THE new owner of a mansion house and luxury North Wales wedding venue has launched an appeal to find hidden treasures relating to its long history.
James Ramsbottom, owner of family firm Elle R Leisure which took over Soughton Hall Hotel near Northop, Flintshire, earlier this year, is leading the search for artefacts, photos, documents and stories relating to the history of the spectacular building.
The Grade II* listed former Bishop’s Palace, was built by Edward Conway in 1714, whose family owned the estate for many generations and was later remodelled by Sir Charles Barry who famously went on to redesign the Houses of Parliament.
In 1732, it was sold to Bishop John Wynne who became Bishop of St Asaph in Denbighshire and later Bishop of Bath and Wells.
It was later inherited by a member of the Bankes family – William John – in 1815 and remained with his family for 170 years.
It was during William’s ownership that it was developed into the striking building seen today. He met Sir Charles Barry while travelling and asked him to redesign Soughton Hall to reflect the style of the buildings he had seen on his travels.
James said: “Part of buying this spectacular building is about understanding and respecting its heritage. We have found it fascinating to read into the history of Soughton Hall but we are very keen to find out much more.
“We understand the Soughton Hall we see today was redesigned by Sir Charles Barry who is best known for his redesign of the Houses of Parliament and also famous country houses such as Highclere Castle used in the filming of Downton Abbey.
“It got us thinking about whether Soughton Hall had provided him with some inspiration for these later designs and its importance from an architectural and social standpoint.
“The Hall has been an important focal point for the community for so many years. It has provided employment, hosted important events and still cannot fail to impress you as it comes into view from a long drive. It is this which we would like to start to unlock, explore and celebrate.”
James added: “We would welcome stories, anecdotes, photos, pictures or artefacts which people may have relating to Soughton Hall. Maybe you have an ancestor who once served the Bankes family or who worked here when a famous guest such as Richard Burton stayed. Perhaps you have an old photo of the Hall or some of the people who were employed at Soughton Hall in eras gone by.
“We have been told that one of the main reception rooms on the first floor was once a justice room where local magistrates presided over the misdemeanours of the day. We would be fascinated to find out more about this.
“There may be old deeds or documents relating to Soughton Hall which people know exist or a story or two which have been passed down through the generations which you might be happy to share.
“Whatever it is, we would be really pleased to hear from you so we can start to build a better picture of the previous life of this very important and treasured architectural gem.”
Manchester-based bar, restaurant and leisure experts Elle R Leisure took over Soughton Hall in February.
The company is well-known for its successful Dukes 92 and Albert’s restaurants in Manchester.
Their popular Dukes bar and restaurant has just celebrated its 25th anniversary with a £1m refurbishment and the company also owns a luxury boutique hotel called Woodlands in Leeds which specialises in weddings.
An extensive £150,000 refurbishment programme has already taken place at their newest acquisition to update the main guest areas with a revamp of the library, entrance hall, reception and residents bar. They have also transformed the bridal suite, to include a new dressing room and luxury bathroom and updated some of the other bedrooms.
The 14-bedroom hotel’s permanent marquee has been upgraded with new chandeliers, built-in fairy lights, new carpets and a remodel of the drinks terrace and bar area. Newly married couples will now access the marquee via a new connecting walkway from the hall.
The new owners have also invested in the ancient hall’s Wi-fi to ensure Soughton Hall is brought bang up-to-date with the latest technology.
The main dining area has been moved from the former Stables restaurant next to the building to the hall’s impressive first floor rooms. The hall’s original stable block will in future be used for exclusive events and parties when a separate space is required.
James added: “We see ourselves as custodians of Soughton Hall and we have developed successful wedding venues before so we are confident that this fabulous building has the expertise behind it that it deserves.
“The work we have already carried out is the start of a programme of refurbishment we intend to roll out through all the bedrooms at the Hall.
“One of the reasons we have launched this appeal is because we would also like to display photos, pictures and items to do with the history of the building as part of the work we are doing to breathe new life into Soughton Hall.”
Do you have photos, artefacts, stories, memories or documents relating to Soughton Hall? Please contact Claire Garner on 01244 680385 or firstname.lastname@example.org