- Original prison cell door peephole
- Gaol bedrooms
- Malmaison exterior
- Restored prison atrium
- Original cell door and gimmicky signage
- 3 cells converted into 1 ensuite bedroom
- Ramparts at night
Once a Victorian prison, it has been converted into a lavish hotel in the heart of Oxford. It is as close to an experience of staying in a prison that you can get without being locked in. It even has old studded front doors, barred windows, and three-inch thick steel cell doors, and the internal landings and stairways.
Stephanie Briggs joined Malmaison Group as Director of Design in January 2005 and her first project was Malmaison Oxford, which has been awarded the Catey Award for the Group Hotel of the Year. Briggs had previously worked for interior design company Jestico + Whiles in London, who were the design team for Malmaison. She also worked on the Malmaison Belfast and Café Mal at Malmaison Newcastle schemes.
The hotel was converted from the prison that had been built within Oxford Castle, which was used as a prison until 1996. The hotel was opened in November 2005. There is believed to have been a prison on the Oxford Castle site since approximately 1166, and in 1236 the Chancellor of the University was authorised to use the Castle Gaol for imprisoning rebellious scholars. Malmaison is a brand which rarely shies away from challenging conversions. The name Malmaison comes from the name of the original home of Napoléon and Josephine, a grand house just west of Paris that was seen in its time as being representative of social change and an icon of great style.
The hotel is located in a mix of buildings, including the former prison wings and new extensions, each originally completed by a different architect. The design balances these different elements in a subtle manner, carefully opening up the origin cells to form 94 contemporary bedrooms and bathrooms while retaining the essential elements of the original beautiful engineering. The hotel's rooms are spread across different wings, the most spectacular of which are the cell rooms, where the prison atrium, with its metal staircases and uniform walkways, remains amazingly intact. Most rooms are three cells knocked together, but the original doors (locks now operable by the occupant), brick walls and vaulted ceilings, remain. The bedrooms and suites are distributed throughout five stylistically separate areas of the hotel - A Wing, C Wing, the Governor's House, New Road Wing, and the Houses of Correction.