The history of Wood Norton Hall

The Wood Norton

Wood Norton Hall has recently been transformed into a luxurious, 50-bedroom Bespoke Hotel. But it’s had an interesting history.

The recent history of Wood Norton began in 1872, when the exiled French Duc d’Aumale purchased the estate as a hunting lodge.


By 1897, the estate had passed to his great nephew, the Duc D’Orleans, who saw Wood Norton as the ideal location to base the Bourbon-Orleans family. The hunting lodge was then converted into the Hall that stands today.

Wood Norton played host to many noble guests from around the world, culminating in the wedding of the Princess Louise of Orleans (Grandmother of the present King Juan Carlos of Spain) and Prince Charles of Bourbon in 1907. The Duc had a wooden chapel erected specifically for the ceremony, however, amidst all of the excitement the license for the chapel was forgotten so the actual ceremony took place in Evesham!

Sold by the family in 1911, the estate then had a sucesssion of owners until acquired by the BBC in 1939. Established as an emergency broadcasting base, Wood Norton had become the largest broadcasting centre in Europe by the beginning of 1940 with an average output of 1,300 programmes a week.

The real 'Dad's Army' at Wood Norton Hall during the second world war.

It was the home of the BBC’s monitoring service from 1939 until 1943, when monitoring moved to Caversham Park. The move was made to release space at Wood Norton so that it could become the BBC’s main broadcasting centre, should London have to be evacuated. A major fire during the war destroyed the Halls’ upper storeys.

After the war, Wood Norton became the home of the BBC Engineering Training department. During the Cold War, it was designated as the broadcasting centre in the event of a nuclear attack.

Wood Norton was used for some of the filming of the Doctor Who serial Spearhead from Space and it was later used for all of the location filming for another Doctor Who series Robot.

Wood Norton enjoyed a multi-million pound refurbishment by the BBC in 1995 and opened as a luxury 45 bedroom Hotel and Conference Centre. It was subsequently sold by the BBC in 2001 and has been in private ownership since this time.


Choosing a cigar

Selecting a cigar at 10 Manchester Street Hotel

The all-weather cigar terrace at 10 Manchester Street is a favourite of London’s cigar-smoking cognoscenti – one of the few places where you can sit and enjoy your favourite cigar, and also take advantage of the advice of knowledgeable staff, purpose-built cupboard humidors and a superb selection of hand-rolled Havanas in perfect condition.

First, and foremost, you need to know what you like. Some cigar smokers say that your taste in cigars may be similar to your taste in coffee. If you like your coffee strong and bold, you might want a robust cigar. If you like a miler, more subtly flavoured blend of tea, you might find you prefer a light and creamy cigar.

Have a think about where you plan to be smoking. Will it be on the golf course in between holes, or on the 19th? Will it be a leisurely affair after a decent dinner? Cigars burn very differently – and some will give you up to an hour’s smoking.

The smoking time equates basically to the size – not just the length, but the thickness as well. Names such as Churchill, Corona or Lonsdale indicate both ring size and length. Ring gauge on cigars is measured in 64th of an inch. A Lonsdale cigar, for example, is about six inches long and has a ring gauge of 44. That makes it 44/64ths of an inch. A Churchill is a bit bigger – roughly 6.75 inches with a ring gauge of between 48 to 52. Hand-rolled cigars, by their nature, are going to vary a little in gauge.

10 Manchester Street runs regular cigar evenings, including the popular Ladies Cigar Evening, with talks by experts from Hunters & Frankau.

As GQ magazine said: “it manages to have a suave swagger all of its own….the pick of the hand-rolled offerings is a long draw on a Montecristo Edmundo and a large Polish mule (Zubrowka, lime, ginger beer). It’s the kind of place that makes you feel like you’ve just won a task on the Apprentice but without having to go to the hassle of impressing Sir Alan Sugar.”

Friday. It’s the new Saturday

Have you ever wondered how some people get upgraded to First or Business class on long-haul flights? Or why it always seems to be someone else who receives a large voucher when they complain, when all you get is a recorded voice saying ‘we do value your custom but all of our customer service representatives are busy right now’? How come some people manage to get such great deals on hotel rooms?

We can’t really answer the first two questions, but we can give you a good tip on the third.

Think Friday. For many hotels, Friday is the new Sunday…that hard-to-fill day of the week. Friday is when the business-people have hit the home-road, and potential leisure guests are toiling through the rush-hour, arriving home too late to set off for a weekend away. And there’s nothing we hoteliers like less than an empty bed.

So why not take a day off, or a half-day on Friday, get ahead of the madding crowd, and think about a nice out-of-town break, maybe with a game of golf or a couple of spa treatments? There are bargains to be had.

First of all, identify a hotel or a place you fancy, ring them up, and just ask. ‘What’s the best rate you can do for next Friday?’

There’s a good chance you’ll get a good room-rate, or some sort of special offer – even more so if you make it a 2 or 3-night stay, to include Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday, of course, is traditionally the best day for offers, and that still remains the case. This is where the ‘dinkies’ (double-income, no kids) amongst you really get to cash in, as you don’t have to spend Sunday evening getting the little angels ready for the school-week ahead. Why not take a Monday morning off, and make the most of it!

Just handing out at The Bermondsey Square Hotel.
Just hanging out.

We're bespoke, and proud of it.