Pendley Manor in Tring is currently undergoing extensive refurbishment. Mike Fletcher heads out of London to discover peacocks, fresh air and a perfect blend of history and modernity.
Jumping on a train from London Euston towards Milton Keynes means that in under 45 short minutes, you arrive in Tring - a small country market town that nestles in a gap passing through the picturesque Chiltern Hills.
That’s big smoke to expansive, lung-busting countryside in less time than it takes to travel from east to west London by tube.
Of course, savvy house-buying commuters working in the capital will have discovered Tring long before I did. What the Tring residents may not know however is that the town’s historic Pendley Manor is currently undergoing a transformation that may just see an influx of London-based conference and meetings planners heading their way during the morning rush-hour.
Pendley Manor dates back to the Domesday Book, when it was confiscated in 1066 by William the Conqueror and passed to his brother in law, Earl Moreton.
Jon de Angle, reputed to have been the first Member of Parliament, became the Manor’s next owner, before it was passed to the Verney family, who lived there for the next 150 years.
After it burnt down in 1835 and was rebuilt in a Tudor style in 1872, Pendley Manor was occupied until the early 1980s, when the racehorse owner and show jumping commentator, Dorian Williams sold the property to The Grass Roots Company, who in turn sold it to an independent hotelier in 1987.
Under Dorian’s ownership, the manor established a Shakespeare Festival, which is still going strong 70 years on. Vintage event programmes line the corridor walls and adorn the hotel’s Shakespeare Bar, although I heard of no reported sightings of the ghost of Hamlet’s father or the apparitions that appear in Macbeth, Julius Caesar or Richard III.
To be fair, although the Manor House has maintained the type of Tudor feel normally associated with ghostly goings-on, in the early Nineties, Pendley successfully blended old with new by adding a 250-capacity Harcourt ballroom and meeting rooms, to complement 72 large and well-appointed bedrooms.
The 120-capacity Simon Suite with the Harcourt ballroom above, have their own entrance and a large banqueting kitchen, together with plenty of natural daylight as the space opens out onto a country meadow, complete with roaming white peacocks.
At the time of my visit, 57 of Pendley’s rooms had undergone extensive refurbishment and they still had 29 left to do, which will increase the room stock to 86 on completion.
Next on the renovation list is the hotel’s swimming pool and a spa development should be finished by Easter this year.
What’s already conspicuous about the refurbishment is the striking wallpaper that changes from bedroom to bedroom and conference room to meetings space.
For example, in the final 22 rooms left to be refurbished, I’m told there’s ten different wallpaper selections - compare that to one of the major branded hotel groups where room design remains consistent in properties across the world.
In fact, the wallpaper choice is now so visually unique in a majority of Pendley Manor rooms, guests are beginning to request certain rooms for their design.
If you prefer the historic Tudor staircases, open-fire and impressive chandelier of the Manor House part of Pendley however, guests can swap in-room modernity for dinner or an afternoon tea package in the historic two AA rosette, Oak Restaurant.
My evening meal was perfection on a plate and after a good night’s sleep in a suite twice the size of anything you’d find for a similar price in London, I took a final lungful of countryside air after a 12-minute walk to the station, and joined those savvy Tring residents on the early morning commute back into London.
The four-star deluxe Pendley Manor is currently offering day delegate packages from £75 per person and 24-hour residential delegate packages from £230 per person, inclusive of VAT.
By Mike Fletcher