Room Service: Heritage for the Home Counties

Laura Ashley The Manor, Herts

Swags, bows and ruffles may spring to mind at the mention of a Laura Ashley concept hotel, but the people behind the 60-year-old brand are keen to exorcise the ghosts of chintzy past. Instead, the former Edgwarebury Hotel in Elstree, Hertfordshire, is decorated with a contemporary theme, which is something of a shame because rather than a cosy, country-house hotel, the look here is of generic good taste. This is a perfectly fine prospect for the home – and catalogues in each of the 49 rooms indicate the brand is keen for you to replicate the look in your own – but it's nothing out of the ordinary.

Laura Ashley heritage notwithstanding, history is redolent at the hotel: a building of some description has existed on the site since 1540, although the hotel in its current Tudor revival state, including a rather incongruous 1989 extension, is more recent. It's believed that the original owner was a sailor, and that some of the beams in the hallway were made from a Spanish Armada wreck, while carved mantelpieces appear to be further evidence of those sea-faring days. And yet, instead of housing roaring log fires, these grand fireplaces now dwarf flame-effect electric heaters.

The original dark wood panelled walls have been painted a light cream but, happily, the leaded windows, some with beautiful stained flags and crests, have been left untouched. The view through many of them, over the grounds and across to high-rise London, is one of the more pleasant surprises.

The grounds, spread across 10 acres, are yet to be properly landscaped. The main boast here is a giant chessboard where tennis courts once stood, although a yet-to-mature rose arbour will be a fitting backdrop for bridal photographs. Indeed, weddings are set to be a speciality of the hotel, which is approved for civil ceremonies. By the end of this year it will have hosted 50.

Formal dining is offered in the Cavendish Restaurant, where diners can choose from two menus. An affordable Malaysian menu represents the owner's Asian roots, while the prices on the British alternative are surprisingly high: risotto of pea and broad beans, £20. Once the shock of the prices subsided, we enjoyed our meal. Service was speedy and friendly, although the hushed atmosphere of an almost empty restaurant on a Friday evening was a strain. Were it filled with your nearest and dearest for your wedding breakfast, the experience would perhaps be more celebratory. Afternoon tea can be taken in the terrace bar or lobby, and the many groups enjoying it on my visit indicated another of the hotel's fortes.


The hotel is easily accessible from the M1, although its site, on the edge of Elstree's verdant fields, leaves it somewhat remote with little of interest in the immediate vicinity. Central London is a nine-mile drive. First Capital Connect trains run from London St Pancras International to Elstree & Borehamwood, a mile-and-a-half away. Luton airport is 20 miles, linked by train to the Parkway station with a bus connection.


Each of the 49 rooms has been designed with a feature colour running through the soft furnishings, fixtures and decor using the current Laura Ashley range. The five best rooms, including the bridal suite, are on the first floor. They all lead off a guest lounge which becomes a private area when all rooms are taken by the same party.

As you would expect, soft furnishings play a key part in adding to the comfort of guests. The public areas are also decorated with prints from the Laura Ashley advertising archive. The large rooms in the former attic are accessible only by very steep stairs. A somewhat boxy standard double in the newer part of the building is charged at £150, but an additional £25 will get you a superior room with a bit more space and a Juliet balcony.

All rooms are furnished with a desk area and comfortable chair. Larger rooms and suites come replete with armchairs, sofas and coffee tables, while iPod docks can be found on the bedside tables. Hi-tech Japanese lavatories with combined bidets are a final surprise in all rooms. These cater for Laura Ashley's huge customer base in Asia, which the hotel hopes to attract. They sit somewhat superfluously in what is otherwise a standard bathroom with plastic tub and incorporated shower. There's free Wi-Fi and all rooms have flatscreen digital televisions.

Travel Essentials

Laura Ashley The Manor, Barnet Lane, Elstree, Hertfordshire, WD6 3RE (020-8953 8227;

Rooms ****

Value ***

Service ***

Doubles start at £150, including breakfast.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power