On this day 15 years ago...

The Bowood Hotel and Spa was opened by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall (now Queen Camilla). The new build 43-bedroom hotel and spa set back from the 18-hole championship golf course was the culmination of 18 months of building, nine years of planning and an ambition of more than 20 years. Developing the Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf resort without outside involvement and managing it as a family business relied on a mix of compromise and courage.

In 2000, a plan was drawn up for a 149-bed hotel along with a 9-hole extension of the golf course. Planning permission was granted two years later, delayed partly by English Heritage and the Garden History Society, who questioned the impact upon the setting of the Grade 1 listed park. With concerns about potential disruption to the existing business and escalating costs it was eventually decided to design a smaller hotel and spa reflecting Bowood Estates unique character.

Work started in November 2007. Building progress was hampered by architects Purcell Miller Tritton’s difficulties in keeping up with the demands of the contractors, John Sisk and Sons, and the consultant Francois Nairac. At about the same time Lord Lansdowne, who was leading the development, started to become unwell. Following an operation for a blocked carotid artery he underwent triple bypass surgery in early 2008 followed by a period of necessary convalescence. Had it not been for Lady Lansdowne and James Stewart, the then general manager of the Bowood Golf and Country Club (recently retired general manager of the Belfry), the project would have collapsed.

Along with support from Olga Polizzi, renowned hotelier and interior designer, and Jamie Ritblat, founder and chief executive of Delancey, the 32,000 square foot property was completed. Lady Lansdowne, who had pursued a career as an interior designer, adopted a contemporary interior with a marked historic house feel. She drew upon Bowood’s impressive heritage reflecting themes found at Bowood House and across the Estate.

Among others who deserve mention are Viktoria Kowal, who ensured that various building design problems were resolved, Charles Leather, then estate manager, who oversaw the construction of the drainage and sewerage systems and a biomass heating system fired with estate wood chipping (one of the first of its kind in the UK) and the Bowood garden team led by Rosie Abel Smith who put the finishing touches to the landscaped areas around the hotel. A splendid dinner was given to all those involved in the construction work a few days before it was opened by Her Royal Highness.

To celebrate the occasion of the opening, the Lansdownes invited some close friends to trial run the operation. According to Lady Lansdowne there was a terrible moment. The hotel hot water supply ran out at the same time as Her Royal Highness was trying to open the hotel in the presence of the High Sheriff of Wiltshire, civic leaders, local government representatives, Bowood staff and contractors. During the proceedings, guests appeared in dressing gowns to report the issue.

It was a riotous opening and the hotel survived and the hot water capacity was increased accordingly the following week. Commenting on the project, Lady Lansdowne felt, ‘it was a great relief that it was finished on time and on budget. It was a great achievement despite putting 40 years on me’.

 

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall cuts the ribbon with Lord and Lady Lansdowne watching.

 

 

 

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall is presented with flowers by Amelie Leather. Kerrie and Charles Leather watch.

 

 

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and Lord and Lady Lansdowne meet assembled guests.

 

James Stewart, the General Manager of the Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort.

 

The site of the hotel and spa in 2007.

 

The view of the Academy Course from the hotel site, 2008.

 

The completed hotel and spa in 2009.