Warren House for a pre-Christmas treat

FINDING somewhere to stay for a pre-Christmas London shopping or theatre break can be quite a challenge – so we want to share a real find!

There are the great hotels, but these are outside the price range of most people; there are basic chains, which are OK for the quick overnight stay if all you want is a decent room, a comfortable bed, a bath or shower and a television (and you don’t have a car). You can do self-catering, but if you are having a bit of a treat you don’t really want to have to do the washing-up!

Warren House at Kingston-on-Thames combines the comfort and style of a fine country house hotel with the affordability of the best of the hotel groups.

It also offers that rarity in London area hotels – complete peace and security, with glorious gardens that beguile you to stay where you are and let the great metropolis go on its busy, noisy way!

If the siren call of the shops and theatres is irresistible, you can start the day with a breakfast that offers a wide choice, from traditional bacon, eggs and sausages to fresh fruit, a good selection of juices, range of teas and excellent coffee.

From some of the bedrooms you not only have a lovely view of the gardens, but across the Kingston Vale towards Docklands and the dramatic Canary Wharf skyline. You feel you are in the country, yet only minutes from the Embankment and the bustling city.

It is not a conventional hotel, but rather a conference centre with all the facilities for meetings of all sizes, but with comfortable bedrooms, an elegant restaurant, excellent food, a spa and swimming pool – and those wonderful gardens.

Set off the busy Kingston Hill – an important route into London since the Middle Ages – Warren House is part of the Coombe Estate, and lies about a quarter of a mile along a quiet, heavily treed, residential road next to a golf course. The house itself is a fine example of the grand style of Victorian country house. It was originally built in 1860 for Hugh Hammersley, a partner in the successful London banking firm Cox and Co, and his purchase included a beautiful Japanese water garden.

It remained his country retreat until his death in 1882, when it was bequeathed to his wife Dulcibella, a forebear of future Prime Minister Anthony Eden. George Grenfell Glynn, second Baron Wolverton, bought the house and land in 1884 and commissioned architect George Devey to make substantial large additions to the house and gardens. Glynn moved from banking to politics and rose to become Postmaster General, regularly entertaining Prime Minister Gladstone at Warren House.

In 1907 Warren House was bought by the American heiress, Lady Mary “Minnie” Paget, a close friend of King Edward VII and one of London’s foremost hostesses. She was particularly known for her introductions of the so-called “dollar princesses” to impoverished English aristocrats (think Downton Abbey for a current example!)

Her husband, Sir Arthur Paget saw distinguished military service and many of the most striking and interesting features of the house, including the Persian fireplace, Italian style loggia and the ballroom, as well as the Winter Gardens and grotto, date from their time.

During the Second World War, under the ownership of Dame Leila Paget and her diplomat husband, Warren House was a military convalescent home. In the 1950s it was sold to ICI and became a conference and training centre.

Since 2005 Warren House has been back in private ownership and is regarded as one of the finest conference and events venues, with a lively social calendar.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Warren House offers open festive dining in the beautiful restaurant, for both lunch and dinner, featuring dishes that represent stylish contemporary British cuisine created by chef Paul Bellingham. There are also elegant dining rooms for private parties as well as sumptuous festive teas, taken in front of a roaring fire.

Paul Bellingham and his team have prepared a luxurious series of menus for Christmas breaks, including a traditional Christmas Day lunch with some lighter contemporary additions and a Boxing Day carvery.

For more information or to book for a short or Christmas break at Warren House, visit www.warrenhouse.com