Spratley & Partners has completed the dramatic transformation of a 430-acre site in Hampshire into the UK’s most eagerly anticipated, luxury hotel.
After years of careful restoration and collaboration, this elegant, Georgian house and estate has been brought back to life and stylishly reimagined for the 21st century.
Once home to antiquarian Horace Walpole, ‘Heckfield Place’ has been judiciously re-crafted into a countryside haven with beautiful bedrooms, as well as two restaurants, a private cinema, Little Bothy spa, wine cellar, gardens and Home Farm, centred on sustainability and biodynamic farming principles. The site also includes woodlands which were once an arboretum planted by celebrated horticulturalist, William Wildsmith, in the mid 19th century.
The project is the latest venture of the Chan family, of private investment company Morningside Group; a client who has been passionately involved at every stage of the project’s evolution since purchasing Heckfield Place, previously used as a conference centre and wedding venue, in 2002.
The Morningside Group instructed Spratley & Partners to work alongside Watson Bertram & Fell to achieve planning for the site, which was granted by Hart District Council in 2009. Spratley & Partners then took the scheme on through detailed design, and on site, in line with the brief for an ‘effortlessly stylish’ country house of the highest quality. At its heart, a splendid, Grade II listed Georgian house, built in the 18th century, has been sympathetically restored, along with the provision of extensive, beautifully designed facilities and thoughtful re-use of the historic grounds.
Later, modern additions to the site were largely unsympathetic and not in-keeping with the original form and layout; the house was extended in the 1980s with a block of bedrooms and conference facilities which were small, basic and required substantial upgrading. The rooms in the listed building had also been subdivided, creating cramped spaces and disrupting the historical plan of the house. Early suggestions to refurbish the outdated, later structures were ruled out in favour of the opportunity to demolish and rebuild; the preference of both the client and operator.
The refreshed scheme includes a restaurant separated from the manor house by a structural glass link, and a new basement area constructed below the front driveway, within 4 metres of the listed façade, accessed via a sweeping cantilevered stone staircase with bronze balustrades and Cotswold rubble stone walls. The basement houses the impressive 67-seat screening room and associated facilities, including back of house areas and plant.
Heckfield Place now hosts 38 bedrooms, six Signature rooms and one two-bedroom cottage, all exceptionally designed to feel intimate and familiar. They range across six distinctive room types situated in the house, off the corridors and within the grounds, from ‘Friends’ rooms which are beautifully simple and cosy, to The Long Room with exposed oak trusses, distinctive bathroom tower and private terraces overlooking the lake. In each case, the room typologies have been developed with the utmost attention to the user-end experience and to create an intimate connection with their surroundings – from the sensitively restored walled gardens to the views across heathland and water.
The interiors scheme focusses on reviving the former grandeur of the house; the rooms have been restored back to their original proportions, fireplaces have been opened up and modern panelling and finishes have been stripped back in favour of revealing the original, historic features where possible. Sensitive interventions in order to deliver the elegant features required by the brief include the insertion of new steelwork into the floors between the historic timber joists to carry the weight of the cast iron baths and M+E systems which have been carefully designed to integrate with the existing fabric.
Interior designer, Ben Thompson, a young protégé of Ilse Crawford, has captured the client’s vision of creating a country home with a connection to the land. The resulting colour palate is a calming mix of muted greys, green and blue, while the materials are frequently rough and organic, including bare brick and lime plaster walls and natural timber floors. The use of British artisan suppliers was also an essential part of the project, and something the client was resolute on.
Connecting with the surroundings
Heckfield Place includes two new restaurants and a private dining room, the designs of which have been carefully developed alongside culinary director, Skye Gyngell. The farm, kitchen gardens and orchards supply produce for the restaurants and flowers for the rooms, based on bio-dynamic farming principles. The hotel also includes a number of treatment rooms, and a cottage within the grounds for guest accommodation. A separate energy centre building with biomass boilers has been constructed to serve the hotel, designed to reflect the form of the original water tower on the site.
Externally, the landscaping has also been successful and has created a number of different environments for guests to enjoy and engage with – including woodlands, lakes, orchards, gardens and greenhouses. The gardens adjacent to the hotel have been re-landscaped to create terraces for direct access from the ground floor rooms, with intricately restored garden walls. Very few changes have been made externally to the listed house; the exterior stonework has been painted and original windows have been restored. The reconstructed accommodation buildings have also been designed to match their surroundings as far as possible, with handmade Flemish bond brickwork, clay roof tiles and bespoke hardwood joinery.
General Manager, Olivia Richli, said:
“A lot of care has been taken; the attention to detail is extraordinary. The historic property and grounds have been lovingly restored and future-proofed and we have had the luxury of time to do this. You can feel this when you spend time at Heckfield Place – you can see it in the restored architectural details, the established, fruitful gardens, the complementary interior design – you can even taste it in the quality of the produce we grow, the flavour of which has been perfected over time.”
Sarah Tassell, Director at Spratley & Partners, said:
“After an extensive programme of works, the team is very excited to see the beautiful Heckfield Place welcome in its first guests. As well as the sensitive restoration of the historic manor house, we have made a number of well-considered interventions to allow for a greater range of private rooms and amenity spaces in which visitors can truly indulge. It has been important to create a subtle balance between the more public areas of the hotel, and private, retreat-like spaces, and we believe, working closely with the interior designer and operating team, that the results are a success. The landscaping has very much been an extension of this style in order to create a greater connection between interior and exterior; the house and the land.”
Heckfield Place officially opened on 1st September.