The year was 2004. Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook, had one friend. England exited major championship in knockout stages, on penalties. Single mum Allie Foxon attended auction for crumbling 469-year-old Grade II* listed house on the Warwickshire border, and won. She thought the renovation might take a weekend or two… Boy was she wrong!
Building a wedding venue…and happy memories
Fast forward a few weeks. Armed with a steely determination and a team of dedicated tradespeople, Allie was ready to set about the project to end all projects. Her first goal was simple: save the house. Years of neglect and vandalism meant Gorcott Hall had been placed on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register. Everything that could be saved was saved, and painstakingly renovated. If it was scrubbable, it was scrubbed. Hand carved panelling, which had been strewn everywhere by vandals, was lovingly restored. A 400-year-old fireback revealed itself to be a spectacular piece – hand crafted by a Blacksmith in celebration of the birth of young Edmund Chambers way back in 1609. The non-existent roof was painstakingly restored with 27,000 English Heritage approved tiles, hand drilled. Every exquisite leaded window was replaced, courtesy of some of Britain’s finest master craftsmen. The eye-watering sums of money required to restore a historic building meant that progress was often a little slower than planned, but slowly, little by little, room by room, this breathtakingly beautiful, quirky, stubborn old pile came back to life. The help Allie had, and continues to have, comes via people who fall in love with Gorcott, and as a result love working here. It helps, a lot.
So, the “two-week” renovation plan had slipped behind schedule a little… Only by around five years or so. But, by 2009, the main house had been completely transformed. Modern additions, like the heating system and all the hi-tech stuff required to take a home well into the 21st century, were in place – not that you’d know by looking. (Functional stuff is there to function, not to be seen.) Décor and furniture were chosen with an extraordinary eye for detail. The idea was that every time someone visited, they would remember something different. Gorcott Hall was back to her former glory – eager to take the next visitor’s breath away.
In June 2009, for no reason in particular, and launching we’re not quite sure what, a launch party was held. A few ideas were tossed around: conference centre, venue for corporate get togethers… Nah, where’s the fun in that!? Because if there’s one thing Gorcott is good at, it’s having fun. The opportunity to host the first wedding presented itself when a friend of Allie’s uttered the immortal words: “You’ve got a wedding venue here, Al”. By serendipitous coincidence, aforementioned friend was on the hunt for a wedding reception venue for her own wedding. Let the planning commence! The barn was cleared of hundreds of years of rusty agricultural junk, a temporary license was granted, and enough booze to sink a battleship was purchased. As it turned out, battleship-sinking quantities were nowhere near sufficient, and to this day we’re grateful that Tesco is open 24 hours a day!
Everyone involved in that momentous day, from the happy couple to the guests, the family, the suppliers, and of course our team, loved every minute. It gave us a real taste for what the place could become. So, the plan evolved. With every event we hosted at Gorcott back in those early days, we learned. We learned that as a team, we’re performing at our best when we’re having (almost) as much fun as the guests. We learned that limiting the number of events we hold per year is crucial – it keeps our team fresh, and it keeps things personal for our couples. Most importantly, it’s keeps Gorcott Hall exclusive for our wonderful couples, in every sense of the word.
And the memories keep coming…
Eighteen years on, we aren’t resting on our laurels. We never have. Stand still and you go backwards. Our season runs from spring through to autumn, and every winter there’s a pet project. Sometimes it’s mundane but necessary, like extending the car park or carrying out major tree surgery. More often though it’s something exciting, like our stunning new Gown Suite. 487 years after the foundations of Gorcott Hall were laid, we’re determined to push forwards.
One day, we’ll pass the baton onto the next generation. They’re already champing at the bit, involved in every wedding we hold; working, watching, learning, having fun. But while we’re still having as much fun as we do, they can wait a little while longer. Because we’re not going anywhere just yet!
If you’d like to come and see our lovely home, our doors are always open to show people around so get in touch to arrange a visit.