The architectural origins of the Saracen’s Head are agreeably quirky for an inn deep in the heart of England’s quirkiest county. There was no real reason why, in 1806, architect GS Repton should have designed the inn in the exotic style of a Tuscan farmhouse except, perhaps, that at the time of the inn’s construction – at the same time as Repton was working on another commission from Horatio Walpole and adding a wing to Wolterton Hall (still in the Walpole family to this day) – it seemed like a fine, fun idea. Despite Napoleon’s best efforts, the Grand Tour was all the rage and distinguished young gentlemen (and sometimes women) were dashing about all over Europe allowing travel, along with different styles of architecture, to broaden their minds. One of the agreeable results of all this social and architectural activity is today’s Saracen’s Head.
Tim and Janie Elwes are a couple who have undertaken something of a grand tour of their own, having recently returned from living and working in the French Alps. Tim was born and brought up in Burgh, (which is just the other side of Aylsham from the Saracens) before moving to London to seek his fortune! It was in the late 1980’s that he met Janie (a Northamptonshire girl) and they eventually married in 1995. It was very soon after that they left London on their Grand Tour and arrived in the French Alps and the ski resort of Courchevel 1850 was where they were to run a luxury 10 bed roomed hotel. From this they moved onto also running a hotel, bar and restaurant in the centre of the resort! Having established the Lodge Nogentil they decided with their partner that it was time to sell and to concentrate on the new establishment, Hotel de la Croisette with it’s now blossoming Bar le Jump. Over the next 7 years they again established their business before deciding that they had taken it as far as they could. It was then, after a Grand Tour lasting 12 years and not really many km that they returned to Norfolk along with their three “jeunes fils”.
After spending over a year looking for the right opportunity in their beloved Norfolk they came to the Saracen’s Head. Here it was the most amazing building set on its own in the middle of the most beautiful countryside, and not a ski lift in sight! An opportunity to make the most of all their experience and enthusiasm, Tim and Janie have worked hard and spared nothing in the effort to make the inn today as uniquely special as it was in 1806.