11/6/2023 | Restaurants

Iconic Thames-side hotel up for sale for first time in 50 years through Christie & Co and Haslams

On behalf of the Emmanuel family, specialist business property adviser, Christie & Co and joint agent, Haslams are delighted to bring to market The French Horn, an iconic riverside hotel in the stunning village of Sonning in South Oxfordshire, at a guide price of £12m.


Occupying one of the most idyllic spots on the River Thames, The French Horn stands as a historical gem with a remarkable 200-year legacy. Under the ownership of the Emmanuel family since 1972, this former coaching inn has evolved into a much-loved restaurant with rooms, celebrated for its enduring quality, unmatched location, and unrivalled reputation.

Over the years, the venue has become a favourite of the rich and famous, playing host to an impressive list of guests, including Michael Winner, Princess Margaret and Lady Diana plus Hollywood greats, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and John Wayne. It has also appeared in literature, several films and TV series, notably Midsomer Murders.

Now ready for its next chapter after five decades of family ownership, The French Horn presents a highly versatile and rare opportunity for a new proprietor to acquire a piece of riverside luxury with significant upside and development potential. From its stunning South Oxfordshire village, near several major towns and beautiful villages and only 40 miles from London, the opportunity is sure to have wide ranging appeal.

The substantial 8.6-acre plot comprises the French restaurant with 100 covers, an expertly-curated wine cellar, 21-bedroom hotel and 13 additional properties including several houses, cottages, and staff accommodation, which are ripe for rejuvenation. Particularly charming are the Furleigh Cottages, a row of eight attractive 19th century mill workers cottages, each enjoying river frontage and a private walled garden.

The property also boasts an expansive 5.6 acres of adjoining paddocks that have the potential to be used for leisure facilities or luxury lodges, subject to planning. Secluded and mature landscaped gardens offer guests a bucolic backdrop, but it is the untouched and undeveloped river frontage that is likely to prove the property’s biggest draw, providing would-be investors with the opportunity to capitalise on private mooring, recreation and angling rights.

Michael Emmanuel comments, “After several 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.”

Tim Widdows, Associate Director – Pubs & Restaurants at Christie & Co, who is handling the sales process, comments, “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 premises, 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.”

Steve Woodford, Executive Chairman of Haslams also comments, “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.”

For further information on this press release, contact:

Bronte Hughes, Corporate Communications Manager

P: 020 7227 0794 or E: bronte.hughes@christie.com

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