Bailiffscourt - a sanctuary from the cares of the day

So there we were, staring up at the stars from the warm cocoon of the outdoor swimming pool.

Wednesday, 28th November 2018, 12:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 10:00 pm

The steam rose lazily from the water while in the distance a sea breeze rolled in across the Climping beach.

The spa at Bailiffscourt could not be more perfectly blended with its natural, rural environment.

The oak timbers of the building rise like a rooted tree from the landscape while the swimming pools - there is a spectacular indoor one too - shimmer invitingly even in the dark of a Sussex evening.


If there is something almost unreal and surreal about the setting that too should be no surprise.

Bailiffscourt in one sense is a modern caprice and in another is as old as the Sussex hills.

Lord Moyne - of the Guinness brewing dynasty - and his wife had the estate built in the 1920s and 30s.

The idea was prompted by their decision to thwart the concreting over of this coastal strip of land. Having purchased the 750 acres of threatened fields they then created a medieval hamlet, reconstructing period buildings on the site in a pioneering process of architectural recycling and reclamation at colossal cost.


But the money counted for nothing.

This was always a love story; a deep and enduring passion.

So when in 1947 in an England profoundly changed by the austerity and deprivations of war, Bailiffscourt became an hotel there was something utterly appropriate in it opening its doors to all those seeking brief sanctuary from the cares of the day.

We have known it for precisely 25 years. Of that I can be certain because we had our wedding reception there - an event that coincided coincidentally with a change of ownership.

Bailiffscourt SUS-181128-114605004

The Goodman family - whose Historic Sussex Hotels group also includes Ockenden at Cuckfield and The Spread Eagle at Midhurst - set about restoring the property to the height of opulence in keeping with its medieval inspiration.

You can now stay in a range of 39 bedrooms in a collection of cottages that blend thatch and ancient stone.

The award-winning spa was added a decade ago.

But the best bedroom suite of them all, Baylies, with its vaulted ceiling, four poster bed and wood burning stove is noted for one other curious reason. Its expansive bathroom has twin roll-top baths.


Anne Goodman, who had overseen the purchase, thought long and hard about whether the two baths should be retained or replaced by something more modern.

Her decision to preserve the historic quirk was absolutely right.

There will have been countless newly-married guests who will always remember that bathroom not for individual basins but for personalized semi-detached baths!

We celebrated our return 25 years on by a stay in the same room, an In Good Spirits 55 minute Swedish-style massage, a great dinner, a stroll across the grounds to the beach and the sea - and of course an evening swim in the outdoor pool.

The grounds are noted for their wildlife - the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, kingfishers, moorhens, pheasants and skylarks.

How different, we mused, it would have been if Lord Moyne had not abandoned his holiday home The Huts at Climping and doggedly set above saving this corner of Sussex from bulldozer and concrete.


He and his wife never lived long enough to enjoy what they had created - but thanks to hoteliers like the Goodmans the dream does not merely live on but it is available to everyone to share.

We were invited to review the hotel by Sussex Historic Hotels. Although they hosted the visit, our review is independent.