Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Of Ghosts, alchemist and secret rooms

Travelling without expectation can be a bonus.

The place we were originally going to stay for the short break couldn't accommodate us, so my dh eventually booked New Hall in Sutton Coldfield.

I did not hold my breath, and fully expected to be disappointed even when we drove up the very long drive and this wonderful red stone mansion appeared in front of us.

New Hall's brochure claims more lovers than the entire collection of Mills and Boon, and I can see why. It is a country hotel whose rooms and ambiance are in keeping with its promise.

New Hall was once offered to the National Trust, but for some reason, they declined. Thankfully when they changed it into a hotel, and added the extension, it was done in keeping with the house.

The house is the oldest inhabited moated house in England. The moat is currently full of water lilies, carp and moorhens. There are reputed to be a number of different ghosts, and certainly when I went up the landing to the Great Chamber, I had to push through cold thick air. My daughter did not like the Great chamber and rapidly left. The windows of the Great Chamber are covered in etched words. These are from when one of Sacheverells was imprisoned there for two years. His father objected to George Sacheverell getting his sister pregnant. Eventually George escaped on a horse.

I am no sure if that George Sacheverell was the same one as the Alchemist. I think the Alchemist comes later. But anyway, a George Sacheverell had two faces -- on one hand he was the Justice of Sutton for many years during the English Civil War and was supposed to be an example of piety and generosity to the poor. But he was also considered a magician and at one time summoned a demon in his study -- a study that was lost after his death. The hotel believes the study was a room they found when several screens were removed from the Great Hall. The small oak panelled room's existence had been forgotten. Alas there was no indication that this was indeed the missing room.

Other ghosts in the hall include a headless body floating down the river, the sounds of battle near the river (as New Hall was stormed several times) and I think a lady.

New Hall was also owned by the Chadwick families during the Regency period, and in the early 20th century by the Owen family.Sir Alfred Owen is commemorated with a blue plaque. He was the managing director of Rubery Owen and Co, a car components manufacture as well as being passionate about racing cars and track events. He sponsored BRM racing cars and received the Ferodo trophy in 1963.

I could go on and on about the hotel as it is truly an experience -- the food is excellent and the beds soft.

If you have ever wanted to stay in a National Trust house, then this hotel is about as close as you can get!

I will another couple blogs about the actual trip, but the hotel was just wonderful.

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