One of the Thames Valley’s most famous hotel/restaurant venues is up for sale for £12 million.

Christies, Haslams Estate Agents and Haslams Surveyors are jointly marketing the French Horn at Sonning, a venue which has been used by royalty and film stars for decades.

Famous names to have dined there include Princess Diana and Princess Margaret, in addition to actors Michael Winner, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne and Peter Falk.

The riverside venue has also appeared in literature, TV and films including Midsummer Murders and Alfie. Jerome K Jerome said of the site in his 1889 novel Three Men in a Boat: “It is the most fairy-like little nook on the whole river. It is more like a stage village than one built of bricks and mortar.”

The 19th Century riverside coaching inn, which has a 21-room hotel and houses, cottages and staff accommodation on an 8.6-acre site, has been in the possession of the Emmanuel family since 1972.

Ronnie and Carole Emmanuel initially bought it and their children Michael and Elaine are the current owners, seeking to market it.

Michael Emmanuel said: “After five wonderful decades of overseeing The French Horn and creating cherished memories for our patrons, it is with a mixture of sadness and excitement that we have made the decision to put this iconic property on the market.

“It’s not easy to say goodbye to a place that has been the heart of our family for so long, but we’re eager to see the next chapter of its storied history unfold. We’re grateful for the support and loyalty of our patrons and look forward to passing the torch to someone who will continue to honour the legacy of this beloved establishment.”

As well as marketing the site Steve Woodford, executive chairman of Haslams Estate Agents, has long-standing connections with it.

He said: “The French Horn has a history, an ambience and a location to die for and it will suit hospitality entrepreneurs, high-end developers or even someone looking for a very special home. The potential has no bounds. This type of property, and with this amount of river frontage close to London, rarely becomes available – for the right owner this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I have lived in Sonning and nearby for 40 years and we have celebrated big birthdays, anniversaries and even my father’s wake at the French Horn, where 300 people turned up to his favourite restaurant. It is a privilege to manage the sale of this very special place and find the next custodian to build on its rich history.”

He said its future as a hotel/restaurant would depend on the intentions of the buyer.

In addition to the hotel and restaurant, the 8.6-acre site includes:

  • River and Bridge House – a four-bedroom home with five reception rooms
  • Orchard Lodge – a property divided into four flats
  • Furleigh Cottages – eight properties which have served as additional accommodation for the hotel
  • Staff accommodation – 17 single-storey units
  • Porter Cottage – a three-storey home which could be incorporated into the hotel
  • A two-storey coach house
  • A wooden stable block with triple garage
  • 6 acres of paddocks

Tim Widdows, associate director – pubs & restaurants for Christie & Co, said: “I am thrilled to take this exceptional property to the market, a business I have known and enjoyed for many years. The inclusion of additional properties within the demise, each with its unique potential, truly makes this offering stand out.

“The prospect of converting River and Bridge House into separate properties, the flexibility of Orchard Lodge, and the charming Furleigh Cottages with river frontage all contribute to the remarkable appeal of this investment. The diverse properties offer versatility and add further value to this iconic property. The French Horn is not just a property; it’s an opportunity to shape a legacy in riverside luxury.”

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