Michael Edwards enters Shakespeare country to visit Ettington Park Hotel, Britain’s most haunted luxury house.
According to the AA’s classification, Ettington Park Hotel is Britain’s most haunted house.
Why wouldn’t ghosts, poltergeists and all manner of things that go bump in the night want to make this beautiful stately house, now a luxury hotel, their home? There can be few more scenic places to haunt than Ettington’s 40 bucolic acres.
Since Hand-Picked Hotels’ grand refurbishment of this mid-Victorian collage of Cotswold stone porches, turrets and towers, Ettington Park Hotel has become an even more alluring destination.
“You know, I have never felt threatened in any way,” says Michael Kenny, retired Night Manager, who seemed to have a far more comfortable ride than Tom Hiddlestone in the BBC’s Night Manager. “On the contrary, I have always found the atmosphere at Ettington to be a warm, happy and welcoming one.”
With many centuries of history dating back to a Roman Villa sat on this bank of the River Stour, it is inevitable that the site has acquired a catalogue of ghostly tales.
On the main grand staircase, surrounded by wedding-cake alabaster pillars, the ghost of Mary, who died from a fall after a quarrel with the squire, is said to be seen. On the night before Christmas Eve, as if it were a Dickens novel, reception staff have spoken of the phenomenon of a candle floating above the neo-Elizabethan oak mantle-piece.
While in the Great Drawing Room, with its numerous chandeliers and sofas, which really is palatial banquet hall size rather than an intimate drawing-room, the voices of a jovial family musical get together are rumoured to be heard. Similarly, gentleman’s voices linger down the decades in the former Billiard Room. Even the ghost of a former gamekeeper wants to join the party.
In fact, it is disappointing that neither the ghosts of Benjamin Disraeli nor William Shakespeare walk the corridors: local boy Shakespeare visited and Disraeli, novelist and Prime Minister, stayed over.
All in all, it is an appropriately Gothic narrative for a house that was constructed in the neo-Gothic style, so fashionable in mid-Victorian times. Pritchard, the architect, a fervent disciple of Augustus Pugin, “God’s architect”, wanted to restore the lost glory of past architecture
.Inspired by owner Evelyn Shirley’s desire to rebuild his ancestral home, Pritchard brought a fairy-tale grandeur to the project. Created from six different shades of stone, the craftsmanship of the house was a reaction against the cramped squalor of grimly polluted Industrial Revolution towns.
Contemporary guests are shocked by how long it takes to arrive at reception. First, there is a carriage porch so that ladies and gentlemen can alight sheltered from the British weather. Next is an inner vaulted conservatory. Then, and only then, it is the grand entrance hall. Nikolaus Pevsner, possibly unaware of his understatement, declared Ettington Park as “the most important and impressive High Victorian house in the county.”
Suites at Ettington Park Hotel are of lordly yesteryear dimensions too. The Victorian Garden Suite features a spacious lounge area and a dining table for room service. A dual aspect gives views over precise geometrical topiary gardens towards the remains of the Norman Church and lawns leading to the River Stour. In the bedroom, a wide Venetian style four-poster adds an opulent air. Ghosts from yesteryear will be astounded by a bathroom including a remote-controlled flat-screen television and low-level sensor activated lighting.
Perhaps the ghosts’ greatest regret is that they cannot savour 2 AA Rosette dining, based on locally sourced Modern British menus, at any of Ettington Park’s dining venues. As well as the Oak Room Restaurant, there are options for private dining. The Long Gallery seats up to 96 and for more intimate occasions the Shirley family’s stained-glass chapel has room for 14.
The ghosts of centuries past are not the only visitors from bygone eras. Although the Shirley family moved to Ireland, early in the 20th century, members of the family regularly visit their former home, probably delighted to see that Ettington Park Hotel, complete with spa and swimming pool, is looking even more inviting than ever before.
Tell Me More About Ettington Park Hotel
Ettington Park Hotel, Alderminster, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 8BU
T: 01789 450 123 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Double rooms including breakfast from around £275, feature rooms from £355.