The Grosvenor Hotel, Stockbridge review: A boutique, historic hotel for a boutique, historic town

The Cotswolds without the crowds? Annunciata Elwes visits Stockbridge’s Grosvenor Hotel.

I’ve always thought of pretty Stockbridge as a Cotswolds-y market town that benefits massively from not actually being in the Cotswolds. It has a buzz and great shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants, but is never too crowded in the way that places such as Broadway or Chipping Norton can be, lovely as they are. It’s perhaps best known as a haven for flyfishers hoping to hook an Atlantic salmon or a brown trout on that most sacred of rivers, the crystal-clear Test.

Today, Stockbridge is one of the smallest towns in the UK, a fact belied by its broad high street. The reason for its width is that it is an old drover’s road, down which sheep and cattle were herded en route to market from Wales. There’s still an old sign in Welsh painted on the side of Drovers House that translates to ‘seasoned hay, tasty pastures, good beer, comfortable beds’.

Although small, its history has been strangely dramatic: Henry I’s son Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester was captured here in 1141, on a bridge, apparently, after the defeat of his half-sister Empress Matilda in the Rout of Winchester; and James II managed to die at the Swan Inn on his way to meet the Prince of Orange’s forces at Salisbury in 1688.

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In the 19th century, the town became famous for its racecourse — Edward VII frequently attended with his mistress Lillie Langtry — inspiring Robert Grosvenor, 1st Marquess of Westminster, to build the grand Grosvenor Hotel in 1825. Races ended in 1898, but fishing never stopped thriving and the oldest fishing club in the country, the exclusive Houghton, owns the building and has kept an HQ at the Grosvenor for years, retaining exclusive fishing rights for 13 miles of the Test.

Fast forward over a century to when new hotel owner Simon Henderson and his wife, Teresa, took over, and it was clear that the Grosvenor needed work, its handsome facade with a porte-cochère jutting onto the high street hiding a slightly shabby interior as a former Greene King establishment — and they entered into it with aplomb, getting the help of interior designer Lottie Keith as they transformed it.

Today, there are 18 bedrooms in the main house, 13 dog-friendly rooms in the newly created leafy garden mews at the back,  some with little private terraces and all facing a pretty courtyard garden. There is also the three-bedroom Tap Cottage for larger groups. They have succeeded in creating a boutique, stylish venue that the town deserves, with vibrant colours and fabrics complementing period features.

Food and drink

During lockdowns, the Grosvenor embraced the joys of outdoor dining with the creation of La Hutte, a ski-chalet style open-air restaurant with wooden booths, log fires and cosy blankets — think raclettes and French onion soup — soon to reopen for the 2022/2023 season.

The historic Market Room restaurant, where the town’s market was once held, is now a stylish, parquet-floored space serving everything from crispy pork belly to Orkney scallops and, of course, a smoked trout and garden pea tart — in fact, I believe guests can eat trout here for breakfast, if they so wish.

Other diverse interiors can be admired in the warm-hued 1822 Bar (the year the Houghton was founded), completed this year, where the signature 1822 cocktail is packed with crisp Brut from Hampshire vineyard Coates & Seeley and River Test Chalkstream Gold Gin. Meanwhile, the Terrace Bar, at the opposite end of the walled garden to La Hutte, does a mean barbecue in the summer months.

Rooms at The Grosvenor Hotel, Stockbridge, Hampshire, start from £180 —

Things to do

Excellent fishing on the Test and Itchen has never been off the menu in this part of Hampshire and the Grosvenor organises trips ranging from a few hours to a few days, with delicious Kingfisher picnic hampers in tow. It’s also easy to reach beauty spots from the heart of the town on foot — one need only follow the water running away from the high street to be walking in idyllic water meadows within two minutes.

The Town Hall has a new pop-up shop or market most weekends and elsewhere on the high street can be found country-clothing store Roxtons, Orvis, the Wykeham contemporary art gallery, excellent cafes at Kudos and Thyme and Tides Deli, the amazing Wine Utopia, which sells all the local gins and sparkling wines, and, my personal favourites for interiors, gifts, sweet-scented Ortigia covetables and anything else you can think of, Broughton Crafts and the Garden Inn. Pubs of note (you’ll have to book — they’re popular) include the Greyhound on the Test and the Mayfly.

Further afield, the roses at nearby Mottisfont, part country house, part Augustinian priory — where Society hostess Maud Russell entertained the likes of Rex Whistler — are renowned, and Winchester is only 20 minutes away for pretty cobbled streets, more shops and cafes, a Gothic cathedral where Jane Austen is buried and Wolvesey Castle ruins.