When I look back at my travel career, I note with interest my progression from self-catering to fully catered, from B&Bs to boutique hotels. Of late, I’ve favoured apartment rentals, which afford extra space and the use of an oven. But hiring out a whole house – all five floors – is something new to me and I now fear that once I’ve been there, it will be quite difficult to go back.
Elton House is bang, smack in the centre of Bath sandwiched between the Crystal Palace pub and Bijoux Beads, with an address of 2 Abbey Street. Dating back to 1700, it has had a varied history. Originally owned by the Duke of Kingston, it served its time as sets of lodgings for Georgian visitors to Bath around 1750 and when, in 1946, its new owner, Ms Philippa Savery, bought up the individual leases, it housed 12 tenants and had a cobblers shop in the basement. Ms Savery was in search of somewhere that she could sell antiques from and what better location than downtown Bath. She started off as a rent collector for the building and in time became its sole owner. She donated it to the Landmark Trust in 1986.
Here, in the heart of Jane Austen country, it didn’t take much imagination to envision the likes of Mr Darcy calling to the door. But wait – Pride and Prejudice wasn’t set in Bath – perhaps Mr Tilney calling might be slightly more realistic. Sitting the one of the drawing rooms, curled up with a good book, albeit in a rather unladylike fashion, the 1800s didn’t seem so very far away.
The house has a museum of sorts on the ground floor and then a very impressive wooden staircase that goes up and down from the main entrance. The first floor houses the kitchen, dining room, and two parlours. The second has six bedrooms. The third another bedroom and three bathrooms. And then there are the two floors of the attic. The place is rife with nooks and crannies and interesting features and is very simply but functionally furnished. The walls are hung with portraits which, according to entries in the visitors’ book, have scared many a young guest who had the distinct feeling that the eyes in the portraits kept following them around. Other entries mention ghosts and legend has it that the house is haunted by a little white terrier.
For three days, Elton House was our base. It had been rented out for the weekend by MC and on Friday and Saturday night, it was full of guests. Sunday night though, it was just the two of us and what a treat. I’ve always thought I was born into the wrong era and now I’m almost sure it, assuming of course that I was upstairs rather than downstairs. I don’t think I’d have been too keen to manage those stairs when summonsed by the pull of a bellchord.
The Landmark Trust is a charity that rescuses endangered buildings such as Elton House and give them new life. It pays for the upkeep of its charges by renting them out to visitors. I’d had a vague idea of what they did (there’s also a US version) but had never experienced it first hand before. And now that I have, I can see many more holidays taking shape. What a way to fuel an imagination.