As the classic English castle with drawbridge and turrets, New Hall is the most romantic of locations as waterlilies idyllically float on a moat fed by seven fresh-water springs. Probably England’s oldest inhabited moated house, New Hall tells the story of over a millennium of history. Inevitably, Henry Vlll, between his fifth and sixth wives, limping and obese, leads the pageant of historical figures intertwined with New Hall’s history.
Portions of the building date from Anglo-Saxon times. Early in New Hall’s story, sometime after 1066 and the Battle of Hastings, the brutally ruthless William the Conqueror had Edwin of Mercia executed and seized his New Hall estate. As the centuries rolled by, New Hall and its ghosts tell the story of England’s history. After New Hall’s owner was fined for supporting the losing side in the 1640s English Civil War, the ghost of a neck-ruffed cavalier, in a then-trendy black velvet suit is said to sometimes appear in the castle’s passages. Legend has it that Charles ll stayed a night at New Hall as he fled from Roundhead forces.
Located seven miles north-east of Birmingham, in Sutton Coldfield, New Hall Hotel and Spa is set in 26 acres of pasture, woodland and formal Tudor-symmetric gardens, where precise topiary has become an art form. It is an idyllic rural retreat for those on business in Birmingham – guests say they’ve caught glimpses of Kylie and other celebs – and from frenetic 21st century living.
Step back in time for a taste of late medieval architecture that makes Hogwarts look restrained: coats of arms, griffins, stone fireplaces, Norman French mottoes, crenelated towers, mullioned windows, timber beams and a cupola topped by a weathervane. A recent makeover has brought a lighter touch to the historic wood-panelled decor.
Nine feature rooms, named after a variety of water lilies, at the heart of a frequently extended castle, celebrate New Hall’s traditions. There are a further 51 rooms exhibiting Hand Picked Hotels’ flair for discreet interior design.
Waking in a four-poster bed to hear babbling brooks feeding the moat, with early morning mist lingering over the water, has a regally privileged feeling. A light and soothing palette of pastoral greens brings the woodland theme into the rooms. Although facilities are decidedly contemporary, they are discreetly hidden away with dark wood furnishings to keep the ambience of a days-gone-by Lords and their Ladies’ retreat. En-suite bathrooms prioritise modern comfort over historical accuracy. No danger of Horrible Histories’ pongs here, as ample and fragrant Hand-Picked Hotels toiletries are provided.
Walking from the bar through to The Bridge Restaurant, diners have a preview of the impressive range of wines on offer with a spot lit view of the cellar. Cuisine has come on apace since the days when King Henry hunted boar for a spit-roast. Today’s modern British cuisine, featured in the two AA Rosette restaurant, with sourcing fit for royalty is much lighter than in carnivorous Henrician times. Yorkshire cod fillet served with a butter bean cassoulet, a creamy pork fillet contrasting with garlic mash and black pudding and corn-fed chicken supreme – all illustrate the chef’s light touch. Though Henry would have probably been outraged by a vegan exotic offering of roasted cauliflower, curried carrots and saffron risotto.
Ask reception for a guided tour of New Hall, to view the historic room where Henry Vlll dined and to hear tales of ghostly apparitions. History does not record whether Henry brought a plus-one on his visit to New Hall but there is no doubt that indulgent spa treatments and a warm indoor pool were not available over four centuries ago. Being Henry’s mistress / wife / next victim could not have been easy – and whoever the lady was – she would have been in need of an escape into a day of pampering. There’s also a map for walks through the peaceful firs, oaks and rhododendron and a small pitch-and-putt golf course to enjoy, while New Hall is just a short drive away from The National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire.
In a nutshell
A unique opportunity to time-travel to a moated drawbridge castle that reveres New Hall’s rich history and local tradition but more than satisfies contemporary expectations of luxurious comfort and fine-dining.
Getting there – New Hall Hotel and Spa is minutes from the M6 toll-road. Alternatively, guests can take a train to Birmingham New Street and then a taxi. As this unique slice of English history draws visitors from afar, taxis are available from Birmingham International Airport.
Rooms can be booked from £185.
Address: Walmley Road, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham B76 1QX
Phone: 0121 378 2442
Photography courtesy of New Hall Hotel and Spa