Historians are in their element with a visit to Windsor. There’s Windsor Castle – built in 1070 and home to a variety of heads of state for over 1,000 years – the oldest and largest of its kind in the world. While, nearby, Runnymede is renowned as the place where the signing of the Magna Carta took place in 1215. Heritage – it seems – oozes out of this riverside destination.
Tucked away in Old Windsor, and also making the most of its historical connections, is the De Vere Beaumont Estate. The property is one of De Vere’s collection of heritage mansion houses dotted across the UK – offering well-priced accommodation, family-friendly rooms and neighbourhood restaurants. All carved out of renovated historic houses, this little group of properties are like best-kept secrets among those in the know. At the Beaumont Estate, the starring role at the heart of the property is a Georgian manor house – The White House – which has recently had a £12million facelift.
Dating back to the 14th century, the original house was first built for Lord Weymouth, but it has spent the majority of its life – from 1854-1967 – as Beaumont College, a Jesuit public school. From the pillared grand entrance – complete with school crests – to the original school-boy hats and replica typewriters found on the walls, and refashioned as art, there are subtle nods to this back-story throughout the building.
With just 26 rooms, including 10 suites, a stay in The White House is like finding a little gem tucked away in the grounds of what is otherwise a more functional, run-of-the-mill hotel. While the rest of the De Vere hotel is nonetheless modern and appealing (and offers great for stays with family and friends), it is The White House which is the real treasure trove of the estate, offering an elevated home-from-home.
Public spaces – such as the charming lounge found just off the entrance – have high ceilings and original details (think: ornate cornicing, marble fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows). The lounge itself has been sensitively and tastefully restored and has a Regency-era feel, with hand-painted wallpapers and fabrics decorated with botanical motifs, in shades of eau de nil, olive and chartreuse, set against soft rugs and dove-grey sofas and club chairs.
The lobby area also has a magical touch about it – a world away from the drab interiors and menacing air of those bygone school days – with an original curving Georgian staircase being the highlight. So far, so very Bridgerton. Classical grey wallpaper, ornate mirrors and vintage trunks (those schoolboys again) give the space an inherent old-world elegance.
Bedrooms are contemporary and chic. The new design ethos reflects the great outdoors – the hotel is found in 44-acres of manicured grounds which has been the inspiration for the design and the natural palette. There is a mix-match of tan-leather bedsteads, tartan textiles and prints featuring elements of traditional British countryside, such as deer, butterflies and botanical images. Suites are found in the largest rooms – such as the old headmaster’s quarters – with views over the estate and an extra smattering of luxury details, such as classic Roberts radios, fluffy robes and soft linens. Bathrooms are spacious and chic, with grey, glossy subway tiles, walk-in rainfall showers and stand-alone tubs. Large-size, premium toiletries by H2K are another nice touch to find.
Elsewhere, there are a series of event spaces which have also been renovated, including a Grade II-listed 19th century chapel, in which the ornate painted ceiling and stained-glass windows have been returned to their former glory. (The Chapel’s current window is a replacement as the original was destroyed by a doodlebug which landed near the property during the second World War.)
Tennis courts, a swimming pool (which is currently still being renovated) and gym will keep guests active for days spent at the hotel. While a walk through the estate is an uplifting experience, especially with willow sculptures by local artist Emma Stothard to discover. (Also in the grounds is also a large war memorial – fashioned as an alter in 1920 by architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott). Nearby, of course, is the River Thames – for boat rides and scenic strolls along its banks.
Dining is found across three restaurants – Beaumont Restaurant is the more traditional, while The Pantry offers coffees, cakes and day-time snacks. In the stylish 1705 – where low-level lighting and potted olive trees strung with fairy lights give an intimate feel at night – the play on the past continues with a full menu of age-old favourites given a contemporary twist. Celebrating British produce, there are craft beers and classic cocktails on offer. The menu is full of crowd-pleasers, with sharing mezze plates, pizzas and pastas to satisfy all ages, while the more inventive dishes, such as Ham Hock Crumpet and Cambodian Street-Food Curry, give a nice twist to the menu.
Best of all is the attention to detail found throughout the hotel, which set De Vere apart from other chain hotels. If you are staying in The White House, there’s a complimentary larder, with soft drinks, coffees and nibbles, for guests. Along the corridors are book shelves, laden with vintage books, for guests to browse and read. Gallery walls feature black and white photographs of the estate and school ephemera found during the renovations – such as hockey sticks and old keys. To summarise a quote from L.P. Hartley’s The Go Between, they may have done things differently in the past, but sometimes it’s nice to venture back there.