19 Jan Back To Its Roots For Historic Brentwood Landmark
Many Essex folk will know of this place, a Brentwood landmark, an award-winning hotel that has hosted the great and the good of the county – but actually, not from as far back in history as you may think.
Formerly known as the New World Inn at Great Warley, De Rougemont Manor has operated as a nightclub then hotel, restaurant, wedding venue and function suite since 1968 when it was purchased by Ian Hilton but spent the first 93 years of its life as a home to ‘Brentwood gentry’ – the well-heeled Heseltine family and their 40 staff. So well-heeled in fact that the adjacent St Mary the Virgin church was built by them in 1902 at a cost in today’s money of over £8m. It is one of only three Arts and Crafts churches in Britain and boasts an Art Noveau interior.
Now, some fifty or so years since being converted to a hostelry, plans are being made to transform the 10-acre hotel to residential use once again.
This is not a sad story of the demise of local heritage but rather one of positive evolution and retention. The current owners, the Hilton family (no relation), have assessed that the property is no longer viable as a hotel for a number of reasons. But sisters Davine, Victoria and brother Jason are excited at the prospect of returning ‘Goldings’ as it was first known in 1875, to its former use rather than just flattening the 146 year old mock-Tudor structure.
As has been well documented, the hotel sector has come under huge pressure in recent years. Budget hotels, particularly in Brentwood with the opening of the Premier Inn and said to be the busiest in the UK, together with the relentless rise of AirBnB, have heavily affected traditional quality hotels. Of course, the final straw for many such establishments has been the Covid pandemic resulting in occupancy rates in 2020 and into 2021 being zero and with hotel proprietors still having to cover hugely costly overheads. Of course, new forms of communication via technology and enforced working from home dynamic becoming an ongoing trend, spell further disaster for the hotel industry.
If the proposed plans are passed by Brentwood Council as just submitted, would-be homeowners will be able share in its new grandeur by purchasing one of the resulting homes and which are set to be surrounded by open space and a community landscaped area for public use and a pond.
For those trying to step on to the housing ladder for the first time an element of affordable, shared ownership properties aimed at key workers will be made available.
Further benefits include traffic levels reducing by 22% compared to current usage; the original clock-tower being refurbished and retained; and a large swathe of contaminated land and Japanese Knotweed being removed. The built and hardstanding areas of the completed project as a total of the 10 acres will be reduced from 30% to just 21% – a reduction in footprint of 30%.
The Hilton family had considered a number of options for the future of the hotel but have discounted allowing the flattening of the original building especially because it was almost entirely rebuilt after the devastating fire that ripped through it in 2001.
They have also decided not to accept an offer from the owner of a multi-cultural wedding event company instead teaming up with an experienced housing developer and conversion specialist, Redington Capital, to sympathetically convert the original Goldings building and former stables to tasteful apartments and houses with a small number of additional homes to be provided at the rear of the site on which is now car park hardstanding.
Jason Hilton, 55, says “I grew up in this place. My sister and I used to run around the corridors when we were tiny and it has huge importance to us and so letting it go has not been an easy decision but is a necessary one as it’s simply not viable as a hotel venue any longer’.
‘We have been approached by a number of developers and hospitality companies all of which wanted to rip the heart and soul out of the building and seemed to have no regard for its important history. Instead, we’ve partnered with Redington on the basis that they are preserving and enhancing the original integrity of De Rougemont and the Heseltine family legacy. We want to be able to drive past in the future and remain proud of what we built here over a fifty-year period’.
‘We feel passionately that providing good housing here for local people once again, sympathetically done, must be the Hilton legacy too”.
David Burne of Redington Capital adds “We’re extremely excited at the opportunity to convert the De Rougemont in-keeping with it’s heritage and to ensure that there are a number of benefits to the local populous especially around the total built area reducing and which has been done in consultation with conservation specialists, an increase in landscaping together with a reduction in busy traffic movements compared to that which the hotel has historically been known for. This creates much needed housing for Brentwood people and really will be a development for us, the Hilton family and the locality to be proud of”.