Visitors to London are tempted to stay just in the city. There is plenty to see and do, so why roam? It’s the same for us Londoners – we tend to stay in town, but there is more to England than that and it’s on our doorstep. You must visit The Talbot.
Ripley is a village in Surrey. It’s been around since Norman times and the chancel of the church of St. Mary Magdalen was constructed around 1160. It’s said to have the largest village green in the country and Ripley Cricket Club is more than 250 years old, one of the oldest clubs in the world. Eric Clapton was born in Ripley, which is likely to be more interesting to many people than the above statistics!
The village is set on the main road from London to Portsmouth and was the post town for the whole area between 1813 and 1865. The village sign displays a carriage which would have carried the mail. The Talbot Inn has for centuries played its part in that local story.
This an authentic coaching inn. They were once found along all major roads throughout the country. They provided stables, change of horses, drink, beds and communications. Such inns remained a crucial part of life until the advent of the railway network.
Accommodations for Lord Nelson
The Talbot has the classic architecture. There is the arch through which the coaches and horses once entered. The original building is dated to about 1453 and it has always been a coaching inn. There are still stables, though now refurbished. Small windows and terracotta roof tiles all witnessed a very different time when the clip-clop of hooves echoed in these mews, which has now been turned into a quiet courtyard. This inn is said to have provided convivial accommodations for Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton when the couple had a romantic interlude (or perhaps several) in 1798.
The staircase in reception is a stunning vision of carved wood. The bar has low ceilings and sports a banquette where once perched Horatio himself; a brass plate proclaims that fact. This isn’t themed antiquity – this is the real thing! There are many parts of the building and the interior that are listed, such as behind the bar, and the panelling.
The restaurant has a copper ceiling in the older part of the inn but there is a new extension with a glass wall looking over the secluded back garden, an ideal spot for a pre-prandial drink in good weather before dinner in the renowned restaurant (read review here).
There are more than forty bedrooms along with well-appointed function and meeting rooms. The Classic Rooms in the Ripley Wing are all contemporary, whereas the nine bedrooms in the Coaching Inn still have original 15th century features. Our room had more of that dark wood panelling as well as a fireplace that looked to date back a couple of centuries. Luckily the bathroom was contemporary, spacious and with expected mod-cons. Shakespearean times had their charm, I don’t doubt, but I hear that sanitation and wifi were basic back then.
Impossible to replicate
I have stayed in a fair few hotel rooms over the past decade or so – sumptuous suites in Singapore to wooden bungalows in Malaysia – but sleeping in a room that’s four or five hundred years old is really quite an experience. That’s the draw of The Talbot – its timeless character which is impossible to replicate. A counterfeit would have sharp corners, level floors and plenty of right-angles. This is evolved comfort, in a bedroom that would still be recognisable (apart from the flat-screen TV and kettle) to Lord Nelson and his plus one.
Don’t miss this unique small hotel. You won’t find the like in any city, and there won’t be many to compare even in English villages anywhere. The Talbot has accommodated its architectural idiosyncrasies and has embraced them where possible. It offers rooms hardly changed in generations but laced with technology and amenities expected by the 21st century visitor.
The Talbot is conveniently located on Ripley High Street, just off the A3, less than 2 miles from J10 of the M25 and only half an hour from central London. It is also just 20 minutes from both Heathrow and Gatwick international airports, so ideally positioned for overseas tourists. It’s only 5 minutes to Wisley Gardens for plant lovers.
The Talbot Ripley
Phone 01483 225188
Hotel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018