Tom and I have celebrated our fourth month as husband and wife after we tied the knot last December at Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire. There was certainly someone smiling down on us that day as we had perfect winter weather – sunny, a touch of frost albeit pretty darn chilly. Come Sunday, the area had the worse snow for some years and was covered in an even twelve inches. Much of the wedding party ended up with an extended stay in the Cotswolds. Our wedding will certainly be memorable – for all the right reasons though!
The Weekend Tourist is not really a wedding blog per se, but it is about discovering those touristy things on our doorsteps. Sulgrave Manor fits this bill perfectly. If you went to school around here, it’s highly likely you went there on a trip or perhaps went to one of their Tudor experience days (it’s certainly worth making an effort for that!)
But Sulgrave is a bit unusual as it’s not a National Trust property. It has slightly odd ownership. Its own trust was formerly the American Peace Centenary Committee, set up in 1911 to commemorate the Treaty of Ghent which established peace between Britain and the USA in 1814. So why did the Committee feel moved to purchase and preserve the manor?
When I was asked where we were getting married, my elevator-pitch for Sulgrave Manor was the fact that it once belonged to the ancestors of George Washington, first president of the United States. In fact, it was built by George’s fifth times great-grandfather – Lawrence Washington in mid-1500s. Inadvertently, our wedding had a bit of a Tudor theme, we had our pre-wedding shoot in Stratford upon Avon. Besides as an ex-Stratford Grammar School girl, we were brought up on a diet of all things Shakespeare and Tudor, so it was fitting really.
Now if you’re a wedding guest, who joined in on the mid-evening tour of the house (every wedding should have a tour guide interval, in my personal opinion) reading this blog, you might wish to skim through to the actual pictures…
We actually exchanged our vows in the Great Hall built by Lawrence, who lived here with his wife and eleven children. All our guests cosied up on benches, and we signed the register on an ancient table – all we missed was a quill.
The porch, where our guests dowsed us in confetti, and the Great Chamber, as well as two smaller rooms, were also part of the original building. In the 1700s as living accommodation felt tight a North Wing was added including the Oak Parlour and Great Kitchen, as well as the bedrooms.
The other thing we wanted the wedding to reflect was Tom’s horticultural passions, so as well as having tables named after winter plants, we had golden wellies and planted up spade signposts. Sir Reginald Blomfield re-designed the gardens when the house was open to the public in the 1920s, including the topiary, hedges, orchards and herb garden. It all looked beautiful even in December.
That’s about where the Tudor influences stopped. We sat down to an almighty Italian wedding feast from Sara Chambers and her Squisto catering team.
And no wedding blog post would be complete without a mention of the cake – we had a five-tier M’hencha stack, a traditional Moroccan pastry, supplied by The Cotswold M’hencha Company. Sophie Browne came down personally to arrange our cake (now that’s what I call special treatment). It was delicious and we still have the biggest layer in our freezer (no – I don’t intend on keeping it to the birth of our first child, that could be some way off!)
And all our pictures were taken by Sarah Ellen Bailey, can’t recommend her enough.