Graceful Retreat Where Shelley Lived
N THE early part of the 14th century, one John Atte Fenn lived at what is now Alexander House Hotel. Later occupants included the rather better known Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Campbell, sometime governor of the Bank of England. And in 1953, the Queen Mother opened it as a home for retired clergy. Here endeth the history lesson.
Today it has all the virtues of a rather splendid English mansion, the sort of place where upper-class murders were committed in 1930s crime fiction, set in more than 135 acres of West Sussex and out of the way of flightpaths into Gatwick, nine miles away.
Interior style now Tudoresque, now Regency, now Edwardian, the whole is a pleasantly eclectic mixture with many agreeable additions: graceful decor, tapestries, painted silk walls, oak panelling, a pair of lovebirds in a tall, elegant cage in the hallway and a homely country-house touch of hot water bottles in the bottom of your wardrobe for chilly nights.
And the sewing kit in your room is not the usual basic bits in a small cardboard envelope, but a miniature plump padded cushion with 10 shades of cotton ready threaded on to separate needles.
The library, complete with massive stone fireplace, may be adorned with books by the decorative yard (the Complete Poetic Works of Sir Walter Scott is little read nowadays), but has the air of the genuine article and bears an original Noel Coward painting of Jamaica Bay on one wall and you don't come across many of those.
Outside, the grounds vary between formal gardens (unfortunately, a little too near the road), woodlands and open meadows and offer tennis and it seems inevitable in such a setting croquet. Locally, you can ride horses or watch someone else ride them at Goodwood, Epsom, Kempton or Sandown Park play golf and shoot clay pigeons.
Adorned by AA Rosettes and RAC Blue Ribbon, food and drink are of the standard you would expect, although things can go over the top in the dining room. …