This hidden gem on the Hertfordshire/Essex borders is an impressive – and versatile – venue for a variety of corporate and leisure options, as Lisa Carter reports…
There is no doubt that Down Hall is steeped in history. Situated on the Hertfordshire/Essex border, it’s one of England’s longest-established country hotels. The stately home itself dates back to 1540, before which it was the site of a monastery which was founded in 1322.
More recently, it was a convalescent home for wounded soldiers during World War One, and, from 1932 to 1967, it became Downham School, a girls’ school whose alumni included Frances Shand-Kydd, the mother of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The hotel opened its doors in 1986 and has since provided guests with a taste of Italian grandeur, whether they are visiting for business or leisure.
Despite its rural location, Down Hall is located just half an hour from Stansted Airport, is close to the M11 and just 45 minutes on the train from central London – so it’s ideally suited for business guests coming from anywhere in the UK, or from overseas.
The drive up to the entrance of the building provides more than a glimpse into the environment. A sweeping drive takes guests to a small and friendly reception area where the staff were super-attentive.
Our room was located in the main building, just up one plush flight of stairs decorated with chandeliers. Each of the hotel’s 98 bedrooms has been individually designed to reflect the mix of style, elegance and history that give the Hall its unique character. The Classic and Executive bedrooms are spacious and comfortable.
The Feature Rooms have two- or four-poster beds and offer views of the magnificent landscaped gardens through huge windows, fashionable in both Georgian design and the Italian style emulated by the architect, James Gibbs, when he remodelled the house in 1720.
The lounge and bar areas are welcoming and cosy, with the cocktail and gin menus offering aperitifs for all.
The spa is located next to the main building and offers a great retreat for guests to unwind. The wet spa is available for guests to attend for £20 for two hours. Elemis treatments are also available to book and my ‘Plus One’ and I enjoyed relaxing massages and facials.
Revitalised, we changed and headed for dinner in the Grill Room, which boasts a seasonally changing menu. It’s worth noting that Down Hall also caters for private and fine dining events, big and small, in its 18 suites. Traditional English afternoon tea can also be taken in the Lounge or Ibbetson’s Tea Lounge, while during summer months the hotel can also prepare a picnic to be taken in its stunning grounds.
And talking of the grounds, there’s plenty to explore. 110 acres, to be precise, where a variety of activities can be booked, including laser clays, Segway challenges, 4×4 driving experiences, archery and more. As standard, tennis courts are available for guests, while a giant chess set and croquet lawn offer entertainment inbetween any other activities.
In terms of event spaces, Down Hall has benefited from a multi million pound refurbishment programme recently and boasts 14 private dining and meeting spaces in total, ranging from intimate boardroom to larger function space for up to 200 guests.
Each of the four private rooms within the Mansion House offer guests high ceilings and plenty of natural light. Modern audio visual equipment, comfortable seating and executive boardroom options combine with original characteristics such as open fireplaces and decorative Edwardian style doorways to create unique spaces for a variety of events.
In addition, there are a further 10 private rooms within the West Wing, including the Bridgeman/Selwin Suite, a ballroom that can cater for 180 in a banqueting setup or 200 people theatre style. The Oxford Belcamp and Copley Beners rooms can cater for 60 banqueting and are decorated in a traditional style.
Whether you’re looking at a team-building event in the open air, a conference or awards event, a private dining venue or an overnight stay for execs flying in to Stansted, Down Hall ticks the boxes.
Contact: 01279 731441 | www.downhall.co.uk