Well well well: Birmingham Hotel boasts own water supply

Derek McDonagh with some of the bottled water that is extracted from the hotel’s own artisan well and bottled on site.

Derek McDonagh with some of the bottled water that is extracted from the hotel’s own artisan well and bottled on site.

If Birmingham ever fell victim to a drought one city centre hotel manager would be able to steal a march over his rivals as he’d be able to rely on his very own water supply.

The Macdonald Burlington on New Street already saves thousands of pounds a year, due to the fact it is sitting atop an underground well which dates back to the hotel’s origins in 1873.

In fact the water supply is so bountiful it also supplies a number of neighbouring businesses.

It is something of which manager Derek McDonagh is so proud he even shares it with guests by laying on complimentary bottles of specially-labelled water.

Mr McDonagh, Midlands managing director for Macdonald Hotels and Resorts, said: “The history of this hotel is vast. There are underground tunnels, which are still there, built to connect to the railway station. The tunnels were used to bring mail from Colmore Row as there used to be mail sorting offices up there.

“We were the link between Colmore Row and the railway station. The tunnels were blocked off a few years ago by health and safety. There are three storeys below the hotel, and there used to be Turkish baths down there.

“Birmingham is built on a lake, it used to get all its water from boreholes.

“It’s an environmentally-friendly system – we bottle the water and provide it complimentary in all bedrooms.

Maintenance manager Matt Wellock at the well head under the Burlington Hotel

Maintenance manager Matt Wellock at the well head under the Burlington Hotel

“The well saves us thousands of pounds a year, you are talking about supplies to showers, baths, toilets etc. We also supply Waterstones and Starbucks and some of the shops in between and they pay a fee for the maintenance to Hortons.

“The hotel dates back to 1873 and was originally owned by the Horton family, who still own it today.

“A lot of people say to me ‘I remember it being the Midland Hotel, we used to drink in the bar downstairs.’

“So many people remember it from years gone by. In the 90s it changed to the Burlington.”

Mr McDonagh said the Burlington was reaping the dividends of the success of the city centre over the last ten years or so.

“We are extremely busy,” he said. “When I arrived, the new Bull Ring was just opening in 2003.

“I came in at the end of 2002, I remember the Christmas market when it was just a few stalls.

“The city centre has been transformed. This is a major event city and for that, you have to have quality hotels.

“Business peaked in 2006-07, we had gone through the recession from 2008 to 2012, there was a tightening up of the market.

“Since 2012, we have been increasing numbers in double percentage figures. 2014 was an excellent year and 2015 is shaping up to be the same, and that is being driven by the corporate market.”