Walk in history’s footsteps at the luxuriously aristocratic De Vere Latimer Estate. Edward 1’s daughters lived at this tranquil spot in the pretty Chilterns.
A disgruntled but defiant King Charles 1, defeated in the English Civil War, was a less content resident when he was held on the estate before his trial and subsequent execution.
After a catastrophic fire in 1834, a new solid red brick and cream sandstone house, topped with numerous chimneys, arose from the ashes. The 1838 Bar and Restaurant commemorate an elegant house that at the time was complimented as being the very essence of “Merrie Olde England”.
De Vere have taken that spirit further. A grand central staircase, illuminated by a stained window, has been immaculately restored. William Morris wallpapers and still-life watercolours preserve the aura of a Victorian country house.
Yet, the finest hour of “The Spy House”, marked by artwork in the mansion’s reception, was still to come.
Sir Winston Churchill, a frequent visitor during the Second World War, gave the prisoner of war camp an unlimited budget. Captured German officers had exceptionally comfortable conditions, even taken to lunch on the The Strand. Relaxed, they chatted in their bugged accommodation.
Amongst the 90 translators who listened to their revelations of military facilities and plans were Jewish refugees who had fled Germany. Careless talk lead to the bombing and destruction of German rocket factories that made D-Day possible.
After a £7 million refurbishment the De Vere Latimer Estate is now looking better than ever. In the main mansion there are 31 spacious feature rooms and suites, largely looking out across rural Buckinghamshire. It is hard to believe that the end of the Metropolitan Line, at Amersham, is merely a five-minute taxi ride away. That makes the De Vere Latimer Estate the perfect car-free country retreat.
Throughout the mansion there many peaceful nooks and crannies to seek sanctuary from busy everyday life. Recently, De Vere has partnered with Bloomsbury to create a Book Club. Guests may borrow a book from a selection of recent launches, topical reads and modern classics. The library, with is deep welcoming sofas, Is ideal for an afternoon’s reading leading into afternoon tea.
Another option is The Chess Valley walk alongside a sparkling chalk stream. Passing adjacent to the Latimer Estate’s 30 acres, the route is a 10-mile linear stroll from Rickmansworth to Chesham, where walkers may spot kingfisher, water vole, brown trout, dragonfly and orchid.
This is Dahl country with the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre at Great Missenden. More great story telling is seen at the Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter studio tour located in nearby Watford.
At the end of the day, guests have choices between the Huntley Bar – with its bar food menu, where guests can take their drinks out onto a balcony giving spectacular views across the Chess Valley – or the 1838 Bar and Restaurant.
A light conservatory style dining area leads out to al fresco dining in a sheltered courtyard. Locally sourced and seasonally inspired dishes feature on the menu. Whilst a Casterbridge, a 28 day dry aged sirloin steak delights the carnivores, vegetarians enjoy the grilled marinated halloumi or the rigatoni alla parmigiana. Amongst the desserts a vegan chocolate and passion fruit tart leaves guests asking whether vegan chocolate is tastier than traditional chocolate.
For all we know about the Latimer Estate’s past, questions still surround the mansion’s shadowy secret history. It is rumoured that during The Cold War years the house was an MI6 base that inspired some locations in John Le Carre’s spy novels. Speculation was furthered fuelled when the government sold the house in the 1980s. Within the sale contract, there was a clause that the tunnels beneath the house were not to be opened for a further 50 years …
De Vere Latimer estate fact file
For more information about rooms, tariffs and availability visit De Vere Latimer Estate, Chesham Hotel (Formerly Latimer Place).
Cold War past and more about the history of Latimer Place.
Find out more about Roald Dahl Museum.
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