A townhouse once owned by Jane Austen’s brother has been transformed into a discreet, exclusive-use hideaway with no expense spared
Words Jonathan Whiley
If you didn’t know it was there, chances are you would miss it. The only rather discreet clue that 24 Upper Berkeley Square in Marylebone is anything of any historical note – let alone a hotel – lies in a small round plaque at the front of the Grade II-listed building. The townhouse was once owned by Jane Austen’s banker brother, Henry, and it’s thought that Jane’s visits were of great value with his support proving vital in the publication of her work.
After a recent period in which the townhouse fell into disrepair, the 18th-century grandeur is back with a bang. Owners Steven Collins and his wife Jane – who also run Temple Guiting Manor in the Cotswolds – have transformed it into an exquisite, exclusive-hire boutique hotel in collaboration with the renowned Russell Sage Studio (whose historian researched the history of the building and furnished accordingly) and Feix & Merlin Architects.
It’s a glorious Regency reimagining with bags of charm; cleverly weaving the Austen links into the character of the building (such as the room keys) without ever venturing into kitsch.
Each of the seven en suite bedrooms is individually designed and a showcase of bespoke with luxurious fixtures and fittings (think four- poster beds, chandeliers, mother of pearl tiles) alongside antique pieces sourced from across the globe and the owners’ very own collection.
Its exclusive-hire nature makes it a party pad par excellence – there is a beautiful carriage-like ‘snug’ and small outside terrace, both perfect for aperitifs – while the Pantry Kitchen has a large table suited for breakfast, private dining or an inviting, fully- equipped meeting room.
The “anything is possible” mantra is, in a large part, testament to charismatic housekeeper, Ann Grimes, who has a wealth of experience with high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients and ensures you are in very safe hands.
“We are thrilled to see our years of hard work finally come to life as a beautiful and captivating small hotel and it was a pleasure to source the art and furniture,” says Steven.
“We want Henry’s Townhouse to have a sense of occasion and be sophisticated, yet fun. Henry’s had to feel like an experience to our clients, whilst still having the feeling of a home from home.”
It’s a fitting line for it was Austen who famously wrote: “Ah! There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”