Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sixth Day in London - Afternoon Tea at Byfleet Manor

If May 5th's visit to Highclere Castle was exciting, May 6th's visit to Byfleet Manor was frosting on the cake!

I can't remember exactly when Denise LeCroy [aka Tea Lover Denise], and I became friends. It began through cyberspace when Denise and I were members of two tea-themed e-groups. We both aspired to opening a tea room, and we both took training at Magnolia & Ivy. A tea room didn't happen for either of us, but we continued searching for our niche in the tea world. Denise authored a great blog, Uniquely Tea, before I ever thought of bloggingAlways an Anglophile [tea and England go hand-in-hand], Denise met the love of her life, who turned out to not only be 'tall and handsome', but born and raised in England!  They married.  In 2007 Denise organized a London, England Tea Tour, and I went on the fabulous tour.  We met once after that in Charleston, South Carolina where she was living at the time. Then she and 'tall and handsome' moved to England. Communication was less frequent, but I followed her Tea in England Facebook page [which currently has 8,400 Facebook Fans and counting!]

When planning my trip to England I wrote Denise to see if  we could meet for tea while I was there. She replied that she lives and works just a few miles from Byfleet Manor in Surrey - Violet Crawley's Dowager House on TV's Downton Abbey.  She provided a link to contact Julie Hutton for a reservation. Julie scheduled us for Afternoon Tea at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6th. 

Lori and I took the tube from Earls Court to Wimbledon, then a mainline train to West Byfleet.  

The building below, bearing Catherine of Aragon's name, was just outside the train station, and piqued my interest. Catherine of Aragon was Henry VIII's first wife, and Queen of England from 1509 - 1533. Henry had their marriage declared invalid when he became infatuated with Anne Boleyn, one of Catherine's ladies-in-waiting. I wondered if it was a museum, but discovered it's a family run pub and hotel.

~ Quaint neighborhood next to the train station. ~

We arrived early, so we walked around a shopping area near the train station. 

When it started to rain we went inside an Italian Coffee Bar and Restaurant and ordered a hot chocolate until it was time for Denise to arrive in a taxi that would take us to Byfleet Manor.

We arrived at the 17th-century Manor a little before 2:00 p.m. and took photographs outside.   Do you recognize Downton Abbey's Dowager Countess of Grantham's house?

In real life, Byfleet goes back to the 7th century, when the land was owned by Chertsey Abbey, pre-dating the Domesday Book. In the 10th century Byfleet was owned by the Crown [linked to Hampton Court Palace].  In 1307 it was a royal hunting lodge, and Edward III's son bred horses at Byfleet. Henry VIII is said to have spent a lot of his boyhood at Byfleet, and as King granted the manor to Catherine of Aragon in their divorce in 1533.  [That explains why the hotel and pub by the train station bears her name.]  Queen Consort, Anne of Denmark, wife of King James I, was the last royal owner. She commissioned a new house in 1619, but died before it was finished. 

A rebuilding followed in 1686, with the 10' walls forming the courtyard, the two gate piers, the heavy timber staircase, and some fireplaces remaining from the previous house. The 1686 house remained unaltered until 1905 when it was restored, and the two asymmetrical wings were added. The house was requisitioned during the second world war and housed British and Canadian officers who were trained at the property before leaving for France. The Manor later fell into disrepair.  I found no information on owners after 1945 [except for Julie Hutton] or any restoration projects they might have done.

Julie, originally from Wales, became owner of Byfleet Manor in 2002.  Her two children were in school while we were there, but we met Dolly, her cat, who appeared in a Season I episode of Downton Abbey.  Stanley, her Great Dane, watched us from the front window when we arrived, but occupied another room while we were there because Julie said he's a bit disruptive at a tea party! 

~ A small courtyard on the side of the manor. ~

Entry gate to Byfleet Manor which sits at the end of a winding country lane.  The Manor is located about 20 miles from London.

~ Front Porch Gargoyle ~

~ Front Yard Sundial ~

~ Front Door Exterior ~

~ Front Door Interior ~

Denise and I both thought the tea room at Byfleet was public, so what a special treat to discover we were having Afternoon Tea in Julie's private residence, and no one else was scheduled to be there but us.  The majority of teas Julie hosts are for single parties, which she does 2-3 times a week.

~ Photos of the Entrance Hallway ~


 ~ The photo below reveals the heavy timber staircase that dates back to the 1686 house ~

The open door [below] is off the front hallway and is used by Spratt, Lady Violet's butler, when entering the Drawing Room, now referred to as the 'Downton Room.'

[Internet Photo]

Julie Hutton [below], owner of Byfleet Manor.  She told us she started doing tea parties 3-4 years ago at the suggestion of an American couple who had searched the Internet for about six months trying to find the real name of Violet Crawley's dowager house.  

While Julie was assembling our tea she allowed us to be shutterbugs in the Drawing Room.

Julie said the blue velvet chair is known as Violet Crawley's chair, and is a 'must' photograph for visitors.

[Lori and Me]

[Denise and Me]

~ Lovely table set for our Afternoon Tea ~

Our British Afternoon Tea was visually delightful, as well as deliciously tasteful.  Denise was the "tea mum" and poured the tea, which was an Afternoon Blend.

~ Sandwiches:  Egg Salad, Cucumber, Roast Beef and Cream Cheese, and Smoked Salmon ~

~ Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam ~


~  Welsh Cake [left] and Eccles Cake [right].  I had never had either before. ~

~ Dessert was Carrot Cake and Victoria Sponge ~

~ Julie concluded our tea with her version of Eaton Mess.  Delicious! ~

Denise surprised us by treating us to this magnificent Afternoon Tea.  Thanks again and again, Denise, for an unforgettable afternoon!  It was great to see you again.

There were mugs for sale, and I couldn't resist getting one with a sarcastic quote of Lady Violet's. 

Julie shared that she received an unsolicited knock on her door one day by a lady asking if she'd like her home to be used for a T.V. program.  Downton Abbey is the third show Byfleet Manor has been featured in, and by far the most popular.

~ The taxi returned us to the train station for our train ride back to London. ~

It rained off and on throughout the day, and as our train passed Esher Station, I captured a beautiful rainbow from the train window.  I can't think of a better ending to a perfect day!

Fast forward five days, and imagine my surprise when I was riding the tube to Woburn Abbey and saw an article in the Metro newspaper announcing Julie had put Byfleet Manor [and its 18 acres of land] on the market for £3.95 million.  I'm so glad we were able to go there for tea before a new owner has possession.

Thanks for the wonderful memory, Julie!


  1. What a lovely blog post, Phyllis. It was so good to see you again, and to meet your daughter Lori. I, too, am very glad that we were able to have tea at Byfleet Manor before it changes hands. Am looking forward to the next time and place when you and I can once again share a visit over Afternoon Tea.

  2. How wonderful to have tea here and with Denise. Special memories are made of these sort of travel experiences.

  3. Wow, such a wonderful blog with great photos! Wish I could be there! The tea treats looked so good!

  4. Wonderful! You can buy's up for sale..only 5.8 million...pounds! What a fun tour! But you have made me very hungry...Eccles Cakes & Welsh cakes are favorites...I have had the recipe on my blog in the you want me to send you links? Nice to see Denise.

  5. What a lovely experience! Great article and photos.

  6. BE STILL MY HEART! What a dream trip and dream tea party!!!!!

  7. Oh, wow, what a magical day! I,m so glad you could meet up with Denise (I saw her picture of this on Facebook today) and have tea at such a special place. And what a tea it turned out to be! I love this pictures in the Downton Room, too - and then to end up with a rainbow - how perfect.

  8. Lovely article! Love experience!

  9. Wow...I think I need to be your new American tea friend. I'm totally a tea fanatic, and I love this story. What a lovely day! Glad you got to visit the Manor before it is sold!

  10. Two things: Denise, you remind me of me. :) The tea had my mouth watering. Yum.

  11. Denise sent me and I'm so glad! I really enjoyed your article and the pictures are lovely!

  12. What a wonderful place to be the finale of your trip. Lucky you!

  13. What a wonderful day ! Hope to be able to visit it in a near future !! Many thanks for sharing this with us ! I love Downton Abbey ! Many thanks Denise . Edith from Argentina

  14. What a joy to see this home and the lovely tea time the hostess offered. Thank you so much for sharing.

  15. What an amazing tea experience!

  16. Wow, you have had a fairy tale of a trip, Phyllis! I can only imagine how much fun it was to visit this home and enjoy tea there. And I was also happy to see "Tea Lover Denise" there! I thought her teatime blog and Facebook page ended a few years ago and have often wondered whatever happened to her. Nice to know she is still around and enjoying all things tea!


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