Alexander House Hotel is a haven of peace and tranquility just outside the English countryside village of Turner's Hill, less than 10 miles from Gatwick Airport. The house in 1692 was the seat of Roger Bysshe whose daughter Helen, married John, son of Timothy Shelley of Field Place, Horsham, in 1692. Thus the names of Shelley and Bysshe were joined: Helen Bysshe is the grandmother of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. The oldest part of the present house, facing the south lawn dates from the 17th Century. A stone dated 1608 can be found in the boundary wall.
I stayed in Alexander House over the weekend for the wedding of my friend and colleague. I arrived on Friday night and it took about 10 minutes by Taxi from Gatwick to get to the Hotel. Generally when I come into Gatwick I head straight for the M23 and traffic, so I was absolutely delighted to see that less than a minute from Gatwick heading away from the M23 is the most beautiful English countryside with hardly a car in sight. On the way to the hotel we passed through the picture perfect village of Turner's Hill. I spotted a few Tudor style houses on the way up to the Hotel. The Hotel itself is just outside the village and set in approximately 170 acres of beautifully manicured grounds.
I was met at the entrance by one of the Hotel staff, who was very friendly and welcoming. My good intentions of changing for dinner went out the window as I met my friends as I was on my way up to my room. It didn't take much to persuade me to dump my bags and adjourn to the beautiful drawing room with a glass of champagne, where we happily spent the few hours before dinner. The drawing room also houses the a very fine grand piano.
Dinner Friday evening was served in Reflections Restaurant. The decor in the restaurant is modern and fresh a complete contrast to the main house which is old world opulence. The food reflected the style of the restaurant and adjacent Spa, fresh, modern and healthy. I had the Peppered Goats Cheese and Beetroot Carpachio on a Pea Shoot Salad followed by Pan fried Sea Bass Fillet Saute with Garlic Schrimp, Caramelised Fennel, Saffron Potato, Herb Puree and a Lemon Hollandaise followed by Warm Brioche Bread and Butter Pudding with Marmalade Ice Cream. Delicious. Alexander House are currently number two in my top ten list of restaurants serving excellent "Bread & Butter Pudding". Breakfast is also served in Reflections and consisted of plenty of fresh fruit, juice, cereals and pastries from the breakfast buffet. My favourite breakfast is poached eggs so I opted for "Eggs Benedict" and it was "go hiontach".
My room, in the old house, was very comfortable and quiet and the decor warm and inviting. Saturday I was up bright and early as I had an appointment at the hairdresser in Turner's Hill. There is a hairdresser on site at the hotel, but as usual I preferred to go out as it is an opportunity to have adventures. The village is exactly as I expected, quiet old English and beautiful. The hairdresser on the other hand was not what I expected. There were no hairdressing skills in evidence and I was back-combed and hair-sprayed to within an inch of my life. I could have been caught in the centre of a malström and come out the other side torn to pieces expect for my hair-do which wouldn't have a hair out of place. Luckily stuff like that doesn't bother me so nothing a comb and water wouldn't fix when I got back to the Hotel.
The Alexander as a venue for a wedding is perfect. The wedding took place in the Library and it is the best wedding I ever attended. We then adjourned to the Drawing Room for a champagne reception. Dinner was served in the Alexander Restaurant and was absolutely superb. Five courses of exceptional food, good wine and excellent company every one of us in very good form. We finished up in the early hours of Sunday morning in the libary.
I surfaced late on Sunday morning, and totally missed breakfast. I made up for it with lovely Sunday lunch in Reflections. I also enjoyed, during the weekend, a few hours reading my favourite poems by Shelley in the library. My very favourite poem is "Ozymandias". Imagine, there I was sitting and reading quietly in the same library where Shelley once sat! What good luck. Life just doesn't get any better than this!
Caroline Brady out and about in West Sussex, England Friday 14th to Sunday 16th March 2008