The Hill family transformed a dilapidated care home near Solihull into a restaurant with rooms in 2010, recently unveiling a refurbishment which has created a modern take on traditional British craftsmanship. Rosalind Mullen reports
Like all historic houses, Hampton Manor in Hampton in Arden has weathered good and bad times. It was built by Frederick Peel, son of politician Sir Robert Peel, in 1855 as a grand country house, but more recently was used as a 45-bedroom care home, after which it lay empty for 14 years. Fast-forward to today and the Grade II-listed property and 45-acre estate has been carefully restored as a design-led, 15-bedroom, one-Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms. And while the area is still rural, the benefits of modern transport links mean it's in striking distance of Birmingham airport and city centre.
"We want a multi-generational family business to give our kids the same experience we had," says James. "We choose to be a restaurant with rooms rather than a hotel. We have dinner with eight staff once a month and share our vision to help them capture the spirit." In 2017, the Hills decided to refurbish the public spaces and guest rooms and have now unveiled a new look that embraces the Arts and Crafts movement, paying homage to the building's 19th-century history. They have also added more accommodation, with the opening of the two-bedroom Manor Cottage in July after a seven-month, £1.5m refurbishment. Originally, the couple had planned to live in it, but then realised it would be a good asset. "Having pockets on the estate is more favourable," says James, who adds that more plans are in hand. The design Fjona oversees all the design and marketing. Although she trained as a doctor, she took time out as a photographer and realised her first love was being creative. Following a stint as lead-designer under Katie McCarthy at a hotel design company (now called Design Equals), James persuaded her to use her talents in the hotel. It's been quite a journey. Back in 2010, Fjona was led by the fabric houses, but this meant the design was on-trend and therefore popular in other hotels - plus she felt constrained by the fashionable neutral palette. "I love colour, but at the time fabric houses offered limited colour," she says. "Seven years later, the colour scheme was dated and commonplace, so this time I was determined not to be led by a trend, but by a story instead. I fell in love with the Arts and Crafts style." The Arts and Crafts movement ties into the history of the estate. As industrialists, the Peels had played a part in the mechanisation of the cotton and spinning industry. The movement, which gathered momentum while Frederick was building the house, started in reaction to the industrial revolution, returning to a slower way of creating things. e refurbishment started at the end of 2017, with the public rooms completing last summer and the bedrooms completing as *The Caterer* goes to press. Fjona's instinctive love of colours, such as rich greens and burnt oranges, is evident throughout the property. And in line with the Arts and Crafts ethos, she has sought out contemporary artworks, furniture and furnishings by craftsmen, complementing the original features of the house, such as the stained glass, hand-carved oak staircase and panelling. Rather than going to a one-stop shop, Fjona favoured independent suppliers, collaborated with artists, and trawled workshops, antiques fairs and fabric houses. She also visited trade shows, which is where she met carpenter Will Self, who created a number of pieces, including the wine stand and the oak table in Peel's restaurant. "It was a collaboration," says Fjona. "I do a sketch and he embellishes the ideas and comes up with ways to make it happen." She also developed a good relationship with ceramicist Sarah Jerath, adding: "My favourite bit is working with design people. They have tenacity." The lobby This space showcases what Fjona set out to achieve. Here, original features such as the hand-carved oak staircase, panelling and stained glass are complemented by contemporary furniture and artworks by independent craftspeople. The tone is set by a large bespoke ink drawing by Chris De Souza called the Manor's Table, depicting hands across a table and some dishes from the Peel's menu. Guests can relax in oak-framed velvet sofas by Space Copenhagen, or head to Joseph Chierowski's mid-century rocking chairs by 336 Concepts in the reading corner. ere is also a tasting table with concealed wine fridges, handmade by Self from marble-topped scorched oak, where guests can try new organic wines led by sommeliers. Lighting is hand-blown glass by Rothschild & Bickers. The colour palette of indigo, burnt orange, red and ochre has been inspired by the original Minton tiled floors near the entrances. The wallpaper is William Morris's classic Standen print. The bedrooms In true Arts and Crafts style, the rooms are decorated with William Morris wallpapers and fabrics, and have touches such as ladder bookshelves. But Fjona has also introduced Fly sofas from Danish design company &Tradition and commissioned furnishings and accessories from artists and makers, such as Cotswold-based potter Neil Alcock and abstract painter Wendy Satchwell. "The modern craftsmanship and Scandinavian simplicity sits nicely with William Morris and keeps it fresh and linked with modern times," says Fjona. "It could be overbearing, if not managed well." Peel's restaurant Originally used as a meetings and wedding venue, this room became the 28-seat restaurant five years ago. One stand-out feature is the hand-painted Fromental wallpaper, which features several embroidered peacocks, and reflects the Victorian love of Orientalism. Centre-stage is the long oak dining table, hand-planed Self, with legs designed to resemble trees from the surrounding parkland. The single piece of English oak came from a local timber yard and was seasoned in 1982. "It's been a labour of love. It is an expression of what we feel our vision is for Hampton Manor," says James. !Peel's restaurant Hampton Manor](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/FgvU0UhTSfbNUB19PDG7)Tables have been given great significance at Hampton Manor, a nod to when the Hills owned the Pear Tree Inn and would gather for family lunches. Although this table could seat a large group, it can also be subtly divided with an arrangement of handmade ceramic pots. The pots were made by Jareth, who used clay from the garden to make some of the vases, and complement the hand-thrown tableware by Sytch Farm Studios. "Our focus is to be a restaurant; the rooms are there to service time around the table," says James. "We help you to have a good time around the table. It is about making guest connections." The Tasting Room With a window looking into the kitchen and strategically placed mirrors on the opposite wall, all guests around the eight-seat oval table can see the brigade work their magic. The food is a central theme for the business, with Peel's gaining its first Michelin star in 2016 and four AA rosettes under head chef Rob Palmer. The menu offers four- or seven-course tasting menus with wine flights and, in keeping with the ethos of the business, Palmer sources seasonal produce and each dish focuses on three main ingredients. Similarly, afternoon tea has been reimagined with a chef demonstration and treats such as middle pork and black pudding alongside the scones. The Library This room, with its original ceiling and wood panelling depicting thistles and sunflowers, is used for private dining for up to 16 people. The original wooden shelves were carved by Indian craftsmen and the books were in the manor when the Hills bought it. Manor Cottage According to James, this most recent project is closest to Fjona's heart. "It is down to earth, more rustic and homely compared with the grandeur of the manor," he says. "It lends itself to memorable experiences; it's immersive." The ground floor is open plan and spacious, with a dining area, sitting room, breakfast room, kitchen and sun room. What's noticeable is the generous supply of large wooden tables. Fjona explains: "We've collaborated with craftspeople and hunted down antiques that hold a story of their own to create four unique tables to gather round in the cottage. Each table lends something different to the kind of conversations you want to have." hough light and airy, Fjona has again used dark green, wood and purples. "I was inspired by the colours of the bricks and the greenery and to keep a cosy, cottagey feel," she says. The Courtyard Events for up to 130 guests seated or 160 standing are kept separate in this contemporary, airy conservatory, which was built nine years ago. Future plans The Hills aim to have a total of 30-35 bedrooms within five years. They are awaiting planning permission to create a new, more casual dining concept, meeting space and 10 bedrooms, with a budget of £4m, which will be more stripped back and modern than the interior design of the house and cottage. They also hope to create nine more bedrooms in the stables block next to the cottage, which represents a total £2m investment. James is also looking forward to a fillip when the HS2 rail link reaches Birmingham in 2026, reducing journey time from London Euston to 49 minutes. "We will be the fastest country house to get to," he says. ![peelsrestaurant-3679](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/jfhepJ1jTeGrlMkmBFDl)
Contact and detailsShadowbrook Lane, Hampton in Arden, Solihull B92 0ENwww.hamptonmanor.comManaging director James Hill (reporting to a board comprising his three sisters and their husbands) Creative director Fjona Hill Turnover £3m Occupancy 65% Room rates From £150/£180 B&B F&B turnover 50% Investment to date £6m. (Budget for the planned 10-bedroom development and event space: £4m; total for the cottage plus stables: £2m) Number of staff 80 General manager Craig Newman Head chef Rob Palmer Assistant general manager Gianrico Amati Restaurant manager Luke Parsons
SuppliersBespoke tables Will Self Ceramics and potterySarah JerathÂ www.sarahjerath.co.uk Neil AlcockÂ www.vineyard-pottery.co.uk Hand-thrown tablewareSytch Farm Studios www.sytchfarmstudios.co.uk Hand-blown glass lightingRothschild & Bickers www.rothschildbickers.com Ladder bookshelvesRockett St GeorgeÂ www.rockettstgeorge.co.uk Lobby artworkChris Milne de SouzaÂ www.twitter.com/mrchrisdesouza Rocking chairs336 ConceptÂ www.366concept.com Sofas in lobbySpace CopenhagenÂ www.spacecph.dk WallpapersMorris & CoÂ www.stylelibrary.com/morris&co
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