The newly opened, design-led boutique hotel in Cheadle, Greater Manchester, was created to be the ‘grown-up version' of its sister hotel in Chester. Janet Harmer pays a visit
The 22-bedroom Oddfellows on the Park welcomed its first guests in early April following a multi-million pound, 15-month refurbishment from what was previously Bruntwood Hall into a boutique hotel packed full of quirky, fun design details. Today, it sits alongside the likes of the Firmdale group of hotels and Gramercy Park in New York as the only UK hotel outside London to be accepted into the global Design Hotels marketing and sales consortium.
The Gothic Revival-style building, originally built as a private residence in 1861, is located in the heart of the 120-acre Bruntwood Park, which is owned by Stockport Council. In the intervening years it has been occupied by a racehorse stud business, Cheadle and Gatley Council, a film company and serviced offices, before remaining empty for the past five years. In 2012 it was used as a location for the Sky TV series Bedlam, featuring Will Young.
Oddfellows' interest in acquiring the property out of administration in 2015 followed the company's success in expanding its hotel in Chester. This outlet is located in the former Oddfellows Hall and was expanded from a four-bedroom B&B into an 18-bedroom boutique hotel that prides itself on its playful interior. Last year it achieved a healthy 87% occupancy.
athan Slater is the owner of Oddfellows Management Company, which has a long-term agreement to manage and develop the Oddfellows brand, which is owned by a trio of investors. Slater has been involved in overseeing Oddfellows since 2012, when the iconic five-red-AA-star Chester Grosvenor, owned by the Duke of Westminster and where he was managing director, took over the operation of the business. When he retired after 32 years from the Chester Grosvenor in 2015, the management contract came to an end and Slater headed up the brand full-time.
Before work on the decor of Bruntwood Hall could get under way, extensive repairs to the dilapidated state of the building's fabric and the stripping out of dividing walls and false ceilings had to be dealt with. All utilities, including gas, electricity, water and phone lines, also needed to be installed.
Stockport Council, which was very keen to see new life breathed into what had become a blot on the landscape of Bruntwood Park, fully supported Oddfellows' vision for the property. In particular, Slater praised the role of Eamonn Boylan, the former chief executive of Stockport Council, who has now gone on to head up Greater Manchester Combined Authority, in driving the project forward.
The hotel's general manager is Paul Cookson, who worked at the Chester Grosvenor for 12 years before joining the Oddfellows group in 2015. He heads a team of more than 50 staff.
Design details Slater says the look of Oddfellows on the Park is the result of a "collaborative creative journey" with architect Tim Groom and interior designer SpaceInvader. They created a storyboard from the combined history of Bruntwood Hall, Bruntwood Park and Cheadle.
Slater has no intention of creating a cookie-cutter brand with Oddfellows - hence the decision to take a very different approach to Oddfellows on the Park. Groom explains: "The building is Gothic Revival and is in a superb condition - it was always our intention to let the style show itself off."
Hence, distinct paint and wallpaper colours were used to highlight strong architectural features, in particular the moulded ceilings, archways and door architraves. And to ensure these features enjoyed pride of place, the decision was taken that there would be no curtains - instead, the clean lines of Silent Gliss blinds were used for window coverings.
Katie Crossley, associate designer at SpaceInvader, says: "The colour palette, which provides a commonality throughout the hotel, includes dark greens and blacks, which are lifted by luxurious gold and neutral tones. While many features in the hotel may seem odd at first glance, everything is odd for a reason and has a story behind it that relates back to the building, its varied occupants or uses."
The reception The grandeur of Oddfellows on the Park is immediately apparent on walking into the entrance, with an impressive archway leading though to the reception. Here, the grand staircase dominates the space along with the original Victorian floor tiles, which were found underneath a layer of concrete.
Contemporary design details include the bicycle chain chandelier, created by Tyson Lighting to reflect the BMX track in the park beyond the front door, and Tom Dixon wing-back chairs in mauve and grey.
Stud Room bar The bar, located to the left of the entrance hall, is named due to the fact that the building was once home to an equestrian stud farm. The leather-fronted, granite-top bar was designed by SpaceInvader, with quirky touches provided by the vintage safe used as a table base and prints depicting farm animals dressed up in Victorian garb supplied by JFA, a Cheshire-based company specialising in sourcing individual artwork for the hospitality industry.
Thistle mouldings on the ceiling reflect the Scottish heritage of Janet Andrews, the Ayrshire-born wife of John Douglas, the stuff merchant from Bradford who was the first occupant of the house in the 1860s. The hexagonal moulding is echoed in the shelving behind the bar.
Wallpaper featured here from Muraspec and Tektura reappears throughout the hotel, as does the hard-wearing, wood-inspired flooring from Karndean. The white mouldings stand out against the ceiling colour of Farrow & Ball matt emulsion in Light Grey No 17.
Galloping Major restaurant The most impressive room in Oddfellows is the Galloping Major restaurant, named after the nickname of the major who was the second owner of the hall when it was run as an equestrian stud. It was originally used as a ballroom, but today the Victorian ceiling has been restored and painted in Farrow & Ball matt emulsion in Chappell Green No 83, with the mouldings highlighted in white. The fireplace and over-mantle are originals with the addition of new tiles, and the chairs and tables have been sourced from the Tag furniture company.
Slater was keen to bring some of the drama provided by the chefs into the restaurant without having a fully open kitchen - hence the addition of a narrow hatch. Head chef Ian Moss, who joined Oddfellows from Northcote Group and Ribble Valley Inns, has put together a menu described by Slater as "unpretentious". The Á la carte, costing £39.50 for two courses and £47.50 for three, offers typical choices of venison carpaccio, pickled mushroom, mushroom purée and crispy shallots; pork belly, Scottish langoustines, peas and broad beans; and salted caramel parfait, granola and honey. Prices at lunch drop to £29.50 or £34.50 for two and three courses respectively.
The Pigsty salon de beaute The spa is so-named because the building in which it sits resembled a pigsty when Slater and his team took over. While the space has been transformed to create somewhere to relax and enjoy being pampered in one of two treatment rooms or the Rasul mud room, the name lends itself to a host of witty marketing opportunities, with the Pigsty described as the place to go for a "a polish of your trotters".
The farmyard is reflected in the 'barrel' reception desk designed by SpaceInvader and constructed by Andy Thornton Contracts, and the lampshades created from metal buckets, supplied by Tyson Lighting.
The bedrooms The rooms range in size from the Park Rooms at £155 up to the two-storey Bridal Suite at £450, and all feature Hypnos Beds, linens from the White Company, Nespresso coffee machines and Roberts radios.
In the case of the Playgound suites, a contemporary take on the four-poster bed has been designed by SpaceInvader and constructed by Andy Thornton Contracts. The lack of drapes on the bed and at the windows ensures that guests enjoy maximum light and a view of the park. Plain fabrics have been used on the chairs from Tag and the Skopos cushions and throws to provide a feeling of space, but some pattern is introduced via the rugs and carpets from Newhey Carpets. Guests are reminded of the hotel's location in Bruntwood Park by a row of wall-mounted animal heads.
Contact and detailsOddfellows on the Park
Bruntwood Park, Cheadle, Greater Manchester SK8 1HX
Tel 0161 697 3066
Operator Oddfellows Management Company, owned by Jonathan Slater
General manager Paul Cookson
Head chef Ian Moss
Opened April 2017
Reception desks and old safe
The White Company
Carpets and rugs