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Marble columns, sweeping staircases and manicured gardens. Think you know Luton? Think again. Anna Longmore gets acquainted with Luton Hoo
It has taken Elite Hotels eight years and £60m to bring Luton Hoo back to life. These might be just figures on paper, but once you’ve crossed the threshold of the 18th-century Bedfordshire stately home and explored its spectacularly restored interiors yourself, it’s easier to truly appreciate what they mean.
So that’s exactly what we did. Luton Hoo has a distinguished history, and during WWII, it was employed as the headquarters for the Eastern Command. In 1947, the Queen and her new husband stayed in the rooms that now make up the Queen Elizabeth Suite and a year later, Winston Churchill addressed a crowd of 110,000 from the steps.
In more recent times, the mansion has set the scene for Hollywood blockbusters such as Eyes Wide Shut and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Now, for the first time in its long history, the same sweeping spaces that dazzled royalty and film directors are open for events.
With 144 bedrooms and 17 distinct suites and syndicate rooms on offer, organisers can opt for period splendour, smart simplicity or laid-back modernity. Take a look around...
Elite has steadfastly resisted the fashion for a contemporary spin on traditional interiors, with stunning results. The restraints that came with the building’s Grade I listing have played their part, ensuring that the restoration has been in keeping with Luton Hoo’s 250-year heritage.
Attention to detail, right down to the hand-crafted furniture, reproduction artworks and each woven-to-measure step of the carpet on the sweeping spiral staircase, has underpinned the entire conservation process. The culmination of this ethos is a classic look that feels timeless rather than old-fashioned.
Event spaces in the Mansion House range from down-to-business boardrooms such as the Churchill Suite to the Beaux-Arts opulence of the stately Wernher Restaurant or the jaw-dropping Romanov Suite, a de-consecrated Russian Orthodox chapel.
The stable block, a short walk from the Mansion House, shares its classic approach but in more contemporary surrounds. As well as the spa and leisure club, there’s the self-contained Robert Adam’s Suite, and the handsome Adam’s Brasserie, Bar and Clubhouse arranged around a neat courtyard. Guests can be accommodated in the new 59-bedroom Flower Garden Wing next door, or a cosy studio in the stable block.
With its exotic marble panel-work and rich coloured fabrics, the Wernher Restaurant is one of the most impressive spaces in the Mansion House. The kitchen works hard to match the setting, turning out a classic seasonal dishes with a French bent that will please everyone, and private dining can be arranged for up to 90.
Meanwhile the Adam’s Clubhouse in the Stable Block is the place to head for pampering in one of the six tranquil treatment rooms, general R&R in the relaxation area or to work up a sweat in the hi-tech gym. The highlight here is the well-sized 18m swimming pool.
With 1,065 acres of Capability Brown parkland surrounding the mansion, there’s also plenty to entice corporate groups outside: the fairways of the par-73 golf course and boating or fishing on the huge lake. Landlubbers might prefer classic field pursuits such as clay pigeon shooting, overseen by the reassuringly no-nonsense Pete Lee, who ensures that beginners go home just as happy as experienced shots.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Autumn 2008.