Down Hall Country House Hotel
Matching Road, Hatfield Heath, United Kingdom
www.downhall.co.uk - +44 1279 731 441
Down Hall Country House Hotel Rates and Deals
Down Hall Country House Hotel Hatfield Heath Reviews
An old English mansion in the countryside Mar 30, 2010
I had no expectations about what or how my hotel would be for the coming two nights, but I had quickly come to the conclusion that arriving at Heathrow airport was a completely nonsense decision.
To get to the hotel, which was situated on the countryside I had actually to take the express bus from Heathrow to Stansted, which took me almost 1½ hour. When I finally arrived at Stansted around 10 pm there were no taxis, so I had to walk to the nearby Radisson Hotel and there I had to ask them to call me a taxi that would take me the last 40 kilometres.
While we were driving towards Down Hall Country House Hotel, the cab driver asked me if I had been there before; apparently it was a really nice place. He had been there for a wedding some years earlier and it was really nice he said, which made me somewhat calmer.
After 30 minutes driving in total darkness on small typical English country roads, which means going up and down and left and right, we finally arrived at the Hotel. The place was a old mansion, dating back to 1322. Even though it was dark I could recognize that I had arrived at something special.
The entrance was in the corner of the open courtyard, which actually covered for the magnitude of this large place. After having entered the hotel I found the little reception and was welcomed by a very serious East European woman without any humour. It was completely impossible to get a smile from her and believe me I tried. The reception area was quite crowded and I had a hard time seeing that this was handling the check-in and check-out of a place with 99 bedrooms.
I was given a room on 2nd floor facing the courtyard where I just had arrived. The hotel was nicely decorated with old matching furniture, carpets and wallpaper. The stairs were not the kind you would drag your old aunt up on and they were quite squeaky. I found my room at the end of a hall after having passed two fire doors.
The room was really nice it was square with a nice king size bed; there were large widows fronting the courtyard, a large TV. The room was really nice and I guess that I had also had a large smile on my face when I looked around. The bathroom was nice and not too small, the installations were old and it would have been wrong if they had been modern.
I quickly left my things in the room and walked downstairs again to find the bar, where I guessed that some of my colleagues already tasted the English beer.
When I came down I finally saw the magnitude of this large mansion. The hotel had huge halls and ornate ceilings with lavish huge old fashioned chandeliers hanging down illuminating the gold covered rooms with a sparkling light.
The bar was cozy and with numerous sofa groups to relax and enjoy your drink in. The restaurant, which I tried the following day for breakfast, lunch and dinner was quite good and had a nice variety with good and tasty choices.
The most amazing thing regarding the hotel, besides the fact that it was a mansion, was the surrounding garden or park. The first day I was there, it was raining all day, so we could hardly walk outside but the second day it was both warm and sunny. It was a place where you could walk around outside for hours. It was truly grand.
The only thing I didn't appreciate that much was the service; it was not the best and I didn't feel that it was as classy as the rest of the place; the gap was too wide.
The history of the place
1624: The house remained within the Glascock family until, with no male heir, the house was passed to Elizabeth, who married a Ballet and where it remained until the sale in 1720 to Matthew Prior.
In June 1720, Matthew Prior bought Down Hall from John Ballet for £2,800 with money given to him generously by his friend Edward Harley. Prior's friends also included a brilliant circle of writers, scholars and artists including the architect James Gibbs, the landscape gardener Charles Bridgeman and the painter Sir James Thornhill. Charles Bridgeman began landscaping the grounds, whilst James Gibbs created designs for a complete remodelling of the existing house and also for a new house with a villa type design however only some remodelling of the Tudor house was undertaken. Priors achievements where hindered by ill health and at just 57 years old he died. His body taken to London for burial in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey
1721: Accordance to agreements made before Prior's purchase, the house then passed to Edward Harley (2nd Earl of Oxford) during which time remodelling of the old house continued; although still uncompleted with the passing of Harley at just 52 years old.
1742: Heavily mortgaged, Down Hall was sold by Harley's widow to a wealthy silk merchant, William Selwin for £4,500. He established himself as a country landowner, enlarging the estate by acquiring farms and other estates in the neighbourhood which was continued by his successors for 150 years.
1768: William Selwin's death, predeceased by his wife and eldest son, meant that Down Hall and its neighbouring properties were left to his eldest surviving son Charles, a banker. Most of the main building works can be attributed to him, which at last brought about the total transformation of Down Hall, by the addition of a large new house to the existing house nearing completion in 1777.
1794: Charles Selwin dies and is buried in the family vault at Hatfield Broad Oak as his father had been. The house was left to his younger brother, Thomas, now aged 70 and showing signs of senility. Unable to look after his affairs, things were put into the hands of his sister Jane Caygill and her daughter, Lady Jane Ibbetson.
1798: Thomas Selwin dies and Jane Caygill inherited Down Hall as a 76 year old widow. Already elderly and blind Jane was joined by her daughter at Down Hall where she remained for the rest of her life, inheriting the estate on her mother's death. Her main interests were furnishings and gardens, carrying out major landscaping works.
1816: Lady Jane's second son Charles inherited Down Hall on her death and was required to change his name to Selwin. His ownership was brief as his elder brother died in 1825 and he inherited the title returning to the Ibbetson family seat in Yorkshire. John Thomas, the last of Lady Jane's sons inherited Down Hall. He married and led the life of a country gentleman, travelling throughout the world collecting works of art and furnishings, sadly many of which perished in a fire in the later twentieth century.
1861: John's nephew the 5th baronet, another Charles, died childless and John Thomas Selwin, now aged 76 years and widowed for three years, succeeded him as the 6th baronet. He would from this point onwards link the Ibbetson and Selwin names by styling himself as Sir John Ibbetson-Selwin. He remained at Down Hall with his son and heir, Henry, until his death aged 84 years in 1869.
1869: Down Hall's new owner, Sir Henry Selwin, embarked on a career in politics, entering parliament in 1865 and sat as a Conservative representing the area of South West Essex. With the recent remarriage to a widow who was wealthy in her own right, his inheritance of the Ibbotson's title in 1869 led to the opportunity for the rebuilding of Down Hall, which was completed in 1873. Newly rebuilt it became the setting for balls, musical soirees, grand receptions and political entertaining.
1892: Sir Henry Selwin Ibbetson was raised to the peerage by Lord Salisbury and took the title of Rookwood for the local Rookwood Hall. In 1899 after 32 years of marriage, Lady Rookwood died at their London home, her ashes were brought to Down Hall and buried in the family vault at Hatfield Broad Oak.
1902: Lord Rookwood died childless, the Ibbetson title and his own peerage became extinct. He left Down Hall to his nephews John and Horace Calverley, the sons of his sister Isabella Calverley.
1914 - 1918: Down Hall became a convalescent home for wounded soldiers. After the war, the house returned to family use, the effects of recession in farming were evident and in 1920 the estate was broken up with all but the immediate land sold at auction. The Down Hall estate, which the Selwins and their descendents had spent 150 years enlarging, reaching 3000 acres in six parishes in Lord Rookwood's time, reverted roughly to 100 acres as it had been in 1720.
1929: Horace Calverley died and Down Hall was sold, the house would never be a family residence again.
1932: Down Hall began a new life as a school, Downham School, and continued as such until 1960's. When it was sold the estate was further reduced in size by the sale of the neighbouring buildings and portions of land.
1967: Down hall became an Antiques Business and Conference Centre.
1986: Sold again and purchased by the Veladail Group, who continue to operate Down Hall as a Country House Hotel, combining business with pleasure.
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