I was visiting the National Space Centre and noticed this free little museum next door. Out of curiosity, I went inside to have a look. To my amazement, the museum was full of interesting stuff both inside and out. If I am honest, I enjoyed it more than the Space Centre.
The Victorian building was constructed in 1891 by Leicester Corporation and was designed by Stockdale Harrison (Leicester architect) in 1890, alongside the River Soar, as a pumping station used to pump the town’s sewage to the sewage farm at Beaumont Leys. The station continued pumping Leicester’s sewage until 1964, when electric pumps took over. Within a few years the Wanlip Sewage Treatment plant took over and the pumping station was no longer needed.
This was the first time that I have stayed in a hotel since the COVID lockdown. My holiday to the USA had been cancelled and whilst I did not want to take a holiday in the UK, I decided to take a weekend trip to Lincolnshire and stay in a hotel that has been on my radar for a while, the Petwood Hotel in Woodhall Spa.
I love Woodhall Spa, the quaint little village has some wonderful history, from being a Victorian spa town to the military and aviation history through the two World Wars.
History of the Petwood
The Petwood was originally built as a private home for wealthy heiress, Baroness Grace van Eckhardstein. She had received a large sum of money from her father’s will and decided to build a country retreat in her favourite woods or “pet wood” as she called it.
Her home was built in a Tudor style, complete with a hand-carved oak staircase that visitors can still admire today. Grace was a divorcee, but married for a second time to a politician called Sir Archibald Weigall in 1910.
The Petwood has seen its fair share of celebrities over the years. Grace and her husband would entertain politicians, aristocrats, sporting stars and those of music hall fame. King George VI and Prince Charles have also stayed at the Petwood.
Like many other large homes, Petwood was requisitioned for use in WWI where it served as a military convalescence hospital. During WWII the hotel was home to the 617 Dambusters Squadron from 1942.
A Review of my Stay
I love to travel and stay in all different types of hotels and motels. The Petwood is definitely what I would call a more traditional hotel. The hotel gets 3 AA stars, which I would say is about right. However, I felt like they maybe and try to promote themselves as a luxury hotel. Indeed, you are staying in a former country retreat in a beautiful area. However, the hotel just felt like it was missing something.
I booked through ebookers and paid only £59 for the room. I had £39 in Bonus + and also found a 10% promo code online. Prices are normally about £100 per night, but always look around before booking. I use Trivago and Hotels Combined to search for the best price. Also, be sure to use Quidco. If you have not already signed up, below is my link. Also, I have found a site called Honey recently. It scans the internet for discount codes. I was sceptical at first but I’ve found it to be awesome. My honey link is below also.
The hotel has implemented a one way system and requires guests to wear a mask inside the hotel communal areas. Obviously when you are in the restaurant and bar, this is not a requirement. I did notice that many of the members of staff did not have masks on though. I understand that it must be awful to work wearing a mask, but at the same time, there is a reason as to why everyone should be wearing them in public places.
I booked a standard double room. The room was nice and clean, as was the bathroom. There was not much of a view though, the room overlooked bins and what I think is the service area as it was very noisy late at night. I like to sleep with the window open and I was woken by banging, I had to get out of bed to close the window. Also, there was only instant coffee. This is something that I always find bizarre in English hotels. I travel a lot in America, and even in the cheapest motels you get some sort of filter coffee. Yes, America do have more of a coffee culture, but that has now migrated to the UK and so I always wonder why hotels continue to leave only instant rubbish in the rooms.
I had wanted to eat at the Tea House in the Woods. However, I think that I underestimated how busy Woodhall Spa was going to be and it was fully booked. For convenience, we ate in the hotel restaurant. The food was nice, definitely not gourmet, it was more of a traditional menu, nevertheless, it was reasonably priced and good. The service was also excellent.
We also had breakfast in the hotel, it costs £15 pp and you get tea/coffee/juice and then something from the cold and hot options. If you just want a coffee and a yoghurt, the breakfast isn’t worth it. However, if you get a full English, coffee, juice and a pastry, then its worth it.
On check out, the reception did try and charge me an extra £30, which was incorrect. Make sure you always check your bill and work out your charges as hotels do make mistakes.
For a more in depth look at the hotel and gardens, be sure to watch my video below :).
Monk Bretton has been closed since March due to COVID. Although it is a free site, sadly in the past, the ruin has been damaged by vandals and so the site can not remain open at all times. Despite the site being free entry, the gates get locked every day at 3pm and re-open at 10am.
It is unfortunate that Monk Bretton does not get the same protection as other English Heritage sites. Roche Abbey is similar in size and yet that is a staffed site. During my visit I witnessed an incredibly ignorant individual who was climbing up the ruin (I have made a video with a little more information and a picture of said individual below). As Monk Bretton is un-staffed, English Heritage rely on people using common sense and being respectful, clearly they cannot rely on this. I do think they need more signs that say ‘DO NOT CLIMB ON THE RUIN’. If this fails, I personally think that the gates should remain locked and only opened maybe once a month when it can be staffed.
From what I can gather, the volunteers of this site take care of it, rather than English Heritage that doesn’t seem to care much. The gatekeepers are volunteers, which makes it more upsetting when you see litter, graffiti and idiots climbing the ruins.
Monk Bretton was founded in about 1154, by a local landowner called Adam Fitzswaine. The priory served as a daughter house to the rich Cluniac priory at Pontefract. After 50 years of disagreements, Monk Bretton seceded from Cluniac Order in 1281 and became a Benedictine house.
The priory was quite substantial as it owned properties across South Yorkshire, with rights over five parish churches. It is also said that Monk Bretton worked coal and ironstone in the Barnsley area. After Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, Monk Bretton was closed and materials from the priory were used elsewhere.
The priory passed into the ownership of the Blithman family and then in 1589 the estate was bought by William Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. He converted the west range of the cloister into a country house for his son Henry.
Today, the site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and now in the care of English Heritage/ volunteers.
I grew up not too far away from Boot’s Folly (also known as Strines Tower or Sugworth Tower). The tower was built in 1927 by Charles Boot of the construction company Henry Boot & Sons. Charles Boot resided at the nearby Sugworth Hall, a Grade II Listed country house. The hall was up for sale recently for £1.5 million pounds.
There are a few theories as to why the tower was built. One theory was that, Charles Boot constructed it so that he could see his wife’s grave in Bradfield churchyard across the valley. However, multiple sources state that the tower was built as a job-creation scheme for workers from Sugworth Hall during the depression.
The folly stands at 315 meters high and was constructed from leftover stone used to build the nearby Bents House. Today the structure is Grade II Listed. There used to be a wooden staircase inside the tower, but that was allegedly removed in the 1970s, after a cow got stuck at the top.
Thanks for reading. Please also watch my video below for a look inside the tower.