The Four Seasons Hotel
An impressive Georgian manor, set in Dogmersfield Park to the east of the county of Hampshire.
By Rory Ross
‘Dogmersfield’ shows how the naming of places evolves glacially in step with changes in society. In Saxon times, the park known today as ‘Dogmersfield’ was rather dismissively referred to as, ‘Docce mere field’ which literally means, ‘a field by the water lily lake’. Wind the clock forward 1,500 years and the hotel’s promotional blurb refers to Dogmersfield as lying ’35 minutes from Heathrow Airport’. Perhaps future generations will coin a portmanteau that elides, ‘a field by the water lily lake near the international air hub’. Just as the warp and weft of the Hampshire countryside interleave the in frastructure of successive generations in which the old is continually dragooned into the service of the new, so the same applies to place names: era after era has heaped one description upon another, like a living nominal museum.
The present building dates from the 18th century, but the original manor and village appear in Domesday (1086). In the Middle Ages, the property passed back and forth between Church and State. In 1501, Henry VII visited with Prince Arthur and Arthur’s younger brother Prince Henry. The idea was a blind date between Arthur with his future wife Catherine of Aragon who was then ‘checked in’. Soon after he and Catherine married, Prince Arthur died leaving the throne to Arthur’s brother, now Henry VIII. Henry took Catherine as the first of his six wives.
For the following two centuries, the estate slipped through multiple hands until Martha Goodyer and Ellis St John built the present Georgian manor in 1728. The estate remained in the family until 1933. Following the War, the house became successively a girls’ school, a seminary, and then a school again before fire gutted the property in 1981. Twenty years later, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts took over, and set about restoring the wings and transforming the stable block into The Spa.
Today, the history of the centuries reverberates gently about the property, whether you are strolling the parkland, or perusing the formal gardens with their ancient dovecote (oldest in Hampshire) or just wandering about the house itself, admiring the beautiful displays of orchids.
As you’d expect of Four Seasons, the place is immaculate and sympathetically restored, with contemporary design over-layering the house’s 18th-century fabric. Seemingly effortlessly, it upholds the highest standards of luxury throughout. The rooms are exceeding comfortable, and the staff, from the general manager right down to Oliver Beckington, the hotel’s Labrador, are always friendly, never intrusive. The quasi-medical spa is superb, and the therapists are outstanding. I’m more of a gym person myself. Praise goes to the quality of the gym, which is unusual for a hotel in not only for having decent equipment that actually works, but also for having no television screens but several full length windows, which admit natural light, and afford views of the gardens – perfect for whipping up an appetite while feeling the burn. The restaurant is excellent, and manages to avoid the formidably oppressive protocols that make the ‘country house hotel’ genre of restaurant such hell. In fact, I was surprised to see all generations of many local families come to celebrate Sunday lunch, giving the place a truly lively feel.
There are various ‘activities’(fishing, canal boating, tennis, croquet, etc.) but if you are going to explore an 18th-century estate, there is only one way: in the saddle. The Four Seasons’ gleaming new equestrian centre has been fully and professionally kitted out, and is undeniably impressive. Tino, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood, and I spent a delightful hour trotting about the rolling acres. I hope that perhaps through the ingenuity of linguistic usage and abusage, future generations might come up with a portmanteau meaning, ‘a field by the water lily lake near the international air hub with a jolly nice equestrian centre’…
From £320 per room, including breakfast; Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, Dogmersfield Park, Chalky Lane, Dogmersfield, Hook, Hampshire RG27 8TD; +44 1252 853000,