Italian Influence

101 Reviews

Star Travel Rating

3/5

Review type

Accommodation

Date of travel

March, 2023

Product name

Wotton House

Product country

United Kingdom

Product city

Dorking Surrey

Travelled with

Couple

Reasons for trip

Relaxation/Wellness

A long, sweeping driveway leads through the large estate of Wotton House with its 127 bedrooms and suites. Eventually, the terracotta-bricked hotel with its octagonal turrets and winged gryphons is within sight.
We booked a couple of nights break here and were looking forward to our visit in the region of the Surrey hills near Dorking.
A Manor House since 1086, it gave the impression it had been extended considerably from a distance away.
We had somewhat of a wait when booking in but finally, we were welcomed and allocated room 310 with a great view overlooking the Italian style garden with it’s Temple.
The room was decorated in greys and greens and was a reasonable size with a comfortable bed. One chair was in need of repair and not comfortable to sit on.
The food was good but we had a bad experience the first evening, with a very noisy crowd on a table near us. In the centre of the large restaurant is a large, lit tree. The buffet breakfast was somewhat disappointing and have enjoyed better. The staff were friendly and helpful.
The hotel catered for a lot of conferences as well as weddings.

Botanist, John Evelyn created England’s first Italian style garden at Wotton as the centrepiece of the country house hotel. If you climb the steps next to the Temple, you have a marvellous view stretching out before you. If the weather is not too good there are wellies, walking sticks and umbrellas by the oak front door.
Use the estate map to help point out the places of interest which include the Roman temples, grottoes, fountains, ruins and original mosaics. I have to say, the garden does look a little unkempt in places but could be made more vibrant with a little more attention.
The interior of the hotel has a lot of character with Medieval archways gracing the wedding chapel and a columned Gothic Old Library which had a 6 million refurbishment in 2017. You will find vintage railway clocks, a stag’s antlers adorned with bowlers and top hats, flower ceramics and terrariums.
There is a leisure club with a pool and hot tub and an 1877 Bar terrace where you can enjoy cocktails and garden views.
In the Domesday Book, the Manor Wotton is listed as having one mill, ten ploughs and three acres of meadow, woodland and herbage. The name literally means ‘the farm by the wood’ taken from the early Saxon words wudu and tum. The place had several owners before being acquired by Sir David Owen who was related to the Tudor family. In 1579 the estate and buildings were purchased by George Evelyn who had a very large family from two marriages. They owned a lucrative gunpowder business with mills throughout Surrey, including one on the Wotton Estate. Local villagers were employed either in the gunpowder mills or in the house. Upon George’s death the estate was left to his son Richard Evelyn. When Richard died in 1640 the estate went to his eldest son, George. Richard’s second son was John, the famous diarist, born at Wotton on 31st October 1620.
John Evelyn spent much of his youth travelling throughout Europe, especially Italy and France. This influenced much of the work on the house and gardens. John was passionate about plants and botanicals as well as in the many health benefits plants could provide.

Wotton was extended and alternations to the gardens were made throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, including the addition of the walled garden you can still see today. The temple like structure served as a tortoise and terrapin house with their own rectangular pool! After a fire in the 1870s the house was restored and enlarged by William John Evelyn as we see it today. William John Evelyn is also known for keeping a menagerie near the house, including Kangaroos. It is said they eventually escaped in the direction of Leith Hill.

The estate was used by the Canadian Army during the second world war and also became a fire training centre for the Home Office in 1947. Soon afterwards it became the national Fire Service College until 1981.
After being empty for several years the house and 13 acres of garden were leased to Hayley conferences and the House renovated for use as a conference centre. After becoming a full-service hotel, it was acquired by IHG who manage Wotton House as an independent hotel. The wider estate is still owned and managed by the Evelyn family.

While staying at Wotton you can visit Dorking with its antique shops or drive through the beautiful Surrey countryside to the quintessential English village of Shere which has featured in the Hollywood movies Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Holiday, Four Weddings and A Funeral and The Edge of Reason. We enjoyed a lovely cup of coffee at the Dabbling Duck cafe/restaurant while exploring the village with its interesting 1190 church of St James.
RHS Wisley and Polesden Lacey is quite nearby.

All in all, we had a nice stay with courteous, helpful staff, just a shame our first evening meal had to be spoiled by a group of inconsiderate diners nearby!

Caroline Hutchings

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