Newly renamed the Bingham Riverhouse, this heritage-listed boutique hotel on the banks of the Thames at Richmond reopened in February 2019 after a £1 million facelift by award-winning interior designer Nicola Harding. Carved out of two Georgian terrace houses built in 1740, it's the former home of Princess Diana's ancestor, Lady Ann Bingham. Its most celebrated owners, however, were Katherine Bradley and niece Edith Cooper, incestuous lesbian lovers and poets whose work was published under the pseudonym Michael Field. They entertained literary London here by the river – WB Yeats was a frequent guest – but were frustrated when Robert Browning exposed their real identities. Each of the 15 newly renovated rooms is named after one of their poems: Sappho, Baudelaire, Constancy and – in my case – Sweet Briar.
Idyllic, on the riverbank between Richmond Bridge (the oldest surviving bridge on Britain's most famous river), Richmond Great Park (with its herds of red and fallow deer) and Richmond "village" – with 30-minute connections, by tube and overland rail, to central London. Kew Gardens is a stop away, Hampton Court Palace a 15-minute taxi ride.
Sweet Briar, on the top floor, has two sash windows. So the first thing I do on on entering is open up the room to the sight and sound of the Thames. The room is amazingly spacious, given its Georgian pedigree (presumably former servant quarters). Harding's stylish design combines the contemporary (king bed with lightly veneered headboard, smart TV) with the antique (writing desk, two comfy chairs). The pièce de résistance, however, is the enormous and luxurious copper bath (in addition to the shower in the ensuite). Sadly, you'd need to be a contortionist to witness the rowers splashing in the river below while soaking (I tried).
Head chef Andrew Cole has a well-deserved reputation among Richmond's well-heeled locals. On the Friday evening of my visit, several diners are obviously regulars checking out the new dining-room decor with its literary theme. The menu changes with the seasons and is strong on local produce (Jerusalem artichoke tartlet? Turbot on the bone with fondant potato and purple broccoli?). Breakfast options include a delicious porridge with dates and spices.
Walk through the hotel's "secret garden", open the gate and you'll find yourself on the Thames towpath. Head west and you'll eventually end up at Hampton Court Palace. Head east and you'll eventually wind up at the Tower of London.
A great find if you're a romantic who loves literature, heritage and good food. Not so good if you hate stairs.
Rooms from $242 a night. See thebingham.co.uk
The sound of oars and paddles, with echoes of Jerome K Jerome.
The Georgians hadn't invented the lift, and the stairs are steep.
Steve Meacham was a guest of VisitBritain and Bingham Riverhouse.