A stay at this Hampshire hotel is like taking a trip back in time to an era of such Victorian opulence that you won’t want to leave
There’s something wonderfully atmospheric about a stay at Grade II listed Tylney Hall in Hampshire. Arriving by taxi along the tree-lined drive to the front entrance of this Victorian-era home is a bit like entering a dinner party in an Agatha Christie novel. Indeed Hercule Poirot would feel at home assembling among the socialites and the afluent in the the Italian Lounge with its marble fireplaces and period furnishings and Florentine ceiling, sipping on a cocktail (it would have to be a Crème de cassis, of course). Soon guests begin to assemble in the wood-panelled library bar, and it really is a bit like waiting for the great sleuth to arrive and put us out of our misery. Happily tonight’s ‘big reveal’ is of a different kind.
What we are all here for is an evening of the Andrew Lloyd Webber songs, performed by the hugely popular Too Darn Hot, the West End’s premier show bands featuring vocal performances by three experienced musical theatre singers. The show takes place in the Tylney Suite, a baronial hall where the opening numbers are well received, but what we’re really all waiting for (or maybe it’s just me) is the Phantom of the Opera. Our patience is rewarded at the opening of the second half with a barnstorming performance of the show’s signature tunes. With tickets to the event costing £120 (a three-course dinner is included), you’re right to expect a performance of professional quality and on that score the event didn’t disappoint.
Afterwards we head into the Oak Room restaurant, dimly lit, with our own pianist, for an included meal: I had roast lamb with pistachio ice cream for dessert and a selection of wines was periodically brought to our table. This is hearty, typical British fare; a little ‘safe’ for some palates perhaps but the setting is what makes this occasion as a couple of patrons, their inhibitions loosened, get up to sing along to the pianist, adding the the jollity of the occasion.
Like so many of our country homes and estates, such as Highclere Castle, Tylney can boast a long and proud history. A mansion house has existed on this site since 1561 although, according to the inscription on former master Frederick Tylney’s tomb, the first Tylney Hall was not built until 1700. The Tylney family owned ‘a vast acreage’ and when Frederick, the last male Tylney, died in 1725 the property passed to his niece who was married to Richard Child Viscount Castlemaine, and who later became the Earl of Tylney. In later years the house was demolished by the Earl of Mornington, purportedly in order to exploit a loophole which prevented the sale timber on the estate while the House was standing. In 1898 Baronet Lionel Philips purchased the Hall and Estate for £77,000 and it is his Hall which you can visit today.
During the First World War the Hall served as a hospital while Lord Rotherwick, the last private owner of the Hall, converted Tylney Hall to become the headquarters for his famous shipping line. In 1948 the Hall became a school until 1984 when it was closed. It re-opened on 1 October 1985 as a hotel and restaurant after extensive refurbishment.
Strolling around the 66 acres of grounds is the real treat of the stay. The Water Gardens have been restored to their former glory, with the lake bridge a picturesque spot for a photograph. Equally alluring is the historic gardens, originally designed by the renowned gardener and planter, Gertrude Jekyll, and which have been lovingly tended over the last 25 years. Also of note is the Kitchen Garden with top fruit and the herb garden, the produce of which is now being used in the kitchen.
And while Tylney Hall may be inspired by the past it still offers everything you’d expect including spa and leisure facilities with both an indoor and an outdoor pool, a snooker table, and business, conference and banqueting rooms. Suites take advantage of all the mod-cons: digital television, music player, coffee machine, trouser press and more, so between refined elegance and modern necessities you can have the best of both worlds.
Indeed soon it’s time to retire to my Duchess suite; 700 sq ft accommodation with splendid views of the entrance courtyard and golf course, with soaring ceilings and a cosy fireplace. The four-poster bed and period furniture certainly gave an air of opulence; one need only imagine the refined English ladies and gentlemen to have slept in the king-sized bed in times past. In the luxurious en-suite bathroom (with bathrobes provided, naturally) there’s an extensive selection of Molton Brown toiletries for sinking into the hot waters and indulging in a good book. A Gothic tale of phantoms in opera houses or maybe another Agatha Christie classic set in some mysterious stately home – the choice is yours.
On Sunday 22 March, Tylney Hall Hotel will host a Best of Broadway & Beyond evening, which features musical classics from Broadway performed by Too Damn Hot. The tickets are £125 per person with a special accommodation rate of £75 B&B per person, per night. The evening will consist of a performance, a three-course dinner and a drink on arrival. The evening commences at 5.00pm.
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