By Chrissie Walker
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 mobilizing 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.
This striking late-Victorian mansion is set in 400 acres of formal gardens and woodlands. It is an oasis of rolling hills and magnificent views, and it’s hard to believe that this is actually just a short distance from both Gatwick and Heathrow airports, making this an ideal countryside retreat for overseas visitors who would like to experience a little of the gentler pace of life outside frenetic London.
The House, for that is the name of this mansion hotel, has just undergone a substantial £90m refurbishment. Susie Atkinson is perhaps one of London’s most influential designers and she is responsible for its light and airy persona that still retains trappings of the 20’s and 30’s. 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. One might stay in the Elizabeth Taylor room – yes, she stayed here, as did Rudyard Kipling and Winston Churchill, amongst others.
The restaurant here is a Japanese grill, although there are other dining options on the Estate. The food here is superb and portions are substantial. This is far more akin to good restaurants I have visited in Japan than Japanese restaurants I have found in some European cities, and the prices here are very reasonable: a 9-course feast might only cost £60. One can even order a Japanese breakfast, along with the traditional Full English or healthier alternatives.
A stay at The House on the Beaverbrook Estate offers all the modern amenities for which one would hope. There are still a host of original features, too, and one can dream of a 1920 garden party and enjoy a martini in the bar, where a bead- and feather-clad flapper would not seem out of place. One might recline in plush red sofas in the 1930s paneled cinema. It’s likely a sports event might be showing instead of the Pathé newsreels of the war years, though.
The Beaverbrook Estate oozes accessible luxury. 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 the tree-house hidden in the forest.
Visit the Beaverbrook Estate here https://beaverbrook.co.uk/
Read more of Chrissie Walker’s articles here http://www.mostlyfood.co.uk