Travel: Escape to BailiffscourtBy Sarah Dave
September 21, 2010
Sweet-tooth Sarah Dave enjoyed the cookies at Bailiffscourt so much she demanded the recipe
Blackberry bushes line the path to Climping Beach. You can hear the frying pan-like sizzle of the sea crashing over the pebbles as you approach along the winding way canopied by trees.
This coastal area feels private and is barely a stroll from Bailiffscourt Hotel and Spa, just one unique feature of this retreat in Littlehampton, West Sussex.
At first view Bailiffscourt looks like a former medieval monastery with its architecture, great oak doors and stonework. But it is infact a product of architectural salvage and sourcing by Lord and Lady Moyne and their antiquarian friend Amyas Phillips, which began in 1927, using reclaimed material from derelict buildings.
Lord Moyne bought the land after hearing the council wanted to build a housing estate where a farmhouse and Norman chapel stood – it had been given to the Abbey of Seez in Normandy after the Norman Conquest. The Abbess had sent over a monk to act as bailiff and watch over its interests, hence the name Bailiffscourt.
The Moynes and Phillips demolished the old Georgian farmhouse and the 12th and 13th Century stones found in its walls were reassembled as windows and doorways, golden Somerset sandstone was brought in, the main 15th Century oak door came from South Wanborough church, the entrance archway from Holditch Priory as well as other installations from far and wide.
The building work was completed in 1933 but sadly Lady Moyne died in 1939 and her husband was assassinated in 1944 while a Government minister in the Middle East.
Bailiffscourt then became a hotel in 1948, enchanting people as it did me with its illusion of being a medieval manor house. There’s something very peaceful and idyllic about Bailiffscourt.
Tapestries decorate the public rooms, sofas are embroidered with coat of arms-type motifs, walls wood-panelled and floors flagstoned.
My bedroom suite also had much character – reminiscent of a Tudor style with tapestries, a four-poster bed with two thick ‘Princess and the Pea’-like mattresses, creaky floorboards and mullioned windows which looked on to the grounds and a low-walled outside seating area. Grand Arundel Castle is just a short drive away.
If such design is not your thing some of the hotel’s 39 rooms are modern such as you would find in a city hotel. But why would you want a modern room? Anyway, prices start from £225 per room per night based on two people sharing, including breakfast.
On arrival I ordered a coffee and homemade cookies. The chocolate and raisin ones were a revelation – I even specifically asked for the recipe so I could print it here for you to share in their glory.
Later that night after dinner my coffee was accompanied by their chocolate fudge which was so flavoursome, light (if that’s possible) and moreish.
After my arrival coffee and a stroll to the beach I visited the hotel’s spa, a modern timber-framed barn-like building. It offers all sorts of massage and beauty treatments (not cheap) and also has a very pleasant indoor pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room – the latter two were somewhat small and could do with being double the size due to their popularity.
There was also a wonderful heated outdoor pool in which I swam while it drizzled and an accompanying sheltered outdoor hot tub. These were overseen by the gym room which had boring things like treadmills in it and above an outdoor balcony from which ladies in bath robes lounged while quaffing glasses of wine.
Dinner is classic European with a modern twist (three courses £47.50). Starters included honey roasted quail with foie gras and truffle boudin blanc, ballotine of rabbit and black pudding wrapped in Prosciutto ham, and cream of pea soup.
I went for the very tasty crispy breaded scallops with cauliflower puree, baby artichoke, spiced bacon and smoked tomatoes (which carried a £4 supplement).
Mains offered such delights as Selsey lobster and herb risotto, and honey glazed duck breast with duck liver parfait bonbon. I went for lamb cutlet with brioche and Dijon mustard crust with shepherd’s pie. The cutlet was nothing to write home about but the shepherd’s pie was a homely, comforting ramekin of delight.
I had to know what they used to flavour the lamb mince – it was delicious – and was both disappointed and uplifted to be told it was ketchup and brown sauce.
And the light wild berry and honey parfait with a glistening cherry compote was one of the best desserts I have ever had.
Afterwards all felt peaceful and well with the world in this West Sussex sanctuary.
If trips away are as much about enjoying the building and rooms you stay in as the location then Bailiffscourt is that edificial gem.
Bailiffscourt Choc Chip Cookies (makes 30-50):
½tbsp cocoa powder
Tiniest pinch of salt
¼lb dark brown sugar
¼lb caster sugar
½lb chocolate buttons
6oz walnuts or raisins
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla essence, walnuts/raisins and chocolate. Beat for five minutes. Add flour, salt and cocoa. Bake for five minutes at 165 degrees.
Sarah stayed at Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa, Climping, West Sussex, BN17 5RW. Telephone 01903 723 511 or visit www.hshotels.co.uk/hotels/bailiffscourt.
Sarah travelled via First Great Western trains from Reading to Gatwick then used Southern Railways onward to Littlehampton. For times and ticket prices visit www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk and www.southernrailway.com.