West Sussex stately home to welcome country house retreats, corporate events, weddings and other private celebrationsThe home of British polo is set to provide a glorious and memorable West Sussex backdrop for upscale country house gatherings, corporate hospitality, weddings and other elite private entertainment opportunities with the Cowdray Estate’s announcement that the historic Cowdray House is now available for exclusive-use hire.
As the summer social season is about to gather pace, the former family home of the 4th Viscount and Viscountess Cowdray - at the heart of the 16,500-acre estate on the edge of the market town of Midhurst - will infuse private events held here with a stately blend of glamour and warm hospitality with the 11-bedroom house now being offered for hire on an exclusive use-basis for the very first time. Superb menus and wines will be in league with the standing of Cowdray House where grandeur and informality sit comfortably alongside one another as its cocktail of enticing amenities can be played out over the course of a day as well as for residential bookings. Sleeping 22, Cowdray House can also welcome up to 250 guests for a sit-down event, up to 300 for other receptions and a maximum 350-400 with the addition of a marquee on the lawn.
Alongside the nearby Cowdray Ruins and other estate landmarks, Cowdray House is also a magnet for fashion shoots and filming opportunities thanks to its particular architectural gems, total privacy and sheltered positioning within Capability Brown parkland. Surrounded by some 100 acres of its own gardens and grounds, expansive views of the South Downs National Park beyond can be captured from every vantage point.
Within this historic setting, the shape of the property today dates back to 1874 when the Keeper’s Lodge was rebuilt as Cowdray House (the original Tudor house in Midhurst having been semi-destroyed by fire in 1793). Leading engineer and business man, Sir Weetman Dickinson Pearson purchased the estate in 1909, becoming Baron Cowdray of Midhurst in 1910 and then being elevated to the title of Viscount in 1917.
So the Pearson family settled into the gracious lifestyle typical of a grand English house defined by its Dining Room, Drawing Room, Morning Room, Library, Billiard Room, series of guests bedrooms and bathrooms - as well as the behind-the-scenes Butler’s Pantry and dedicated kitchens. What defines Cowdray House particularly though is its dramatic Buck Hall, ascending to a double height with a vaulted wood-panelled ceiling and gigantic stone fireplace topped off by a stretch of stained glass windows. Graced with portraits of generations of the Cowdray family along the lower level, the hall’s upper level is dotted with arched minstrels’ galleries around three sides.
The dramatic revelation of this central baronial hall will captivate guests on arrival and instill excited anticipation of the entertainment ahead, as all other reception rooms then flow out from this central space. Cowdray House’s Dining Room, Drawing Room, split-level Morning Room and Library each elegantly play to their particular purpose and, in so doing, drink in enthralling views of the South Downs that reach out far into the distance. Indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a croquet lawn, a bowling alley, a cricket pitch and the stick- and-ball polo field also hint at the many other treats in store too.
Harnessing Cowdray House’s architectural heritage and her personal appreciation of it as a family home full of heart and soul (where she and her husband raised their five children), Lady Cowdray is the driving force behind the recent refurbishment for its new role and launch as an exclusive-use venue. A sculptress with an interior designer’s keen eye for detail too, Marina Cowdray has steered the complete upgrade of the house’s interiors to ensure that all reception rooms retain their original character while all 11 bedrooms completely meet the expectations of guests accustomed to a five- and six-star country house hotel experience.
Each of the 22 residential guests’ appreciation of what makes Cowdray House tick will be reinforced as they retreat to their particular bedroom as each individually captures its original sense and purpose yet with a harmonising contemporary embrace. Beds are kingsize, bedrooms ensuite, bath products luxurious, telephones and TVs are state-of-the-art while Wifi can be taken as granted.
Whether the occasion’s itinerary is relaxed or full-on, Cowdray House, the Cowdray Estate and the surrounding area can meet particular preferences adroitly. A garden stroll close to home will lead down into a deep valley landscape, through a Wellingtonia avenue and around lakes and ponds.
Head slightly further afield for a visit to Cowdray’s award-winning Farm Shop & Cafe, a step back in time at the Cowdray Ruins, a round of golf on Cowdray’s own scenic 18-hole course or to watch the polo on the estate’s famous Lawns. Clay-pigeon shooting and fly-fishing can also be arranged on the estate.
Beyond Cowdray, yet within easy access, there’s horse and motor racing at Goodwood, wind-surfing at West Wittering, sailing at Itchenor and the theatre at Chichester, for example. The West Sussex area is also gaining something of a reputation for its up-and-coming wine producers - such as Nyetimber and Upperton - and tours of their vineyards can be planned for Cowdray House guests.
Announcing the launch of Cowdray House as an exclusive-use venue for the very first time, the Cowdray Estate’s Chief Executive, Jonathan Russell comments, “This new initiative for Lord and Lady Cowdray’s former family home is a tremendously exciting one. For just over 100 years, the life-blood of Cowdray House has been to entertain and gather together family, friends and kindred spirits. It is very energising to be tapping into this pulse once more by making the house available for exclusive-use private events. A discerning and appreciative audience - be it a bridal party or a blue-chip company - will undoubtedly be attracted not just by this magnificent house but also by the very enterprising holistic estate that surrounds it.”
Mr Russell adds, “Where 40 years or so ago, stately homes started to become more accessible by opening up as visitor attractions, another layer of public accessibility has been unfolding over more recent years with owners now making their homes available for private entertaining on an exclusive-use basis. I am delighted that Cowdray House is now bringing its weight and glamour to this emerging trend across Britain.”
Just an hour or so from London and its airports, and well positioned too for Southampton airport, Cowdray is within easy reach of the A3, A272 and the M27 as well as Petersfield, Haslemere and Pulborough rail stations. For those arriving by helicopter, Cowdray has its own landing pad nearby.
Cowdray House events are tailored on a bespoke basis with pricing on application. Bedroom rates, food, drink and marquee hire are additional to exclusive-use hire of the house.