A HISTORIC PLACE TO GATHER
By Mary Pauline Lowry
Photography by Clare Borg-Cook
Nestled in the English countryside within the grounds of Blenheim Palace — birthplace of Winston Churchill — sits North Lodge, a 300-year old architectural masterpiece that’s also available as a weekly vacation rental. North Lodge is currently under the stewardship of James Hall. An associate fellow at the Saïd Business School at Oxford University, James was studying for his MBA at Oxford when he first visited North Lodge — which sits eight miles from Oxford’s city center. The property was fully renovated in 2013, which brought a host of modern amenities to the property while still maintaining its historic character. An elegant blend of the old and new, North Lodge now comprises two ‘wings’ of distinct character, preserving the original Georgian portion of the house and adding a modern extension, flooding the house with natural light using floor to ceiling glass panels.
Due to its situation on the Blenheim Palace Estate, North Lodge is a place of great historical significance and beauty. Blenheim Palace and the surrounding estate are located in the Oxfordshire countryside on the edge of the Cotswolds. A UNESCO Heritage Site and a masterpiece of baroque architecture, Blenheim Palace is currently home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family. It was built in 1704 as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, from Queen Anne as thanks for his 1704 victory at the Battle of Blenheim, a major battle of the War of the Spanish Succession. The grounds contain a 110-acre lake, ancient woodlands, farmland, stables and horses. The High Park area of the estate was originally created in the 12th century by King Henry I as part of a royal deer park. The woodland is made up primarily of oak trees, many of which are over 800 years old.
James considers it a great honor to participate in the history of Blenheim Palace and to take part in preserving North Lodge. “During this time, I happen to be a steward of the property. I’m very interested in its conservation,” he said. James understands that the house and its history will outlive him; and he enjoys being part of caring for it for a time. While he lives in the house five months a year, he believes the property should be shared, and to that end, he leases it as a weekly holiday rental. “We want people to bring their families and spend time at a magnificent and unique property,” he said.
James — who lives in Park City, Utah for the remainder of the year — is one of the founders of AVIAÂ, a global group purchasing organization (GPO) in general aviation that works across all areas of fleet purchasing. AVIAÂ focuses on helping private jet owners increase their buying power and preferred partners to decrease friction in service delivery. AVIAÂ’s European home office is located at the Oxford Airport, a five-minute drive from North Lodge, which makes the house especially convenient for visitors. “We host a lot of guests at North Lodge,” James said. “We fire up the pizza oven and invite friends over. It’s a great place to congregate, and of course Oxford itself is an epicenter of education. North Lodge has such a rich history and it’s a place that people enjoy, so we like to use it to that purpose.”
It’s true that with extensive leisure facilities and seven bedrooms, North Lodge is perfect for entertaining. It features a heated saltwater pool, hot tub, tennis court, golf practice net, private gym, yoga studio, outdoor fire pit, cinema room, and a pool house with bar, pool, shuffleboard and poker tables. Spread over three floors, the renovated lodge is now light and bright with large windows overlooking the surrounding estate. The ground floor has both formal and informal living rooms and dining areas, which open onto the gardens, as well as a whisky room and library. The kitchen boasts professional grade equipment and is perfect for catering large groups.
What does James like best about North Lodge? “I love its location,” he said. “The gates open to a gravel drive lined with trees that runs down to the entrance of North Lodge. The landscape is so unique. A person has a real sense of peace when they are there.”
For more information or to inquire about staying at North Lodge visit akvillas.com/destinations/uk/the-cotswolds/north-lodge.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE