EXCLUSIVE: Ockenden Manor sees business shift as new spa takes off


Sussex boutique hotel Ockenden Manor has responded to a shift in business following the huge success of its luxury spa.

The property, which is part of Historic Sussex Hotels, is headed up by Adam Smith, who told Boutique Hotelier that since the new multimillion pound spa was unveiled in 2012, the business has reaped the benefits of offering such a luxury addition.

The contemporary spa is home to two pools, hot tub, steam room, sauna and a sun deck, plus six spa bedrooms with roof terrace gardens, described by The Telegraph as ‘knockout’.

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Smith, who says Ockenden is a ‘very well-balanced business’, first joined the hotel 16 years ago and has experienced a lot of change under his guidance.

Prior to the construction of the spa, which also brought to market six poolside bedrooms, he says that the business was very corporate-led midweek, but as soon as the spa came online, it became one of the key drivers of business.

He says that the spa continues to rise in popularity – “we have 500 members and a waiting list as well” – and accounts for a third of the revenue at Ockenden Manor, with food and accommodation making up the rest.

“The spa has been a real eye opener and when you see guests spending more on their treatments than their bedrooms it’s like ‘whoa!’” Smith tells BH.

“It is about us keeping up with trends and finding out what our customers are looking for. You have to control costs because if you don’t, you won’t have any money to re-invest and to command the sort of rates we want out of our guests, you’ve got to be investing all the time.

Ockenden Manor makes up one third of the Historic Sussex Hotels portfolio, which is run by Pontus Carminger and his wife Miranda alongside her father Sandy Goodman.

The property, although acquired by HSH 30 years ago, first opened as a restaurant and guest house just after the Second World War, having previously been a family home in the mid-1500s, a Jewish Boys School and then finally a lodge for Canadian troops during the war.

It wasn’t until 1987 when the historic house caught the eye of Sandy Goodman, who decided to invest and made Ockenden Manor the second property in his pen, following on from the acquisition of The Spread Eagle in Sussex almost three decades prior.

Third and finally, Bailiffscourt came along in 1993, and the small exclusive group was born.

Aligning with this DNA, Ockenden Manor is an attractive Elizabethan manor house in the pretty village of Cuckfield, set in nine acres of grounds with sprawling views over West Sussex and the South Downs.

The 28 bedrooms are each named after one of the family members who have lived at the property, and as well as an elegant drawing room in the main house, there is an oak-panelled bar, and a recently-redecorated and extended restaurant, which until recently held a Michelin star for 13 consecutive years. Ockenden Manor also lays claim to one of the most extensive Sussex wine selections in its cellars and is part of Pride of Britain Hotels.

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Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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