Greenlands was W.H.Smith's house. It became the Imperial Staff College and is now Henley Management College, University of Reading (and Henley Greenlands Hotel).
The Henley Business School, Greenlands campus is set in its own 30 acre estate
in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside, alongside the River Thames,
this magnificent Grade II Listed Building offers excellent conference,
meeting and event facilities and provides a spectacular setting for any gathering.
Every one of our events is managed by an experienced and dedicated event co-ordinator, working with you to meet your requirements for Day & Residential Meetings; Weddings; Functions; Large Conferences; B&B Accommodation; Christmas Parties; Group Accommodation
Henley Greenlands Hotel has 100 en-suite double bedrooms, situated in our separate Thames Court building adjacent to the main house. Fully equipped with all the comforts you would expect from a high quality hotel including Molton Brown toiletries and Nespresso coffee machine, perfect for a business trip or weekend away in Henley-on-Thames.
History of Greenlands
Records indicate that there has been a house on our Greenlands site for 500 years, although the house would have originally been much closer to the river. Greenlands has been home to a series of notable families and individuals throughout its lifetime. These include Thomas Chaucer, son of Geoffrey Chaucer; Robert D'Oyley, Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1573; Bulstrode Whitelock, Oliver Cromwell's Ambassador to Sweden and most recently WH Smith, who bought the existing house in 1871. Queen Elizabeth I is also known to have visited on more than one occasion, most likely when staying at her royal palace in Reading.
The site became the home of a new Administrative Staff College in 1946, first welcoming students in 1948. In 1952, after the unexpected death of Viscount Hambleden from whom the College leased the site, an opportunity to purchase Greenlands' 30 acres arose. The College was renamed Henley Management College in 1991, and following the 2008 merger with the University of Reading became Henley Business School. Today, the world-ranked Henley MBA, The Henley DBA and our executive education programmes are delivered at Greenlands.
1810: Greenlands built for Thomas Darby-Coventry.
1826: Greenlands in the Henley Guide. Full text and prints -
The farm and manor house of Greenland are the property
of Thomas Darby Coventry, Esq.
In May, 1644, Sir John Doyley garrisoned and fortified it for the King, with a view of commanding the passage of the Thames from Henley and Reading to the Metropolis. After sustaining a long and severe siege from the parliamentary forces, under Major General Brown, the house being nearly reduced to ruins by the batteries on the opposite side of the river, it was surrendered on honourable terms in July, by its governor, Colonel Hawkins. The farm exhibits very considerable traces of the buildings and fortifications.
1853: Greenlands extended for Edward Marjoribanks
1869: From "The Phantom of Regatta Island" by Charles Dickens:
How well I remember Greenlands that afternoon!
The house was empty, and the old-fashioned green jalousies were closed.
But for the beauty of the gardens it might have seemed deserted.
The colours of the flowers were too bright to be dimmed, even by the formal arrangement of the beds in which they were set; the standard roses along the river terrace were just bursting into their wealth of blossom, the river's bank was fringed with clusters of blue forget-me-nots.
On the other side of the river the meadows spread far away, the mowers were at work, the scent of new-mown hay came to me from them as it comes to me from those meadows there now.
1871: Greenlands extended for W. H. Smith.
1881: George Leslie, "Our River"
[Greenlands] is the well-known residence of the Rt. Hon. W. H. Smith, and has been by him considerably enlarged; it is I believe, a comfortable house, but the contrast of the dark cedar trees around gives it rather a sombre effect. There are some fine inland ponds near, where skating in the winter is very good; these ponds and the ditches and flat meadows about are favourite haunts of heron and lapwing.
1881: The Census records show W H Smith at home with his wife, 3 daughters, and 16 servants.
1882: Greenlands, Henry Taunt -
Greenlands, Henry Taunt, 1882
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT3553
1889: Jerome K Jerome -
... Greenlands, the rather uninteresting looking river residence of my newsagent - a quiet unassuming old gentleman, who may often be met with about these regions, during the summer months, sculling himself along in easy vigorous style, or chatting genially to some old lock-keeper, as he passes through
Neither George Leslie nor Jerome K Jerome quite does justice to
William Henry Smith, founder of Smith's book and stationery chain.
In 1846 his father W H Smith Senior had made him a partner in the family news agency in London's Strand. By then the railways were beginning to change the face of Britain and the younger Smith had negotiated with the major rail companies for permission to erect bookstalls at stations. He got rid of the cheap, salacious material for which railways had become infamous, causing Punch to give him the nickname 'Old Morality.' This enhanced his reputation and very soon he had exclusive rights on all major stations to sell the magazines and journals that now proliferated with the repeal of Stamp Duty.
In 1868 he was eventually elected to Parliament as Member for Westminster and became a loyal Tory backbencher and minister. In 1877 he joined the Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty.
He was immortalised by Gilbert and Sullivan in HMS Pinafore as Sir Joseph Porter, the admiral who had never been to sea -
'A junior partnership was the only ship I had ever seen'.
I always voted at my party's call
And never thought of myself at all
Thought so little, they rewarded me
So now I am the ruler of the Queen's navy.
W H Smith became known as 'Pinafore Smith'. He died in 1891 at Walmer castle, his official residence as warden of the Cinque Ports.
1901: The Thames Illustrated by John Leland -
At Hambleden is Greenlands, the beautiful Italian mansion of the late Rt. Hon W.H.Smth, M.P.,
and now the seat of his widow, Viscountess Hambleden.
The gardens are exceedingly beautiful, and the various trees among the choicest on the Thames, whilst the house looks charming aamid the dark cedars that neighbour it. There are picturesque inland ponds too, and the park extends some distance up the slope.
The place owes much of its character to the deceased statesman.
... The house played a part in the Civil War, being powerfully garrisoned for the King, and was a serious menace to the Parliament men, who had been levied, and organised by Sir Bulstrode Whitelocke [who owned Fawley Court]
1936-8: Further alterations were made to the west front by P. Geddes Hyslop.