Pendley Manor Hotel
The history of Pendley Manor span 2,000 years, having passed hands through wealthy landowners, even featuring in the Domesday Book. Clues to the building’s fascinating history lie around every corner, from the elaborate Grade Ⅱ-listed stained-glass windows to the hand-painted hearth tiles, Pendley’s story has been shaped for centuries by conquerors, counts and craftsmen.
The woodland around Pendley is settled by ancient Britons and Romans some 1,700 years ago. Later, Anglo-Saxon warrior, Penda is crowned as England’s last heathen king within the woods, or lea, giving us Penda lea.
Confrontation With A Conqueror
The land Is seized under the force of William the Conqueror following the Norman Conquest of Britain. He then bestows the land around the year 1066 to his borther-in-law, Robert, Count of Mortain, a vast addition to the family’s already grand landholding.
A Right Royal Hunting Ground
In the early 1400s, while Sir Robert Whittingham is custodian, the land is granted permission to be used for snaring rabbits. The hunting ground expands to a magnificent 200 acres, where lords and barons freely stalk and shoot to their hearts content.
A noble lineage
Jon de Angle, reputed to have been the first Member of Parliament, becomes the Manor’s next owner, before it passes to the Verney family when Sir Robert Whittingham’s daughter marries John Verney. The Verney family reside at the Manor for the next 150 years.
The blaze and rebuild
Just to the east of where the current house stands, the more modest manor stood but is razed to the ground by fire in 1835. The fire and nearby construction of the railway line forces the Harcourt family, the owners of the time, to abandon the area. The ruins of the house are demolished and the site put up for auction. By 1872, new plans are drawn up for a glorious neo-Jacobean manor to be built for Joseph Grout Williams, a successful landowner, and the family resides there in quiet luxury until the late 1940s.
A new age
During the War, the manor house hosts members of the Women’s Land Army where they learn how to tend to the land. Post-war society sees a significant change in Britain as the divide between nobility and commoners narrows, and Williams’ nephew Dorian then contributes to turning the house into a centre for Adult Education.
Dorian founds the first of the outdoor Pendley Shakespeare Festivals in 1949. He welcomes a local drama group to present a few scenes from Shakespeare in the gardens, which proved so popular that the following year saw the full production of Henry VIII. Dorian himself acted in the plays and even rode his own horse in Richard III. He loved to include animals in the productions, a tradition that continues today.
The additions of the Harcourt Ballroom in 1991, the pool and spa in 2001, and a plush makeover for 2020 have transformed Pendley Manor from a noble home to one of Hertfordshire’s most luxurious country hotels and events venues.
Clues to Pendley’s fascinating history lie around every corner, from the elaborate Grade II-listed stained-glass windows, to the hand-painted hearth tiles, the manor house brims with historic intrigue, grandeur and elegance. A stay at Pendley is certain to leave a lasting impact.
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