former cop shop has undergone a £9 million refurbishment to transform it into the Hampton by Hilton – the city’s latest state-of-the-art hotel.
VIDEO: The Star was given an exclusive sneak peak – press the play button to watch our special video report.
Hampton by Hilton, set to open next month, boasts 142 stylish bedrooms, all with their own en suite and plush beds, so today’s guests get a perfect night’s sleep.
The only ‘cons’ in there now are mod-cons, to make a stay as comfortable and convenient as possible, including flat screen TVs and complimentary Wi-Fi. And forget prison grub. Not only will residents get free hot and cold buffet breakfast, included in the room price – celebrity chef Marco Pierre White is also opening a restaurant there, from March 24.
Marco’s New York Italian, promising a relaxed but affordable setting for guests and non-residents, will serve up food inspired by his Italian heritage and love for New York dishes, including pastas, steaks, ribs, seafood, burgers and handmade pizzas.
The hotel also has a gym, two meeting rooms and prides itself on its family-friendly facilities – far removed from the stark, clinical prison cells which used to house some of the city’s most notorious criminals.
A family friendly hotel, catering for families with young children, it also offers family rooms, with inter-connecting rooms on request
The last remaining cell door was taken out during refurbishment work, so you can’t book a night in the cells. But you can take a look – it’s been handed over to the National Emergency Services Museum just down the road.
But near the hotel foyer, pride of place on the wall, remains the official marble plaque marking the opening of the building, the then City Of Sheffield Police Central Division, by Chief Insp Sir Edward Dodd, on July 16, 1965. Fingerprint artwork and police themed prints are also planned to decorate inside the building as homage to its past.
It was the end of an era for criminals and coppers alike when West Bar police station was locked up for the last time, after almost 50 years, in March 2011.
In its day the iconic landmark building, a seven-storey structure, towered above all others in the city centre.
It was the place where, in 1982, the European Cup was handed in after a man stole it from Aston Villa players who were celebrating their win in a pub in Tamworth. Bobbies on duty at the time held a football game in the West Bar backyard to compete for the trophy until it was reclaimed.
And it was the base for Sgt Howard Webb, before he went off on the football refereeing sabbatical in which he presided over the World Cup final. But over the years the ageing building gradually fell into a state of disrepair and, despite it being an authentic cop shop, even the producers of the BBC’s Life On Mars police series found it too dilapidated to be considered as a filming location.
It closed with all enquiries going to South Yorkshire Police’s then headquarters on Snig Hill. HQ is now based in the former Abbey National call centre building, in Carbrook. South Yorkshire Police sold the West Bar building for £2.5m to Hilton and the hotel chain embarked on a £9million refurbishment project to transform it.
Hampton by Hilton general manager Peter Hendry, aged 34, originally from Southport, has been on site for the past nine months. He said: “A few people might come back and reminisce.
“We’ve spoken to some who worked at the police station or had relatives here. There are also people who spent a night before it was a hotel...and I’ll leave that thought with you.
“Unfortunately there wasn’t a huge amount of the old police station left. We had one cell door, but we’ve built our relationships locally and donated it to the museum down the road.
“We have the original opening plaque and we’ve had a play with the artwork going up inside the hotel, including police images and some fingerprint art.
“It’s important as a Hampton brand that we keep things local and we’ve tried to depict local images on the walls inside the rooms, focusing on the steel industry, the snooker, the Botanical Gardens and key buildings.
“We are weeks away from opening now, which is exciting. We are taking bookings for April, but we are hoping to open in the middle of March.”
Peter is joined at the hotel by sales manager Michelle Bracey, operations manager Craig Wheatley, reservations manager Alison Goodison, maintenance manager David Ramskill, HR assistant Amrita Singh and night manager Alwyn Mitcham.
Peter added: “Having moved to Sheffield to take this role, I’ve fallen in love with the place and I’m proud to now call it home. There’s a great buzz about the city and we can’t wait to be a part of it when we open our doors.”