Hartwell House Hotel, Stylish Relaxation
B4 have had the pleasure of working with the impressive team at Hartwell House Hotel near Aylesbury for over seven years. We will again be visiting this wonderful Historic House Hotel on May 9th for a B4 Classic Event and if you’re not booked in, I strongly suggest you do. This is a gem, a masterpiece, effortlessly combining style and sophistication with warmth, first class hospitality and, most importantly, a smile.
Although it was a pleasure to meet Adam who showed us to our room following the short trip from Oxford (25 minutes on a bad day), I wondered where Martin was, the long-standing head porter who has greeted us since we have been visiting Hartwell. “Oh he’s still with us’ said Adam with a wry smile, ‘he’ll be in tomorrow.’ Adam then informed us that we had been ‘triple-upgraded’ – I wasn’t sure if that was a high board dive but soon discovered that we had been given pride of place in room 16, right at the centre of the house. With a glorious lounge overseeing the vast grounds of Hartwell and a bedroom to match, we were certainly privileged. It was a shame we were only staying the night!
But, true to form, we were up against time and made our way downstairs to the hotel bar and an aperitif in the lounge…..room after room at Hartwell is full of treasures, beautifully decorated and oozing history. Dinner and service were immaculate as ever. Tina chose the pan seared sea scallops with caramelised cauliflower puree, almond and golden raisin dressing, whilst I went with the smoked salmon served with traditional accompaniments. I stayed with fish for main, opting for a delicious cod dish and Tina had the roasted breast of guinea fowl, creamed potatoes, sautéed pancetta, wild mushrooms, spinach and glazed baby onions.
Although dessert was looking unlikely after two amazing courses, we took a short break before tucking into caramelised pear tart tatin with vanilla ice cream. This gastronomic extravaganza was accompanied by a delightfully chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot, yellow label, an unusual choice for dinner but why not?! However, I must admit to sneaking in a cheeky glass of Gavi Di Gavi, Magda Pedrini, 2016.
After a superb night’s sleep in a gargantuan and wonderfully comfortable bed, we enjoyed a light breakfast and made our way over to the spa. Tina had booked a full body massage which was much needed after a ten day stint at work, by all accounts a fantastic massage loosening up very tense shoulders. I managed to get a twenty minute run in on the treadmill followed by a relaxing swim in the impressive indoor pool.
Sadly our time at Hartwell had come to an end but thank you to Christie, Adam and General Manager, Matthew Johnson, for another ten out of ten stay.
Hartwell House has a remarkable history, stretching back almost a thousand years to the reign of Edward the Confessor. It has been the seat of William Peveral the natural son of William the Conqueror; of John Earl of Mortaigne who succeeded his brother Richard the Lion Heart as King of England in 1199; and of Louis XVIII, the exiled King of France who held court there from 1809 to 1814. Louis was joined at Hartwell by his Queen, Marie Josephine de Savoie, his niece the Duchesse D’Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, his brother the Comte d’Artois, later Charles X, and Gustavus IV theexiled King of Sweden.
In the 1930’s, the estate took on the appearance of a giant auction house as hordes of collectors and dealers descended on Hartwell for the 1938 sale of its contents. Those who came to view included Queen Mary and the Dukes and Duchesses of Gloucester and Kent. They brought with them a picnic lunch, which was served in the Dining Room by a body of liveried footmen. After the sale the house was purchased by millionaire recluse Ernest Cook, grandson and co-heir of the Victorian travel tycoon Thomas Cook, and subsequently vested in the Trust that bears his name.
For the duration of the Second World War Hartwell served as an Army billet, a training ground for British and American troops. Later, in 1956, Hartwell was let to The House of Citizenship, a finishing school and secretarial college which remained in occupation until 1983. A fire in 1963 caused extensive damage, and destruction of much of the architectural detail inside the house.
In 2008 Historic House Hotels, including Hartwell, and the interests in all its properties, were donated to the National Trust.