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.
The owners of an historic Devon castle have celebrated ten years in residence – with a Tudor Ball attended by Downton Abbey creator Lord Julian Fellowes.
Guests, many 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.
Lord Fellowes introduced guest of honour Lady Jacqueline Killearn, a relative of the Hays, who – he said – was responsible for him and his wife of 23 years, Lady Emma first meeting.
He told more than 80 guests packed into the magnificent 15th century hall that Lady Killearn, now aged 104, threw a London party to which both he and the woman who was to become his wife were invited.
“I experienced the only psychic moment of my life,” he said. “I saw her across the room and I knew in an instance, we would be married.”
Weddings were a theme of the evening with a number of couples who have married at Bickleigh Castle, near Tiverton, over the past ten years among the guests.
A traditional Tudor banquet, starting with soup served in bowls made from bread, fishcakes, game pasties and pigeon pie were served by local “wenches” dressed in traditional costume.
A raffle and auction raised £3,000 for the Children’s Hospice South West, which runs Little Bridge House in North Devon and Charlton Farm, near Bristol.
Castle owner Sarah Hay revealed that representatives from a location scouting company had attended the event and were considering the castle for filming a sequel to the BBC drama The White Queen, which is expected to tell the story of the Queen’s daughter, the White Princess.
She said: “There is a strong connection between Bickleigh and the White Princess, who lived here for a time. The film company are particularly interested in the castle chapel which dates from the 11th century and is one of the oldest complete buildings in Devon.”
The evening ended with a firework display on the lawns between the castle and the river Exe.
Some comments from the weekend:
Mr Lachlan Mackinnon - Film Director Starz Media
Lord Julian Fellowes.
Lady Emma Fellowes
Mrs Barbara Fielding
This weekend the Bickleigh Castle Estate was kept very busy with a spectacular wedding. Guests from all over the world arrived on Friday afternoon to be greeted with teas, coffees and locally prepared cakes! This was then followed by an evening meal for a small number of the guests catered for by our in-house chef.
On the morning of the wedding, preparations were underway, with make-up and hair products all over the Bride’s room, various musical tastes filling the accommodation and a lot of chatter and excitement for the day ahead of them. The groom and his group of friends, took to the Devon County Valleys with a spot of clay pigeon shooting, this left them returning with just enough time to get ready for the Groom to greet his bride.
The ceremony from the weekend was taken by the Groom’s father and was a moving and loving affair that reflected the relationship of this wonderful couple. Guests were then escorted by Nigel, the toastmaster, in his grand red uniform, to our unique little chapel for a blessing.
After the blessing guests were met by the staff here at the Castle with a Devon cream tea served on the lawn beside the River Exe outside the chapel. Guests were then served home brewed mulled apple juice and apple cider, made by the Groom’s mother. A treasure hunt involving ducks in trees, debates over what should have come first cream or jam on our Devon cream teas and history talks of the Castle were the topic of conversation amongst our international guests of the weekend. Our guests were feeling very lucky, whilst the rest of England was experiencing down pours, we had beautiful sunlight for the entirety of the canapé reception on our chapel lawn.
After copious photographs around the grounds, the Bride and Groom were ready for their wedding breakfast meal, featuring antipasti sharer starters and succulent joints of pork with all the trimmings for the main course –starring an interesting game involving chefs and aprons… in a family buffet style main course.
With stomachs full to the rim and speeches having taken place, guests were ready to relocate to the bar and dancing shoes were exchanged ready to dance the night away in our Orangery and bar area.
Some comments from the weekend:
(Bride and Groom)
Here at Bickleigh Castle we had a quieter weekend than normal, after a recent burst of busy weekends, including: weddings of all sizes, each one individually designed to create a perfect day for the Bride and Groom; a Land Rover experience weekend, that resulted in a court yard full of very muddy vehicles but with all participants sporting huge grins from the excitement that the weekend held; a summer fayre and a tango weekend. This weekend was a good chance to give everyone a chance to catch up on all of the events that have taken place at the Bickleigh Castle Estate this summer and start preparations for the upcoming wedding this weekend.
This weekend the castle accommodation was full with our Bed and Breakfast guests, history talks were in full swing and breakfasts were eagerly consumed leaving guests ready to explore the spectacular Devon countryside.
The following comments were made from some guests of the weekend:
Elsewhere, the staff were kept busy with meetings about future events including christmas parties which we have coming up very soon, weddings and various Christmas related events.
We are also holding an open day for Brides and Grooms on Sunday 27th October 2013. You will have the chance to have a tour of the Castle and join us in having a Devon Cream Tea. Please call us to let us know if you are planning on coming and we can discuss further details at the event regarding your wedding.