On December 20th it was five years since we opened our doors to our first guests. We can’t believe how time has flown – and how we’ve grown! We started with just one rather fabulous 2 bed – The Arlington. We were so proud to have such a beautiful product to offer and to see how delighted our very first guests were when they arrived. Now, five years on, we have six wonderful apartments and are looking to grow even further in 2017. We are so lucky to have such a beautiful array of apartments to offer, and to have such a special group of people working with us. Our team, especially our amazing housekeepers Magda and Karolina, is one thing that makes us extra special. We are able to offer a unique and totally bespoke home from home experience, and it is a genuine pleasure to welcome so many wonderful and interesting guests.
All the news and views of 20 the Barons
Got the winter blues? Tired of dark days already? We at 20 the Barons always look for ways to brighten up the darkest afternoons, and have gathered a few of our favourite winter events to share with you. There’s so much going on in the area at this time of year, there’s no need to be glum! Many parks and stately homes now boost their winter visitor offerings by opening special seasonal events and experiences. Here’s our Top 5, gathered by Emma, one of our team, who loves nothing more than a bit of Christmas sparkle.
1: Kew Gardens is once again having its Christmas at Kew Illuminated Trail. Many of the team go every year to this event, and we just love it. Whether with children or just adults, this will bring out the inner child in everyone. As well as the gorgeous display of lights for you to enjoy, the trail takes you around a different area of the gardens each year, with singing trees, giant illuminated flora and a fire garden among other delights. There’s mulled wine, hot chocolate and spiced cider, toasted marshmallows, funfair rides, delicious food and even Santa to spread some Christmas magic. Don’t miss the Palm House lit up in a dazzling light-show set to music – or the artisan marshmallowsl Delicious!
This year the trail begins 22/11/17 and ends 1/1/18, so there is plenty of opportunity to get there yourself. It’s open from 5-10pm with timed entry and costs £16 for adults with family packages available. Visit Kew Gardens for more.
2: Chiswick House has its Magical Lantern Festival in the grounds of this wonderful English Heritage Palladian home. It was designed by Lord Burlington to look like a Roman Villa and is thought to be possibly the finest example of Palladian architecture in London (suggesting he was a pretty good architect). At the magical lantern festival you will find spectacular displays depicting lots of exciting and wow-inducing scenes. This year the lights are promised to be bigger and better, with dragons, pandas, reindeer and many more in a fusion of culture and art – in light. They also have a food area of course and some fairground rides for the younger visitors. If you want to make a dark day bright, head here! It’s on from 24/11/17 to 1/1/18, open from 5-10pm and costs £18.00 for adults, with family packages available. Visit Chiswick House for more.
3: Syon Park’s Enchanted Woodland offers a great opportunity to enjoy this park after dark. The illuminated trail takes you through woodlands, around the ornamental lake and ends at the historic Great Conservatory. With its colour-changing trees, twinkling lights and laser displays to cheer you up it’s huge fun. if you want to go to this one you had best hurry – it ends on November 26th (which we think is a bit early!). Even if you miss this you can do some festive shopping there. They have a huge range of gifts in their shop and lots of opportunities to ‘try before you buy’.
It’s on weekends only until 26/11/17, from 5-9pm with timed entry and costs £10 for adults, £5 for children (free under 3). Visit Syon Park for more.
4: Christmas Craft Fair, Church Street, Twickenham. Church Street is a lovely quaint lane which often has seasonal events which are always fun. The street is lit up beautifully and there are pubs and restaurants down its length, as well as interesting boutiques and knick-knack shops. We always try to get to the events held here, and the Craft Fair is on several times a year, focussing on hand-made, local items. This one will be a great place to buy those elusive Christmas gifts for your loved ones. It’s being held this year on 2nd December from noon ‘til 6pm. As well as the craft fair, there will be Santa in his grotto, face painting, live music, food and drink and a Punch and Judy show!
2nd December, Twickenham Church Street. Free entry. Visit website for more.
5: Hampton Court Palace Skating – There is so much going on in Henry VIII’s fantastic historic palace in the winter months. But ice skating is our particular favourite. This is an ice skating session like never before. The palace is the truly stunning backdrop and the River Thames is right next door. From 24th November – 7th January 2018 you can book 45 minute sessions. Some of the Barons team are red hot skaters, but Ali not so much! She will be enjoying the spectacle with hot chocolate or white wine in hand, having hurt her back and her pride last year on the ice! But there’s even more to enjoy through the season: Tudor style wreath or Treasure Box making, story-telling and candle decorating, carol singing, BBC’s Good Food Feast and Elizabethan Christmas activities. All this is going on around the palace. Who said winter is bleak? Check out their website for what’s on.
And that’s just for starters! Bring on the winter bling!
Very frequently we take the time to rejoice in our location. A rather lovely ten minute walk from the Barons brings you to the heart of Twickenham. To most people Twickenham says ‘rugby’. And we are fiercely proud of our Rugby heritage. But did you know Twickenham is the centre of the curry world in our corner of West London? If you love curry, you will love Twickenham. Curry houses abound in this great town. There are a dozen or so in an area roughly the size of two football pitches. They range from Nepalese to Bangladeshi to Vegetarian to South Indian. The biggest conflagration of them is in Church St Twickenham rather incongruously. This beautiful old pedestrianized cobbled street looks quintessentially English and is known for its beautiful architecture, fascinating independent shops and vibrant local community) as well as being close to the fabulous St Marys church and the enigmatic and musically-iconic Eel Pie Island. (see our other Blog. We like to think that Twickenham’s brilliant curry culture epitomizes the long-standing relationship between the UK and Asia. But back to the food on offer in Twickenham, as we love curry @ 20 The Barons and rarely go that long without thinking about it. There are TRADITIONAL offerings: Marble Hill Tandoori (19, Richmond Rd, Twickenham TW1 3AB), Delhi Durbar (21 Church St, Twickenham TW1 3NJ, UK), Taste of Mogul (Taste of Mogul, 47 York Street, Twickenham) and Sheesh Mahal : SOUTH INDIAN offerings of Kochi and then there are more MODERN restaurants such as Tangawizi at the bottom of Richmond Bridge and Atithi.
And if we’ve whetted your appetite for curry and you are feeling just too comfortable and content in your fabulous apartment at The Barons, why not get a takeout delivered to your door from one of the curry houses listed above. Or, for a special occasion you could try a Barons Curry. Our owner Ali is known for being a wonderful curry cook. Specialities include Rendang (Malaysia), Vindaloo (Goa), Green curry (Thailand) and Madras (India). So do bear in mind if you have guests, we can deliver a bespoke curry banquet for a party in your apartment!
So really, we have curry covered at The Barons. Just another string to our rather wonderful and diverse bow.
Train carriages were first stationed and repurposed as ‘camping coaches’ in Britain in the Thirties, providing holiday apartments that rarely offered running water or electricity. Today they are back in vogue, but with the emphasis on the sort of luxury The Baron adores. For train-lovers, it is stirring to consider the Pullman carriage as both transport and destination of delight.
A short trip from Twickenham is The Old Railway Station, at Petworth, in the Sussex Downs. Here, you can climb aboard one of four splendidly restored Pullman carriages that provide eight suites. Pullmans first entered service in Britain in 1874, offering luxury carriages with a steward service. Taking their name from George Pullman, who pioneered the concept in the USA, they have a famous brown-and-cream livery and individually named carriages. Petworth has Pullmans from 1912 and 1914, as well as the 1923 Flora and Montana carriages that ran on the Golden Arrow service from London to Paris in 6½ hours. You can enjoy them as en-suite doubles with brass beds, mahogany panels and painted ceilings, creating an ideal base for visiting vintage events at nearby Goodwood.
At St Germans, in Cornwall’s Tamar Valley, Railholiday rents three carriages located in ten acres of private woodland. Mevy is a Victorian ‘slip coach’ – a type of carriage that was uncoupled manually from the back of a speeding express train, and then guided to a halt at the station by its brakesman! The Old Luggage Van was once Passenger Luggage Van No.1353, which served from 1896 on the London and South Western Railway (LSWR). It is located on the station platform, with delightful views of the Plymouth to Penzance section of the Great Western Railway. The Travelling Post Office dates from the late 1800s, and was once exactly that! It has a narrow gauge body on broad gauge bogies, with passenger compartments, sorting area, net and delivery arms. In 1904, it was pulled behind the City of Truro when she made a record-breaking 100mph run. Accommodation features include en-suite bathrooms, velvet upholstery, mahogany panelling and woodburning stoves, and the Travelling Post Office still has its original letter-boxes.
On the panoramic North Norfolk coast at Heacham, near Hunstanton, you will find The Old Station Waiting Rooms and Railway Carriage. A converted Mark I First Class carriage occupies the platform of the Heacham Great Eastern Railway Station. It has two en-suite doubles and retains its first class sliding door compartment. Heacham is conveniently close to the RSPB reserves of Snettisham and Titchwell if you desire to combine bird-spotting with your train-spotting.
Further north, at The Sidings in Stations Lane, York, five Pullmans rest alongside the East Coast Main Line. They have been converted into a restaurant, conference rooms and bedrooms. Original fittings recall the days of steam while you gaze at the electrifying sight of modern trains galloping by on the York to Thirsk stretch of the East Coast Main Line. En-suite rooms include four-poster options.
To reach the Loch Awe Carriage near Dalmally, Scotland, you disembark at Loch Awe Station and walk a few yards to the banks of the loch. Camping coaches were first located here in the Fifties, when they could be rented for £7. Today’s more refined lodgings occupy a British Railways Mark I, No.4494, built in York in 1956, which ran on the London to Edinburgh line. Retaining many original features, the carriage has two bedrooms and offers breathtaking views, both of the passing Glasgow to Oban trains and across the loch to Kilchurn Castle.
Of course, if you prefer to stay in the luxury serviced apartments at 20TheBarons, we are a mere 40-minute ride from central London. By train, of course!
Unusual Accommodations #2: Converted Train Carriages
Given current London property prices, I wonder what it might cost today to buy an entire island in the middle of the Thames. At the end of the 1800s, such a prospect was not so remote, and all for less than £7,000. An 1899 newspaper article recalls the lively auction of Eel Pie Island, the historic Twickenham isd located a short walk from the luxury apartments at 20 The Barons. I love the touch of wit on the subject of eels:
“Pall Mall Gazette, Friday 18 August 1899
EEL PIE ISLAND AT AUCTION
HECKLING THE AUCTIONEER
Eel Pie Island, off Twickenham, at one time beloved of anglers, and in a collateral way sacred to the memory of Pope, Horace Walpole, and other distinguished men, was at Tokenhouse-yard yesterday successfully got rid of to a number of purchasers by Mr. W.B. Mason, of Windsor. Some time ago, this freehold property was put up en bloc at the Mart, but there was no bidding. Afterwards it was resolved to cut up the estate into little pieces, which is in the fitness of things with a concern identified with eels.
There was a roomful of people when the auctioneer mounted the rostrum. Mr. Mason did not waste any time in historical description. He referred all and every to the printed particulars, invitingly headed: “Free Conveyances! Payment by Instalments! No Burdensome Restrictions!” Then there followed the information that Eel Pie Island occupies a unique position, commanding most extensive and charming views of sylvan beauty, including the far-famed Richmond Hill, and “being in the immediate vicinity of several well-known riverside mansions, the grounds of which are maintained in princely style, is eminently attractive for residential purposes.” The property, it was further said, was within five minutes of Twickenham Station, and was, therefore, readily accessible from London. Nothing was said about Twickenham Ferry, as it might occur to a man at midnight. But the audience knew all about it.
The auctioneer was considerably heckled to commence with. What about the drainage? asked an intending purchaser. Well, said Mr. Mason, curtly, “Earth closets or cess-pools; houseboats have earth closets and take them ashore.” Another question: “What about the land tax?” “We never paid it,” responded the auctioneer. “But I know,” retorted the inquirer, “that you have paid it for thirty years.” “Have you collected it?” “Yes I have,” was the answer, and the laugh was for the moment turned against the auctioneer, who subsequently had his revenge in knocking down a plot to the collector.
Mr. Mason first of all put up the estate in one lot. There was no bidder. Then he offered Eel Pie Hotel, which, he said, was doing £100 per week in the summer months, and might make much better profits under different management. From £2,000 the bidding rose to £3,200, at which price it was knocked down to Mr. Edwin Stephens, of the Drayton Court Hotel, Ealing. This gentleman subsequently secured for £1,250 a plot of the island having a frontage to the Thames of 280ft, and an average depth of 100ft. This section of the property, as most river men know, is well adorned with well-grown trees. The other plots offered fetched from £104 to £136. The total amount realised was £6,290.”
Chopping up Eels
This walk begins at the Hammertons Ferry Landing, on the Twickenham bank of the Thames below Orleans House Gardens. It is a continuation of the Bridges and Ferries Walk from St Margarets Station to Ham House Ferry Landing, which you can find in Blog 23. Both also work as self-contained walks, offering insights into the historic area around the luxury apartments at 20 The Barons.
Today, the Hammertons Ferry offers a cheap way to cross the Thames between Orleans House and Ham House, creating a link between Twickenham and Ham. It is maintaining a long tradition, with the service first recorded by the Privy Council in 1652 when it prohibited its running after sundown. In Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit (1857), Arthur Clennam uses the Twickenham Ferry to visit Ham: “He crossed the river by the ferry, and strolled along a footpath through some meadows.” The boat is also celebrated in Twickenham Ferry, a ‘river ditty’ of 1878:
“The ferryman’s slim, and the ferryman’s young,
And he’s just a soft twang in the turn of his tongue,
And he’s fresh as a pippin and brown as a berry,
And ’tis but a penny to Twickenham Town.”
We follow the path away from the river towards St Margarets, then turn left on to Riverside. This takes us through Orlean House Gardens towards Twickenham, with the Thames to our left. The view from here was described by Colen Campbell in 1710:
“Here is an admirable prospect of the most charming part of the Thames, where the eye is entertained by a Thousand Beauties not to be conceived but from this station.”
Orleans House takes its name from Louis Phillipe, Duc d’Orleans, later King of the French, who rented it for his family from 1815 to 1817. The house was built in 1710, as Twickenham became a fashionable location for country villas. Much of the original house has been destroyed, but the surviving buildings include the baroque Octagon, an ornate banqueting hall that was visited by George I in 1724. The house has a fascinating history, and is now home to the Orleans House Gallery.
Our walk continues along Riverside. You will pass Lebanon Park road on your right, before coming to the White Swan Inn at the junction with Ferry Road. Originally called The Swan, this seventeenth-century inn was the first home of Twickenham Yacht Club – hence the swan emblem on the club’s burgee. It is a beautiful place to stop for a pint of Naked Ladies (named after the statues in York House Gardens). Nearby is the yacht club’s current home, the York House boathouse where they moved in 1924.
Continuing along Riverside, past Sion Road, we are walking through York House Gardens, remnants of another of Twickenham’s great estates. Turn left into the Italian Gardens, where you will find the aforementioned statues at the Italian Fountain. The naked ladies were installed before the First World War by the last private owner of York House, the Indian industrialist Sir Ratan Tata.
Follow the path down to the riverside, then along the Thames to Champions Wharf. This area has been enlivened by a play beach with a Viking longship and a traditional Victorian water taxi called a wherry. Beyond it, turn right up Church Lane to discover St Mary’s, built on the site of an 11th-century church and incorporating a 15th-century tower. Look for the brass to Richard Burton, the king’s cook, dated 1443. In the crypt, Sir William Berkeley is entombed in “lead exactly fitted to the shape of the body.” Also commemorated here are the poet Alexander Pope, beneath a stone slab engraved with a P; actress Kitty Clive; and tea merchant Thomas Twining.
Return to the river by walking back along Church Lane, which bears right to join with The Embankment. The Twickenham Museum is an excellent repository of local history, and well worth a visit. Church Wharf at the bottom of Church Lane was once flanked by warehouses and workshops supplied by river barges. You can pause for refreshments at the Barmy Arms public house, once the Queen’s Head, which dates back to the 1600s.
Running alongside Eel Pie Island, The Embankment was the bustling heart of medieval Twickenham. It is a wonderful area to explore. The street names celebrate the riverside tradition, as you pass Flood Lane, Bell Lane and Water Lane before arriving at Wharf Lane. Here, opposite the west tip of Eel Pie Island, Twickenham’s Town Wharf was once surrounded by busy industries.
If you have time, you might like to cross the footbridge to Eel Pie Island. Originally called the Parish Ait, then Twickenham Ait, Eel Pie Island appears on Moses Glover’s famous map of 1635, with a note that it “hath bin a boulding (bowling) alley.” It has a history as a place of lively, often illicit, entertainment. There was an inn there since 1737, first The Ship then The White Cross. The Island Hotel, built in 1830, became popular with pleasure steamers and boating parties, but was in decline until legendary jazz and r’n’b concerts saw a revival in the Fifties. In 1970, the hotel was refused a licence, and it burned down the following year.
Returning along The Embankment, you can retrace your steps to Hammertons Ferry, and then walk across marvellous Marble Hill Park to return to St Margarets.
20 Walks From 20 The Barons: Bridges & Ferries: No 2