Late one Saturday night, Lord Fellowes of West Stafford and Lady Hutchinson took a torchlight stroll to the Great Hall of Bickleigh Castle, where they discovered Lady Mountbatten enjoying pigeon pie and Christina Hill Williams (a former High Sheriff of Berkshire) admiring Lachlan MacKinnon’s decadent robes.
Had they gone back in time to the days of Henry VIII? Almost. The reality was that Robert and Sarah Hay were celebrating 10 years of their custodianship of the 11th-century castle with a Tudor Banquet, which made the 104 year old guest of honour, the Dowager Baroness Killearn, feel quite the spring chicken.
Bickleigh Castle was transformed back to its roots for a Tudor Ball hosted by owners Robert and Sarah Hay to celebrate their tenth anniversary as owners of the castle. Guest of honour for the ball was Lord Julian Fellowes, writer of the television series Downton Abbey and an Oscar winner for his screenplay for Gosford Park.
The owners of a historic Devon castle have celebrated ten years in residence with a Tudor Ball attended by Downton Abbey creator Lord Julian Fellowes.
Guests in Tudor costume packed the Great Hall at Bickleigh Castle on Saturday night as Sarah and Robert Hay marked a decade of hard work restoring and running the riverside estate, parts of which date back to the 11th century.
Ross literally fell for the girl next door when Hayley moved in to the house next to him. “He helped me to move some furniture one day, and we were pretty much inseparable from that day on,” explains Hayley. “He gradually made the short move across the front lawn and in to live with me, bit by bit, before we bought our own home in 2011.”
A rich sense of history is palpable as soon as you spy the turrets of Bickleigh Castle peeping through dense woodland in a tranquil corner of Devon. One of the county’s most historic listed properties, the 11th century castle lies amidst a secluded valley; mature trees, beautiful gardens and a huddle of pretty thatched cottages cluster around the majestic building, while the resident ducks skim across the moat and wander its banks.
Bickleigh Castle has been nominated and placed in the final 6 Devon Venues for the ‘Westcountry Wedding Awards’ 2013.
Wendy and Mick first met over 20 years ago, but their lives drifted in different directions and they lost touch for over a decade.
Bickleigh Castle proved the perfect setting for the big family bash the couple envisioned. “Bickleigh Castle is the most magical, romantic setting for a wedding and once we had seen it nowhere else would do!” says Wendy. “It was exclusively ours for the whole weekend so when guests arrived it was like being in a wonderful holiday complex but knowing everyone there – fabulous!” In homage to Mick’s Irish heritage, they even arranged for an Irish and English flag to fly from the tower!
An opulent purple and gold colour scheme carried through the details of the day. Pots of lavender were scattered throughout the castle, a sprig of lavender was attached to each chair, and small bunches of dried lavender and wheat tied with gold ribbon made for fragrant favours.
Flanked by her bridesmaids – including her eight-year-old daughter Milly who was chief bridesmaid – Wendy’s nerves evaporated as she walked down the aisle in her gorgeous Maggie Sottero gown. Following the civil ceremony, the congregation made their way to the castle’s historic chapel for the couple’s dedication. “This was particularly special as it was led by my father who is a ley preacher,” says Wendy.
A jazz trio played in the grounds as guests enjoyed canapés and bubbly. A wedding breakfast of roast lamb with all the trimmings and chocolate brownies with ice cream was served by one of the day’s best-kept secrets – singing waiters! “We had chosen six classic songs that everyone would know and the shocked, confused faces of our guests soon disappeared and people were then up dancing and singing and having a ball – the atmosphere was incredible!” says Wendy.
The speeches proved a particularly memorable moment as Milly wrote and delivered her own loving dedication to the couple. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” remembers Wendy.
The evening revelry comprised a disco, fun casino and hog roast – and another superb surprise. “Mick and I were up on a balcony and as I threw the bouquet into the crowd another well kept secret started – a spectacular firework display! It was sensational and everybody loved it.”
Looking back on their festivities, which continued on the Sunday, Wendy muses: “It was truly dreamlike. We loved every single moment of it and will cherish the memories forever. I wish we could do all of it all over again!”
Following drinks and canapés on the lawn, the couple cut the three-tier white chocolate and summer berries cheesecake before sitting down to the wedding breakfast of crab salad and fillet of beef. A traditional fruitcake – made by Rachel’s mother – was served later in the evening.
Despite nerves, the couple’s dance routine to Michael Bublé’s ‘Just Haven’t Met You Yet’ went down a treat, and live band ‘Jive Jacks’ ensured the dance floor was grooving into the early hours. A firework display made a magnificent finale to the day.
Bickleigh Castle, Tiverton
Maggie Sottero from Pirouette
Westcountry Wedding Flowers
© copyright WED Magazine 2012