By Anna Power
The Spread Eagle Hotel and Spa is a truly historic hotel dating back to Tudor times, in the lovely English town of Midhurst, in the heart of the South Downs. Though the spa and parts of the hotel are clearly more recent additions, its original building, housing its lounge bar, restaurant and suites above, are beautifully preserved examples of the period, oozing charm and character with every creak of its timber frame, wobbly floors, latticed windows and diminutive oak door frames.
I stayed in The Queen’s Suite – literally fit for a queen and named after the Tudor monarch Elizabeth I, who reputedly stayed here. The suite is in the oldest part of the house and dates back to 1430. You could literally feel history all around you. The bed is a spectacular carved wooden four poster, huge and very comfortable with beautiful woven tapestries and antique furniture.
It’s a huge room with its own small sitting room or you can close off the adjoining Edward VII lounge and have a truly impressive space; it also has the only known functioning Tudor wig room in existence.
The bathroom thankfully is not from the Tudor period and is very modern with a roll top bath or shower and crammed with Temple Spa products. The room can get quite hot on warm nights but a fan is provided. Staying here is a truly special experience. It would be remiss of me not to mention the lovely gift of complimentary chocolates by local chocolatier Noble and Stace that were so good they deserve a special mention and ahem.. further investigation.
(the adjoining Edward VII lounge)
Tables fan out from the grandeur of an enormous Inglenook fireplace with dangling copper pans and ancient cookware. The menu under head chef Richard Cave-Toye is a mix of old and new, taking pride in utilising the wealth of quality produce ‘field to fork’ from local producers in the abundant Sussex coast and countryside. I opted for scallops with bacon to start, which was delicious and moreish and playfully presented. Mains included lemon sole with jersey potatoes and pork belly with cabbage and mash, I opted for a steak from their grills section which was cooked to perfection though with the triple cooked chips and onion rings more than I could handle. Dessert was a chocolate mousse and coconut sorbet, sweetly presented on a floral platter. Horace, the maître d ensured service was impeccable with every need anticipated, attentive yet unintrusive, friendly yet professional. Overall my dining experience was relaxed and effortless and very satisfying. There were no bells or whistles, just reliably good, well presented food with exceptional service, at a very reasonable £38 for three courses, though there are supplement fees for some options.
Like dinner, though more relaxed, breakfast was again meticulous in its presentation and service, with a well-stocked buffet and range of hot food options. The full English was delicious and the yogurt and berry compote a highlight from the buffet.
Behind the restaurant, with its own street entrance, is the hotel’s original coaching Inn, now the lounge bar and it’s a treat in itself. With its impressive oak-beamed ceiling, lumpy arm chairs, comforting fireplace and extensive gin bar, its impossible not to imagine it throughout the ages hosting Admiral Lord Nelson amongst its many historical guests.
The Spa is a friendly, busy place serving as a gym for local Midhurst folk and hotel guests alike. There’s a gym and classes for those wanting to keep fit during their stay – which I naturally avoided, and a heated indoor pool with gorgeous blue mosaic tiling depicting a spread eagle, housed under an impressive vaulted ceiling with a scandi glass front that opens out onto a sun terrace with loungers. The steam, sauna and jakuzzi complete the pleasant spa facilities.
There are six treatment rooms using Temple Spa products with a very broad range of treatments on offer. I opted for their signature South Downs Soother that does what it claims and is a real head to toe treatment. After a gentle scrub you are wrapped in mud and covered to sweat it out, and while you drift off you’re given a gentle facial and foot massage. It was so wonderfully relaxing and the mud had a lasting effect on my skin. You can buy the Temple Spa mud packs to take home, which given the effect was very tempting. The treatment is finished with a glass of something bubbly. A truly indulgent, thoroughly relaxing pamper and at £102 for a full 90 minute session, very reasonable too.
If all that this very special historical hotel has to offer peaks your interest in all things Tudor you can go on to explore Cowdray Manor and take in the many more historical sites of Midhurst, a hidden jewel in the Sussex crown.
Rooms at The Spread Eagle Spa Hotel start from £119 per night with a stay in The Queens Suite from £329 per night to book or see offers visit their website: https://www.hshotels.co.uk/spread-eagle/rooms/queens-suite