Elcot Park Hotel
Newbury Elcot Park
Newbury Elcot Park shown within Berkshire
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The Mercure Newbury Elcot Park Hotel is a four star country hotel belonging to Jupiter Hotels and franchised as part of the Mercure hotel chain, situated within 16 acres (65,000 m2) of land in the locality of Elcot near Kintbury in the English county of Berkshire.
Elcot Park estate was purchased by Anthony Bushby Bacon (1772? - 1827), the son of a wealthy Welsh industrialist, from Charles Dundas, 1st Baron Amesbury, a prominent landowner from the neighbouring village of Kintbury. He then proceeded to create a small estate, and built the house probably between 1815 and 1825. There are gaps in the historical record but this is the most likely date range for the building of the house, and differs from published accounts. There also have been suggestions that Capability Brown was involved in laying out the grounds, but this is unlikely to be correct, despite the fact that the gardens of Elcot Park were laid out in an English Landscape style. The area around the mansion were laid to lawns with clumps of trees, woodland walks and distant views over the Kennet valley. There also was a fine walled kitchen garden with a range of glasshouses, including four greenhouses for vines and peaches, and also a pine pit heated with hot water. Elcot Park was well known, in the nineteenth century, for Bacon's implementation of hot water heating in the glasshouses.
When Anthony Bacon died in 1827, he was heavily in debt with two mortgages against the house. His son, Charles Bacon, bought the house in 1831 after clearing the debts, but seemed to continue to have financial difficulties as he had to sell the property in 1844. The sale documents from that time still exist that shows that Elcot Park was sold with 122 acres (in contrast with today's 16). Lady Shelly, mother of the great poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, purchased the estate and moved here with her remaining daughters, having suffered the double tragedy of her husband’s death at Field Place, Sussex and the death by drowning of Percy. The estate was then let for a number of years to various military families until the Shelly family sold their interest in Elcot Park to Sir Richard Vincent Sutton, 6th Baronet in 1899. Sir Richard’s main seat was Benham Park, and the land attached to Elcot at that time adjoined Benham Valence. Elcot Park was again let for a further 25 years to a prominent JP by the name of Richard Plaskett Thomas. He held substantial tea plantations in India. The land belonging to Elcot Park then became part of the tenancy for Elcot Farmhouse. The main mansion, parkland and outbuildings forming a separate tenancy.
During the early years of the Second World War, a Hampshire family – the Bramley Firths from Silchester became tenants. Towards the end of the war, a Mrs Whitehead had taken the tenancy and it was she who first had the initiative to create a “letting residence”. After a long fight to establish a licensed hotel, she finally gave up the struggle whilst in her late fifties.In the late 1940s the property was trading as Elcot Park Hotel & Country Club. Mrs Edith Weston bought the tenancy from Lady Helen De Crespigny in 1949 and continued trading on this basis, linking Elcot with her other family business in London (The Surrey Restaurant in Surrey St, London WC2). Mrs Weston ran it as a successful business with a wide clientele in the neighbourhood, until 1952 when it went into liquidation. The property remained empty for some ten years, until in 1967 a Mr Harold Sterne and his wife June took the tenancy with a serious attempt to create a worthy hotel. There was a programme of development that lasted some 18 years. Mr & Mrs Sterne were given the opportunity to purchase the property outright in 1977 and they continued the business until deciding to retire in 1987.
The hotel was purchased by a Mr Katzler and between 1987 and the end of May 1989, the hotel was further extended by the addition of 7 more bedrooms in the Mews Cottages, formerly the private accommodation of Mr Stern. As interest rates rose Mr Katzler decided to sell the property rather than continue his expansion and redevelopment plans. From June 1989 the hotel has been in company ownership. Resort Hotels added a tasteful extension giving the property a further 42 en-suite bedrooms and a Health Club with an indoor swimming pool, spa pool, sauna and mini-gym (although the Health Club is no longer in use). The restaurant was redecorated and extended and a new conservatory was built to replace the original one, which had been destroyed in the gales of 1987.
Jarvis Hotels acquired the property in 1994, bedrooms and bathrooms have been refurbished and a full kitchen re-fit has given the hotel the facility to host large local events. In September 2001 Jarvis joined with Ramada Hotels to form Ramada Jarvis. Following the demise of Ramada Jarvis, the hotel was re-branded and now trades as the Mercure Newbury Elcot Park Hotel.
Lady Elizabeth Shelley and her daughters
In 1844 Lady Elizabeth Shelley, the mother of Percy Bysshe Shelley, purchased Elcot and moved there with her two daughters Hellen (family spelling) and Margaret. Lady Elizabeth Shelley is said to hold pride of place in influencing Percy's poetic genius.
Lady Shelley was born in 1763. Her father was Charles Pilfold a wealthy landowner in Effingham. In 1791 she married Sir Timothy Shelley who was the son of Sir Bysshe Shelley, 1st Baronet of Castle Goring. A year later their first son Percy Bysshe Shelley the famous poet was born. Over the next decade they had five daughters. One died in infancy, one married and one died in 1831. The family lived at Field Place in Warnham and it was here that Percy spent his childhood with his many sisters. He died at a very young age in 1822 after a boating accident leaving a wife Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and a son.
When Sir Timothy died in 1844 Lady Elizabeth left Field Place and moved to Elcot House with her two unmarried daughters Hellen and Margaret. Soon after she moved there Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley visited them to discuss her son’s inheritance. Elizabeth died in 1846 and Mary continued to visit Hellen and Margaret at Elcot. A letter from Mary written at Elcot House in 1847 still exists.
Hellen was fond of her brother Percy and in 1857 while she resided at Elcot she wrote a series of letters about her memories of their childhood together. These letters became the key sources in the many biographies that have been published about the poet.
The two sisters appeared to live very comfortably at Elcot. The Census records show that they employed at least ten servants during their residence here including a butler and footman. In 1874 the sisters left Elcot and went to live in a smaller house in Brighton. They sold their extensive range of furniture. An advertisement for the sale of these items appeared in the newspaper and is shown. Hellen died in 1885 at the age of 85 and Margaret died in 1887 aged 87. The probate records show that Margaret died a very wealthy woman leaving an estate valued over 107,000 pounds which in today’s currency is about 11 million pounds.
Prospective guests seeking the hotel should follow the A4 from Newbury in the direction of Hungerford for roughly four miles, looking out for the Halfway Inn. Three quarters of a mile thereafter one should see the signs for the hotel). Taking the narrow winding road up the hill towards the hotel, one should exact extreme caution at all times.
- Anthony Bacon's will available at the Berkshire Records Office, document number D/EX1282
- Bacon's will and the 1822 Kintbury Map, available at the Berkshire Records Office
- Loudon's Gardener's Magazine, 1828, p. 186
- Veitch, Journal of the Royal Horitcultural Society, Vol. XI, 1889, p. 123
- Bieri, James (12 March 2015). Percy Bysshe Shelley. Google Books. Retrieved 22 March 2015. p. 43.
- University of Pennsylvania. Online reference http://knarf.english.upenn.edu/People/tshelley.html
- Bennett, Betty 1988 “Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley” vol 3, p. 159.
- Garrett, Martin (12 March 2015). The Palgrave Literary Dictionary of Shelley. Google Books. Retrieved 22 March 2015.