We are blessed, in the Home Counties and Greater London, with a wealth of fine hotels. There are boutique hotels, glitzy city hotels, former ancestral piles, and then there are those few gems which are timeless and utterly charming, and they might combine a little of all of the above, and in memorable fashion.. That’s The House!
The House on the Beaverbrook Estate is unique and perhaps one of my favourite hotels. The name Beaverbrook sounds idyllic and rural, with visions of a forest-fringed stream and a healthy complement of wildlife. Well, the vision of striking countryside is correct, but the estate is named after a former owner, the celebrated media magnate Lord Beaverbrook.
This is a polished and quintessentially English country estate, but in fact Lord Beaverbrook did not hail from these shores. He was born in Canada as William Maxwell Aitken in 1879. He moved to the UK in 1910 and Aitken received a peerage in 1917 as the first Baron Beaverbrook. He later owned the largest circulation newspaper in the world, the Daily Express, which was hugely influential during the dark years of the Second World War. He played a significant part in mobilising industrial resources as Winston Churchill’s minister of aircraft production. The emblem of the Beaverbrook Estate is a Spitfire aircraft, in recognition of his contribution to the war effort.
Trappings of the ’20s and ’30s
The House, for that is the name of this mansion hotel, has just undergone a substantial £90m refurbishment. Susie Atkinson is recognised as one of London’s most influential designers and she is responsible for its light and airy persona that still retains trappings of the ’20s and ’30s. One has the sense that one is staying at a friend’s home. Granted, that buddy is lucky enough to offer 18 bedrooms, but all those rooms are on a very human scale.
Each room is named after a previous occupant. There is a Rudyard Kipling room; the Ian Fleming room has hints of James Bond. We stayed in the Elizabeth Taylor room – yes, she spent time here along with her husband, Richard Burton. The bedroom was on the first floor (that’s the second floor if you are from across the Pond) and on a short corridor overlooking a hall complete with piano and a rather impressive and contemporary wall-hanging. Yes, items decades apart but working seamlessly together and indeed creating a statement about The House style. An amalgamation of quality art, furniture, design and fabric.
Ms Taylor would have loved this room although it would have looked very different in her day. The dual-aspect windows help bathe the room in light. The imposing four-poster, garnished with pillows and cushions, was soft and inviting. A desk offered not only glossy literature but also a complementary bottle of sloe gin and that seems to be something of a trademark with this hotel group. The bathroom, as with all the individually decorated rooms, was big enough to sport not only a roll-top bath but two basins and a huge double shower.
In case of attack by a would-be assassin
All 18 rooms have their own distinct character. One might spend a night or two in the Winston Churchill room. Yes, the actual room where the great man stayed. It has a feel of the 1930s, from soft furnishings to a superb art deco fireplace. The bathroom is, unusually, down a flight of stairs and once had an exit door through what is now the shower – a safety feature in case of attack by a would-be assassin. The bright and shiny toilet cistern is a feat of decorative sanitary engineering.
The grounds and gardens are perfect for unwinding. One might sit in the gardens and doze with a good book. One could play a gentle round of croquet on the lawn. There is plenty of space to wander the woods, and in those woods there is a tree house… or is it a fort… or is it a castle… or a pirate ship? That wooden structure is the stuff of dreams for young minds.
Evenings at the House can be spent in more adult but equally magical fashion. There is a bar which will waft the sipper back to the 1920s. This room wasn’t originally a bar but its proportions work so well. The tall mirrored fireplace shows off bottles, and the high counter is partnered with plush velvet-covered stools. Beaded lampshades give a nod to flappers in their fringed dresses. A classic cocktail might be in order for pre-dinner drinks. How about a Highball?
Recline in deep red sofas
There is a remarkable cinema here, tucked away off the reception behind an anonymous door. It still has the blond 1930s panelled walls, but the seats are no longer utilitarian and purely functional. Now one can recline in deep red sofas and perhaps watch a sporting event instead of the Pathé newsreels of the war years.
The Beaverbrook Estate oozes accessible luxury and for me it’s the very best of its genre. This is as far from the expected stuffy Country House hotel as one would want. It offers everything for a romantic break, for a relaxing weekend, and even for a fun-filled few days with the kids, who will love that secret tree-house.
There are common links between each of the impeccably-crafted elements of the Beaverbrook Estate. It’s the timeless charm and attention to detail, along with modern technology and comfort, that will ensure a speedy return.