Everybody has heard of Hampton Court Palace. It is synonymous with King Henry VIII, said to be his favourite palace. What fewer people know is that he built a rival palace only five miles away, near Weybridge, named Oatlands, for his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. In 1540 the marriage was annulled and Henry secretly married Anne’s lady-in-waiting, Catherine Howard, in the Oatlands Palace chapel.
Oatlands, with its beautiful parkland setting, was classed as a ‘standing house’, which meant it was one of the few that was kept permanently furnished in readiness for the King. Elizabeth I used Oatlands for short summer breaks but under James I the house, once more, took on its original purpose. James 1 set up ‘the King’s Silk Worms’ enterprise there and Anne of Denmark, his Queen, used it almost every summer for hunting trips. Charles 1 enjoyed Oatlands, importin the famous cedar tree which still stands at the gates, to mark the birth there of his son Henry. The rest is of course history: the Civil War was disastrous for England’s royal palaces. After the execution of Charles 1 in 1649, and the rise of Oliver Cromwell, Oatlands Palace was confiscated and then demolished for salvage, so that only the garden walls remained.
A manor house was built and remodelled by various Parliamentarians—but real change arrived only with the Railway Age, the London & South Western Railway turning the property into a much sought-after area for development. In 1856, house and what remained of the land were transformed into the South Western Hotel. It has remained an hotel ever since, welcoming world-famous guests, from poet Edward Lear to writers Émile Zola and Anthony Trollope. Today the hotel’s uniquely individual warmth and friendly service charms guests, alongside thoroughly modern hospitality which has recently been enhanced by a £10 million refurbishment with the successful aim of retaining its historic features while adding a fresh contemporary style.
The transformation includes a new glass ceiling guest foyer, a new restaurant and bar, The Mulberry and Bar 1509, alongside the 160 guest rooms, most of which have been completely updated and modernised. New landscaping has added to the magnificene of the grounds. In these days of conferences, there have also been dramatic developments in the hotel’s multiple meeting rooms and event spaces, so extensive they can accommodate up to 400 guests.
All in all, this officially recognised historic country house hotel and its landscaped parkland make an ideal setting for a restful and interesting hotel stay, surrounded as it is by numerous ‘things to do’ nearby. You can walk around the grounds or stroll into Weybridge high street. Go walking or picnicking beside two rivers, the Wey and the Thames. Visit the world-class museums, Mercedes-Benz World and Brooklands, which lies on the world’s first purpose-built motor-racing circuit, built in 1907, and now also houses a Concorde aircraft. Go horseracing at Kempton Park and Sandown Park. Broadwater Lake is a wetland haven for birdwatchers and fishers, and for gardeners it’s an easy ride to visit Painshill Park or RHS Wisley Gardens, or play a round at Burhill Golf Club. And of course the Royal palaces Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle ar an easy drive away.
But staying at the hotel itself is intriguing. The impressive Grade II Listed building reveals a variety of decorative styles, from wood panelling to striking contemporary art. The light, airy lobby with a domed glass roof, wall tapestries and large windows is impressive, refurbished with Italian plasterwork Marmorino walls, recreating the Italianate style of the original building of the 19th century, added to by marble and oak timber flooring. A hand-crafted brass and glass chandelier is another classic symbol of the hotel’s past.
The four categories of guest rooms—Standard, Executive, Deluxe and Feature—are all individually designed and with views over the gardens or parkland. Rooms are largely clean-cut contemporary, with stylish, modern furnishings. The largest, Feature rooms, have a separate sitting room.
Stately pillars, high ceilings and exquisite views overlooking the parkland are what make the Mulberry Restaurant a unique dining experience. The large windows allow the interior to be bathed in sunlight, perfect for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner with classic menus which focus on modern British cuisine and fresh seasonal ingredients. A Sunday carvery and leisurely afternoon tea are both local attractions. The 1509 bar, named for the year Henry became King, offers a large wine, spirit and cocktails list—including the local Hampton Court gin. The walls of this relaxing bar are lined with fascinating pictures of the hotel and those who featured in its history.
Also relaxing are the new Aragon Treatment Rooms, where hotel guests and day visitors enjoy relaxing massages, beauty treatments and facials from leading skincare brand, Dibi Milano.
The hotel is within easy reach of central London by car and train, as well as being a 20-minute drive from London Heathrow. Car parking is free of charge.
¶ CountryClubuk Members enjoy exclusive room rates at this historic four-star country-house hotel. To check best options, up-to-the-minute availability and rates for your dates, please follow the link below or call the Member Services team on 020 7399 2960.
Oatlands Park Hotel
146 Oatlands Drive
Surrey KT13 9HB
PLEASE READ: CountryClubuk Club Rules and Terms and Conditions