A boutique hotel converted from a prison is embroiled in a debate after photos of social media influencers promoting their stays in the former jail went viral.
The Malmaison Oxford, which is described as “better than your average prison” on the company’s website, is a boutique hotel located in the former Oxford Castle in Oxford, UK. The property functioned as Her Majesty’s Prison Oxford from 1888 to 1996, according to Hotel Management Network, before it was purchased by the hotel chain.
After the prison was purchased, it was converted into a hotel, which opened in 2006, with most of the jail cells refurbished into guest rooms, while “original cells with genuine doors and bars are available,” according to Hotel Management Network. Other details, such as the original metal doors and wrought ironwork stairs, were incorporated into the hotel’s decor.
“Malmaison Oxford’s 95 rooms and suites were once your average basic cell,” the website reads. “But they’ve done their time and are now reformed as luxurious locations to lay your head, thanks to super-fast wifi, super-comfy beds and powerful drench showers you’ll want to surrender to. These are simply the most stunning and original hotel rooms in Oxford, meaning they’re now on the most wanted list.”
On Monday, a woman named Anna Seregina shared photos of the hotel and of influencers posing in the main portion of the building as well as in the cells, on Twitter, where she wrote: “Found a prison that has been converted to an influencer hotel.”
The tweet, which has since been liked more than 19,000 times, has sparked a conversation about the appropriateness of the destination, with many condemning those who have posed inside the former prison’s walls.
“This is one of the worst things I’ve seen,” one person tweeted, while another said: “Oh this is extremely gross.”
Someone else questioned: “How can you vacation there? The amount of pain and suffering that is trapped within those walls…”
Others compared those who stayed in the hotel, or held wedding photoshoots there, to people who have their weddings on former slave plantations, with another person tweeting: “It’s giving plantation wedding.”
While many found issue with the building’s renovation into a hotel, Newsweek noted that the former prison is listed, which means it is of “special architectural or historic interest considered to be of national importance and therefore worth protecting,” according to Historic England.
And, according to one influencer, who previously stayed in the hotel and who spoke to Newsweek, the preservation of the building is what is important.
“The old prison is a preserved building, it’s listed and in my opinion the hotel has done a great job in renovating but still preserving the building. In many countries like mine, they have demolished historical buildings or let them fall in parts. I am of the opinion [that we should] preserve historical buildings,” said travel blogger Nuria Travels, who goes by the username @nuriatravels.
Someone else tweeted: “It’s cringey but an improvement over an actual prison so let’s roll it out nationwide.”
However, others have suggested that the building could have been used for other purposes, with one critic writing: “This should have been turned into affordable housing for people who desperately need it. So over selfie culture.”
The Independent has contacted Malmaison for comment.