Amidst 11 acres of grounds. a short drive from Stratford upon Avon and Shakespeare country, this stunning Grade 2 listed hotel has a great restaurant, health club, swimming pool, tennis courts, extensive grounds and is a lovely venue for a wedding. ..and brilliant for us as it’s Pet Friendly.
The dog statues at either side of the entrance , a huge picture of what looked like a saluki and a statue of an Old English Sheepdog in reception bode well for our stay with Rusty.
He was made very welcome. ” Bring Rusty in “, the receptionist said. Rusty could run free in the huge 5 acre area beyond the gardens ( they even provide a dog poo bin). Although not allowed in the Spa, or the posh main restaurant, he was very welcome to join us when we ate in the cosy, elegantly comfortable bar area. The meal we had there was beautifully presented and delicious. Rusty had already had his dinner in our room; on the ground floor of the refurbished cedar barns. On the lawns outside the room is seating for our pre-dinner drink.
Our stay included a glorously warm sunny evening, so one night we ate on the terrace ouside the stunning main building. I felt very ‘Lady of the Manor’ sat with a glass of Pims and Rusty.
Steeped in history, Billesley Manor is said to be listed in the Domesday Book and features a 12th century church in the grounds. The library is said to have been frequented by William Shakespeare and reportedly where he wrote ‘As You Like It’ in 1599. Some of the bedroom accommodation in the Manor has unusual access, lots of corridors, twists and turns, an ancient fireplace along one corridor, a sudden turn here, a few steps up or down there.
As far back as 1327 it was a wooden manor house near a village. In the mid 14th century the village was descimated by the black death , leaving just the manor and the church.
Following several English battles over the years, by the 16th Century the house was in serious disrepair. The head of the family – Thomas Trussell was sentenced to death for highway robbery in Kent but escaping execution, his estate was forfeited to Queen Elizabeth 1st.
The crown sold it to Sir Robert Lee and in 1605 work began to rebuild it in stone. Several changes of ownership followed, including to Bernard Whalley in 1689. A few years later his son, also Bernard Whalley carved his initials in some bedroom panelling (now in the Stuart Restaurant).
In the 1800’s, the Jacobean panelling on the ground floor was removed as it fell out of fashion. But by the 1900’s, in need of renovation, the house was resold and the architect re-introduced oak panelling downstairs by removing it from the bedrooms. I had a good look in the Stuart Restaurant ( it was empty at the time), and actually found the initials BW and the date 1698 carved in wood near the fireplace although the 8 was very faint.
17th century ‘dolphin locks’ can be seen on a couple of ancient doors to rooms 4 and 5. It’s said that these were obtained from German Armourers employed at the Tower of London. I had a sneaky look to find them and take pictures.
The topiary garden is amazing. Created in the early 1900’s the yew trees have been sculpted into weird shapes including a huge 20ft rabbit. Look at them from different angles and you see that the odd shapes are actually faces. Tables and chairs are dotted around this fascinating area for a quiet drink or two, or a game of hide and seek.
A wedding took place when we were here. The dining and reception areas full of flowers, candles, and gorgeous white table dressings, against the backdrop of old dark wood and with a luxuriant atmosphere, it was perfection. The weather was kind and children had so much space to play outside, whilst guests looked on from the terrace through the afternoon and into a lovley warm evening.
All in all an impressive hotel , huge grounds, great facilities, delicious food and for us , superb as it’s pet friendly. We loved it and so did Rusty.