With Mirth and Laughter let old Wrinkles Come
The magnificence and story behind Rushton Hall is hard to exaggerate. With a discreet and indulgent spa, outstanding food and romantic bedrooms, you really feel you are cocooned in England’s history
Review by Andy Barnham
As an Englishman, it’s easy to wax lyrical about England’s history (especially to foreigners) but then to ignore it in everyday life. All nations are proud of their own heritage and England has its fair share, even if some traditions are rather perplexing; Morris dancing anyone? It’s not as old as some countries, but as part of the British Empire it helped write the odd page of history. And yet, once you’ve finished looking up Henry VIII’s Wikipedia’s page on your iPhone, how often do you make an effort to go and find a lasting trace of what you’ve just read? If you’re interested in some Ye Olde England, then spare a thought for Rushton Hall, a hotel that can trace its roots back to 1438. That’s right, 1438. It isn’t a former home now turned museum that you need to vacate by 5pm daily, it is a piece of history you can drink at, dine in and sleep within.
Buying the then village of Rushton St Peter in 1438 Sir John Tresham started work on what has become Rushton Hall, with the 227 acre estate being passed through the family for almost 200 years. A strongly Catholic family (despite being knighted in 1577 descendent Thomas Tresham spent 12 years in prison when he refused to renounce his faith) the Tresham’s were involved in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, whose aim it was to blow up the Houses of Parliament, with the estate being passed to the Cockayne family in 1614.
By 1850 Rushton Hall was owned by Miss Clara Thornhill, friend of Charles Dickens who is said to have been a frequent visitor; so much so that it is believed he conceived the idea of Haversham Hall of Great Expectations whilst at Rushton. More recently Rushton Hall was owned by the Royal Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and used as a school before being purchased in 2003 and converted into a hotel.
Today the Grade I listed, sumptuous wooden interior’d hotel is a Tudor dream. And on a warm summer’s evening, Riddle was lucky enough to arrive to the dulcet tones of lawn croquet being played; not quite the cricket Riddle’s Editor was hoping for, but we’ll take what we can get. Rushton Hall offers 51 rooms and suites; while the standard rooms are large, elegantly English and perfectly decent with large bathrooms and Penhaligon’s toiletries to boot, it is the four poster bedrooms you’ll be writing home about. With four available, these are a special occasion all on their own.
In addition to the large stone fire places, magnificent staircases and the incredible Great Hall, Rushton Hall also offers a spa, two restaurants as well as an orangery and conference rooms. The spa – open to non-guests as well in its own right – consists of a quiet and relaxing 20 metre indoor pool with sauna and steam room as well as five single and one double treatment room with therapies using Elemis, Elemis Men and REN skincare products. Those energetic amongst you have a small but competently equipped gym to burn off the excess either prior or post dinner.
For guests seeking a casual and informal dining experience, Rushton Hall offers the 1593 Brasserie, which also doubles up as the breakfast room. In this exquisitely panelled room the table by the window, with a view of the Triangular Lodge, is a firm guest favourite. Beyond the brasserie is Rushton Hall’s fine dining restaurant, The Tresham. Led by Head Chef Adrian Coulthard it is the only restaurant in Northampton to be awarded 3 Rosettes. Offering impeccable service, The Tresham uses only the finest seasonal ingredients. The smocked ham hock starter and the 28 days aged Aberdeenshire fillet beef were the stars of the show, with honourable mentions to an excellent cheese course and the home baked bread. Imagine a savoury version of your favourite bread and butter pudding and you’ll come close to the flavour of this normally overlooked staple.
Should you decide to come and visit this postcard of England, do not arrive late and rush off early, or else you’ll be short changing yourself. Walk around the grounds, sit and have tea (or a drink) in the Great Hall and soak in the location. And if you do, consider this; whilst work on the Hall started in 1483, it is believed that the oldest part of the Hall dates back to 1086 with a mention in the Doomsday Book. It is also the last venue Glenn Miller played at before disappearing over the English Channel on the way to Paris in 1944 and American actors Clark Gable and James Stewart visited dinner dances at the Hall.
The magnificence of Rushton Hall is hard to exaggerate; it is literally picture perfect with a past that is virtually unbelievable. It’s hard to ignore history like this and who are we to argue with history?
Enquires: Rushton Hall, Desborough Rd, Rushton, Kettering NN14 1RR / 01536 713001 / www.rushtonhall.com/
Riddle’s road trip was generously supported by Jaguar Land Rover with the kind loan of a Jaguar XF R-Sport Saloon (RRP from £35,735) #riddleroadtrip