Built in the early 19th century by industrialist Anthony Bushby Bacon, The Retreat at Elcot Park is a glorious red brick country house set amongst sixteen magnificent acres of refined British landscapes. Having recently entered a new chapter under the helm of visionary British hospitality brand, The Signet Collection, this historic building has been transformed into a sumptuous hotel with an aesthetic that embodies a quirky British sensibility. Conveniently located a mere 40 minutes from the centre of London, The Retreat offers guests a glorious escape from reality and an opportunity to bask in the splendour of the Wessex Downs.
Over its history, The Retreat has traded hands countless times, having been used as both a private country home and a country house hotel. Perhaps the most notable inhabitant was Lady Elizabeth Shelley, who purchased the property from the original owner’s son in 1844. Lady Elizabeth Shelly and her two daughters, Helen and Margaret, took refuge in the beauty of this country house having suffered the tragic death of both her husband and beloved son, Percy Bysshe Shelley – the great Romantic poet. The Retreat was, therefore, frequented by Percy’s wife Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, the renowned author of Frankeinstein, as she would regularly call on the Shelley sisters following their mother’s death. One of the many nods to the estate’s history is the Percy Shelley suite; one of the most luxurious bedrooms, this outstanding room is replete with vintage William Morris wallpaper and luxurious furnishings from which to admire the stunning views.
In 1899, the Shelly family sold their beloved estate to Sir Richard Vincent Sutton, the sixth baronet of Norwood Park, and, ever since that day, the historic country house took on the identity of a series of rather conventional and commonplace hotels. Despite a number of extensions and refurbishments, this Georgian manor and its surrounding land were not given the attention and investment they deserved until more than a century later, when the estate was acquired by The Signet Collection. Having taken the British hospitality industry by storm, co-founders Hector Ross and Ronnie Kimbugwe turned their attention to The Retreat in 2020, rejuvenating the entire estate with their illustrious eye for design and bringing the manor to its former glory and grandeur.
With a focus on creating meaningful experiences in time-honoured locations, the new owners enlisted the talented designers behind Taylor & Turner to breathe life and beauty back into the building. In addition to honouring and showcasing original architectural details, the designers were also intent on bringing a sense of fun and irreverence into the building, evident in the bold vibrancy of the interiors. All in all, the latest incarnation of The Retreat offers everything a world-class hotel would offer, including a modern health club, impressive dining options, and a bustling courtyard offering a coffee shop and monthly farmer’s market – and yet it does so with a sense of fun, sincerity, and splendid informality.
With country pursuits aplenty and its close proximity to Downton Abbey’s Highclere Castle, Newbury racecourse, Blenheim Palace and, of course, the City of London, The Retreat is simply an unrivalled country destination.