Adrian Mourby

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The Georgian era in British architecture lasted from the accession of George I, three hundred years ago, until the Regency period. Many people would claim that under the Prince Regent (later King George IV) Britain's experiment with Georgian neo-classicism reached its apogee. Regent's Park in London is perhaps the apotheosis of the clean–lined Georgian new look. After all those Georges (and William IV) Britain was ready for something more embellished and we certainly got it with Victorian neo-Gothic architecture under George IV's diminutive niece. Personally I love the fact that that Georgian architecture in this country takes us all the way from the baroque ornamentation of William and Mary to Queen Victoria. During this period Britain was expanding its colonies and incubating the industrial revolution. It was also almost entirely devoid of political turbulence (apart from the rebellions of 1715 and 1745). True we fought everyone – especially the French - but we produced governments that made sure that wars made money. So this was a time of huge growth in national wealth, as evidenced by the grand coaching inns, substantial town houses and gracious country estates built by the Georgians. Many of these are now hotels, where today you can catch a glimpse of their calmly expansive way of life.
Middlethorpe Hall Hotel, Restaurant & Spa

Strictly speaking, Middlethorpe Hall is a William and Mary house and not Georgian at all given that it was completed in 1702, the last year of William III's reign. George of Hanover would not arrive as King of Great Britain until 1714 but this house has all the qualities of an early Georgian home and none of the baroque excesses of William and Mary's favourite architect, Sir Christopher Wren. The house was built for Thomas Barlow, a prosperous master cutler who bought the Middlethorpe estate outside York in a bid to establish himself as a country gentleman. He sited his mansion right next to the main road, rather than at the end of a long drive, as if keen that as many people as possible would witness his wealth. When Thomas and his son went on the Grand Tour in 1712 they let the house to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who had just eloped with her husband but would go on to be an eminent Georgian woman of letters. Today visitors to Middlethorpe can enjoy the very sensible and comfortable dimensions of Middlethorpe, either staying in the main house or in the former stable block.

The Angel Hotel

Bury St Edmunds was a prosperous town in Georgian times, as attested by its Theatre Royal, opened by proprietor and architect William Wilkins in 1819. Today it is one of the few pre-Victorian theatres left in Britain. There is also a fine Georgian Athenaeum(formerly the Subscription Rooms) whose ballroom looks as if it belongs in a Jane Austen TV adaptation. But by far the best Georgian building in the city is the monumental Angel Coaching Inn, now known as the Angel Hotel, which stands opposite the entrance to the old abbey. It's a big, plain building of grey brick whose flat Georgian frontage is alleviated by a small Doric portico and a pediment at roof level. A later extension provided an archway for coaches to enter the stable yard and with bedrooms above. Charles Dickens mentions the Angel in his first novel The Pickwick Papers (1836) and it is known that he stayed here in 1859 and again in 1861 when he gave lectures at the Athenaeum. Room 15, his bedroom in 1861 is now known as the Charles Dickens Suite.

Oakley Hall Hotel

This Georgian manor with 315 acres of gardens and parkland stands on the site of a medieval hall that was purchased by Wither Bramston in 1795 and demolished to make way for the new fashionable style of brick-built country house. Today many of the public rooms retain a Georgian elegance to them . If you feel echoes of Jane Austen that is because she was a neighbour of the Bramstons and wrote to her sister about visiting them at the hall. Jane would have known Wither Bramston's sister, Miss Augusta, who evidently told the young author that she thought Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice “downright nonsense”. The Conservative MP William Wither Bramston Beach was born at Oakley Hall during the Regency period and the early amateur photographer Jane Martha St. John lived on the estate in Oakley Cottage. William survived into the modern age, being killed in 1901 when he was run over by a London cab. Jane Martha was his aunt from a poorer branch of the family, a very Jane Austen character, but in later life (circa 1850) she took some of the first photographs of Rome.

Rose in Vale Country House Hotel

Many country estates were built or rebuilt in Gerorgian times and Rose-in-Vale in its charming ten acres of grounds is a perfect example. It seems wrong to arrive in front of that white-painted front door and those ivyclad walls in anything but a coach and four. The house was built around 1770 as a gentleman's residence with a late-Georgian gatekeeper's cottage at the entrance to the drive. The Vyvyan family were the likely builders as by the 1830s it was being rented by Captain John Oates who owned the Great Wheal Leisure Copper Mine at Perranporth, and his landlord was Sir Richard Rawlinson Vyvyan, MP. Captain Oates used Rose-in-Vale as his winter residence. His landlord was a man of many talents, and was a Fellow of the Geological Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society for his "considerable literary and scientific acquirements especially in the Philosophy of Natural History". With his secretary Charles Thomas Pearce, Sir Richard undertook research into “the light, heat, and magnetism of the Moon's rays”. Today this lovely Georgian house hides away in its own wooded valley just outside the picturesque village of Mithian. Its candlelit Valley Restaurant is a popular place to dine on the North Cornish coast.

Castle House

Castle House sits on a corner of one of Hereford's lovely irregular Georgian Streets. In 1746 the ruins of Hereford Castle were dismantled and the site was transformed into Castle Green, a pleasure garden for more peaceful times on the Welsh border. At the same time the castle's moat was turned into Castle Pool, a duck pond which is now overlooked by the Castle House Hotel. This 24-bedroom boutique hotel has a fine reputation for its dining. Head chef Claire Nicholls creates an inspiring menu from local produce including Herefordshire beef from Ballingham, the hotel owner's farm.

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