It’s the kind of country-house estate that we believe has disappeared. How can there be anything this magnificent so close to London (only 35 minutes from the capital and 7 miles from Heathrow Airport)? But here it is in all its splendour. In fact it’s such an icon of classic British architecture that it’s been featured in films such as Bridget Jones’s Diary and several James Bond films. The scene in Goldfinger where Odd Job decapitates a stone statue was filmed just outside these very buildings.
I can’t understand the thrill of golf but I guess if you must whack balls then Stoke Park is the place to do it. It’s been a country club for over a hundred years and the Mansion still rings with evocative music of the 1930s during dinner. But the estate existed a long time before the advent of plus-fours and flapper dresses.
Stoke Park’s history dates back over 1,000 years to before the Domesday book, in which everything from a ham to a hamlet was recorded. After the Norman Conquest of 1066 the estate was inherited in a direct line of descent for over 500 years until it was sold to the Crown in order to pay the outstanding debts of Henry Hastings, the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon. Francis, his father, was Commander in Chief of Henry VIII’s army and it’s he who commissioned the building the original Manor House in the mid-1500s. About a third of this still exists, a short distance from the present Mansion.
John Penn, whose family gave its name to the US state of Pennsylvania, built most of what we find at Stoke Park today as his private family home. The newly-founded Government of the United States paid £130,000 for the 26 million acres of land in Pennsylvania that the Penns had owned, and much of that money was used for the project.
Stoke Park is a name-dropper’s dream. The Mansion was designed by James Wyatt (architect to George III) who worked on the development of The Mansion and surrounding monuments from 1790 to 1813. It’s a Grade I listed building and that ensures its preservation, although that status does bring its own problems: the kitchens are a warren of small rooms in the basement; but there are moves afoot to extend onto the ground floor.
The parkland is the result of an alliance between two of Britain’s most celebrated eighteenth-century landscape architects. ‘Capability’ Brown planted trees and designed sweeping grassy swathes that were later to give way to the prestigious 27-hole golf course of the modern Stoke Park. It’s considered one of the finest parkland courses in the country and was created by renowned golf-course architect Harry Shapland Colt in 1908. It hosted the first PGA Matchplay tournament in 1910.
Humphry Repton, the second gardening genius, is the architect of the romantic bridge across the lake that one can see from the Mansion. It is lit at night and one has a unique vantage point from the restaurant which is also called Humphry’s, paying homage to the man who did so much to make Stoke Park the stunning estate that we can all enjoy today.
The hotel offers three dining options: the relaxed and elegant Orangery; an Italian brasserie called San Marco’s; and Humphry’s, which has been awarded 2 AA Rosettes. It offers Modern British cuisine with a bit of delicious innovation from Chef Chris Wheeler’s signature dishes. The food, decor, service, ambiance and even the music make this restaurant a destination in its own right. It’s open to hotel guests and non-residents alike.
Within the 50,000 square foot building are the Mansion’s 21 traditional bedrooms, Humphry’s fine-dining restaurant, President’s Bar, Orangery, and various function rooms. A stay here offers that classic experience of which memories are made. The public spaces are sumptuous, with corners for settling with the Sunday papers or that good book you have been saving for a quiet afternoon. The winter months, and this year most of the spring, will find open fires blazing, which add still more to the impression that you have been transported back in time.
Although the bedrooms are described as traditional it’s unlikely you will have anything like these at home. The Pennsylvania Suite was featured in the hit movie ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’. But we stayed in The Coke Room which is named after Edward Coke, whom you will all remember from your history books. No, he wasn’t the man who invented a dubious carbonated beverage but was the prosecutor of Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators, tried and convicted within the one day, January 26, 1606.
Guy Fawkes had been discovered in the cellars beneath the Houses of Parliament. He had with him enough gunpowder to make a mess of the building, and the Jacobean equivalent of a box of Swan Vestas to seal his fate. Tickets for the trial changed hands like seats for the Cup Final, with Sir Edward Coke describing the attempt at political mass murder as: “the greatest treasons that ever were plotted in England.” As a reward for his services he was first knighted and then made Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. Coke died on 3 September 1634, aged 82, as a result of a horse falling on him. He didn’t die in this bedroom, as he would have been living in the original house, the remains of which can be seen from this 18th century mansion.
The Coke Room is a splendid example of romantic English furnishing, with a high four-poster bed with large fluffy pillows, a sofa with large fluffy cushions, and a bathroom (big enough to accommodate a tea dance) with large fluffy bath robes. Stoke Park is mindful that however much you might appreciate being wafted back to a gentler time there is still going to be the need for communication that only technology can provide. Wi-Fi access and a flat-screen TV will also be yours, along with an open fire which will provide a much more calming picture.
Completed in 2002 the Pavilion is very much the younger sibling to the Mansion but there is no mistaking its pedigree. Stonework and sympathetically designed windows match the Park perfectly. This new hotel complex houses a state-of-the-art gymnasium and sports facilities. There is an indoor swimming pool (kids have their own times for splashing about), spa and steam rooms, San Marco restaurant for casual family meals, and supervised crèche and under eights’ playroom. All hotel guests have access to these facilities.
In 2008, 28 new luxury contemporary bedrooms were launched along with the Garden Lounge on the first floor of the Pavilion. The bedrooms here are all individually furnished and decorated – film posters along with four-posters here, mirror-finish desks, and shelves of modern novels just in case you forgot that good book. These rooms have a totally different ambiance from those of the Mansion, but quality provides continuity.Take advantage of great offers this month. Relax, enjoy the spa and try your hand at some tennis.
Full English breakfast
Complimentary use of Health and Racquet facilities
(indoor swimming pool with hydro-seats, state-of-the-art gymnasium, multi-surface tennis courts, steam rooms, dance and fitness studio)From £150 per person per night based on two people sharing a Superior Room. Standard upgrade charges apply. If you would like to book, call reservations on 01753 717171.
Available Friday nights in May, subject to availability.
Sunday Afternoon Decadence
Why not make your Sunday a little more special with a relaxing break at Stoke Park? Take Afternoon Tea with sandwiches, cakes, scones and clotted cream, along with your choice of a wide range of teas and coffees. Yes, afternoon tea is available all over London but here you have a backdrop of stunning views of the estate. Visit the Health and Racquet Pavilion with its tennis courts and gym or unwind in the award-winning spa.
The Sunday Package includes:
One night’s accommodation
Full English breakfast
Late check-out at 3pm (subject to availability)
Traditional afternoon tea for two
Complimentary use of Health and Racquet facilities
(indoor swimming pool with hydro-seats, state-of-the-art gymnasium, multi-surface tennis courts, steam rooms, dance and fitness studio)
From £198.00 per room. (Offer based on two people sharing a Superior Room. Normal supplements apply. If you would like to book, please call reservations on 01753 717171 and quote ‘SUNTEA’.)
Valid until Sunday, 30th December 2012
(Excluding 3rd, 17th & 24th June, 29th July, 5th, 12th & 26th August)
Humphry’s is open to all for:
Lunch: noon – 2.30pm
Dinner: 7.00pm – 10.00pm
Buckinghamshire SL2 4PG
Phone: 01753 717171
Hotel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018