The Returning Officer: Hummums

Unlike their counterparts, none of the Labour MPs in the Liberal yearbooks listed membership of any clubs. William Johnson (Nuneaton, 1906-18) listed his address as “miners’ offices, Bedworth”. William Abraham, known by his bardic name – Mabon – gave the Westminster Palace Hotel as his London address. Opened in 1861, it was the first in the city to have lifts.

Frederick Hall (Normanton, 1905-33), stayed at Hummums. The name was a corruption of hamam, the Arabic word for bath; since 1683 the site had been a Turkish bath where, a source recorded, “people get themselves cupped”. It competed with Lazenby’s, Haddock’s and other “hummumses”.

Converted into a hotel in 1781 and rebuilt next door in 1887, it became a London institution and is mentioned in Vanity Fair and Great Expectations

This article first appeared in the 19 December 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas Triple Issue