Tucked into the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, overlooking Kensington Gardens, The Milestone Hotel is a resplendent reflection of this neighbourhood’s prosperous past. With original features showcasing its rich heritage, the hotel has a wealth of stories to tell.
Even before stepping across the threshold, signs can be seen of this history, starting with the old cast iron Milestone that gave this hotel its name. The hotel’s general manager, Andrew Pike, explains: “The milestone has been there for around 500 years and is within the boundary of the hotel’s rails, pointing to Hyde Park Corner, because in the old days that was thought to be the centre of London, and to an important stagecoach stop in the other direction. This has been the Milestone Hotel since the 1920s.” Now The Milestone is rated among the very best hotels in London, and the world, providing guests with a personalised and luxurious experience.
More than just one property, the hotel actually encompasses three Victorian houses, the first of which was built in the 1880s. But it was as far back as 1689 that the land was first occupied, when Kensington House was built for Foot Onslow, a Commissioner of Excise under William III. His son Arthur later went on to sublet the property to officer George Davenport – whose grandfather is believed to be William Shakespeare – before being turned into a private asylum. It was at this point in time that Kensington House was replaced with a second mansion by the founder of Leicester Square, Albert Grant. Finally, the houses we see today came into fruition in the 1880s.
Since that time, the properties have been home to some of London’s great characters, including diplomat and author Baron Redesdale, and the Russian Ambassador Count Peter Grigoryevich Chernyshev whose daughter Natalia was immortalised in the Countess of Pushkin’s short story ‘Queen of Spades’.
In the 1920s, the residences became a hotel, and while the property has evolved over the years, many of the hotel’s guests return time after time. “Some of our guests have a special affection for the hotel because it was where they had a special moment in their life and they want to recreate it,” Andrew explains.
One common memory among hotel guests is the moment of their engagement; the hotel’s intimate oratory, which used to be a private chapel, has been known to inspire marriage proposals. “The Oratory is probably one of London’s most romantic dining venues,” Andrew says, “so a lot of people have been proposed to here.” As an English Heritage grade two protected property, all of the features from the sweeping arches and vaulted ceiling to the ornate windows and Victorian marble flooring remain the same as they’ve always been; None of the historic features in the oratory can be changed.
The hotel’s neo-gothic architecture and luxurious interiors are complemented by an extensive collection of artworks, including a mid-1920s painting of Noel Coward, which hangs above the welcoming fireplace in the elegant Park Lounge.
After indulging in the quintessential British tradition of afternoon tea, or savouring fine dining plates like wild sea trout and new season lamb in the resplendent surroundings of Cheneston’s Restaurant (the original spelling of Kensington), take a seat in the hotel’s Stables Bar. Once the carriage house and stables, this bar is now adorned with artworks and furnishings that reflect its equestrian roots, and is an atmospheric setting for expertly crafted cocktails, wine from Bouchard Finlayson Estate, and of course, Champagne. “At The Milestone we serve more Champagne per guest than any other bar in London,” Andrew claims, “We specialise in boutique Champagnes, and we are one of the only hotels in London to showcase the technique of opening a bottle with a sword. Named Champagne sabrage, this performance adds to the theatre of what we do.”
With such unique décor in each individually designed room and a fascinating history that’s so evident through its architecture, The Milestone is undoubtedly a property unlike any other five-star luxury hotel in the world. And it’s not just the property that reflects the history of The Milestone. With the highest level of service delivered by all of the staff, from the butler to the sommelier, the traditional values of service are tirelessly upheld, making each guest’s experience exceptional.
Header image: The Milestone Hotel © Red Carnation Hotels