THE HISTORY OF
"A house of unusual quality and interest for its size"....so say Historic England (formerly English Heritage), who gave Gorcott Hall a Grade II* listing in February 1967. Less than 6% of all listed buildings in England are Grade II*, which tells you just how special Gorcott Hall is.
Thought to have been constructed to replace a home existing on the same site in the 140os, Gorcott Hall was built by Thomas Yardley as a home for his family, where they stayed until the mid 1600s. Back then, the nearby towns and cities of Birmingham, Redditch and Solihull barely made the map, so the nearest big settlements would have been Stratford upon Avon, Alcester and Henley in Arden. Of course, the later agricultural buildings which make for a fabulous wedding venue would not have existed. Gorcott Hall would have sat in hundreds of acres of woodland. Luckily, 500 years later, we're protected by woodland and greenbelt on all sides, although most of the Forest of Arden has long since given way to the Industrial Revolution.
The front gardens and entrance, 1930's
Gorcott, complete with washing line (!), 1938
THE CHAMBERS FAMILY
In 1662, the Chambers family purchased Gorcott Hall, and this family passed Gorcott down through the generations until 1854. One of our earliest finds when the renovation began in 2004 was a cast iron fireback dated 1670, bearing the initials "EC". Some research at Stratford records office revealed that a certain Edmund Chambers was born that very year. Some painstaking scrubbing restored this to its former glory, and it now sits behind the stunning fireplace in the Dining Hall.
In the early 19th Century (our oldest barn dates to 1803), Gorcott Hall became a working farm. There was a granary (in which the sumptuous Gown Suite is now housed), a stabling block (your divine Honeymoon Suite), and a drying barn (home to the aptly named Pheasant Room). The Wedding Barn itself once saw use as a milking shed, although in more recent times it was used for storage of agricultural machinery.
THE VICTORIAN ERA
In 1854, the entire estate fell under the ownership of Sir William Jaffray, who tenanted Gorcott Hall out as a working farm. For the majority of his ownership, the tenants were the Yeomans family. We initially thought we'd thrown the first wedding here back in 2009, but it turns out that the Yeomans family hosted their own nuptials here back in 1939! Vivienne Yeomans married Bill Jeffrey, the lucky couple receiving Daisy Bell, a sturdy horse, as a wedding gift! Vivienne's granddaughter Maria has recently been back to Gorcott Hall to work as a makeup artist, and we are forever in her debt for donating some of the wonderful archive documents and photographs you see here.
Gorcott could've been an antiques gallery!
Gorcott Hall up for sale in 1898 - there were 70 Acres of land attached in those days. We bought it with less than 5, although Gorcott now has 15 Acres of gardens and woodland.
Redditch folk of a certain age will remember Spencer's as a record and toy shop. In 1920 Mr. Yeomans purchased silver cigarette holders as gifts for a charity event.
Gorcott could've been an antiques gallery!
We'll be forever grateful to Maria, the Yeomans family and their descendants, who called Gorcott their family home for much of the 20th Century.Their kindness and generosity in donating many of the documents you see here is immense. Here's a couple of Estate Agent's brochures from 1968 and 1998 (Click to open)
The most recent owner before ourselves was Mr. Phil Kitchen, a popular character from nearby Redditch. By all accounts a delightful man, he won £1.8m on the National Lottery in the late 1990s. A master carpenter by trade, he purchased Gorcott Hall in August 2000 (see the John Shepherd brochure above), with every intention of restoring it to its former glory. In the meantime he moved into a fine home in nearby Barnt Green, popular with Birmingham's nouveau riche. Sadly, Mr. Kitchen passed away in 2001 without him having had the chance to make any headway into Gorcott's restoration.
Over the next three or four years, Gorcott's decline was almost unstoppable. Nature tried to reclaim it, vandals did their utmost to destroy it, and neglect had made it completely uninhabitable.
Placed on the Buildings at Risk register by English Heritage, this beautiful old pile was in grave danger of disappearing forever. When the home eventually came to auction in September 2004, the roof of the main house had completely rotted away. Every ancient window broken and boarded up. Panelling dating back to the reign of Henry VIII used as firewood by vandals. Graffiti adorned the walls where fine art once hung. Heartbreakingly sad.
THE 21st CENTURY
Enter our very own whirling dervish, someone with the vision, energy, determination and (most importantly of all) the desire to save this wonderful piece of history, Allie Foxon.
She won't like me saying this, but Allie is the most humble person, from even humbler beginnings. Completely self made, she poured every penny she had (and more) into the restoration of Gorcott Hall. A single mum at the time, she just wanted to save Gorcott. She needed help and she got heaps of it from the experienced timber framed building restorers Anna and Paul Harvey. Maybe they could do enough between them to make it habitable, spruce up a couple of rooms and then move it on. Trouble is, you get a bit attached to bricks and mortar (and 500 year old oak beams) when you've poured your heart and soul into something as major as this. So, the restoration went on. And on. And on. And Allie wanted to share this very special place.
Not to show off, you understand, but to share.
Allie & Mark in their "happy place" - at the bar!
All sorts of ways to share this hidden gem were explored; you could now be browsing the website of an outward bound centre, or a conferencing facility, or maybe even a children's home! But, at a launch party in 2009, held to celebrate the completion of the restoration, Allie was asked by a friend if she could hold her wedding here. Why not? What could possibly go wrong? Well, that particular wedding was memorable for many reasons, some good, some not so good (we learned quickly!) But Gorcott had found its 'thing'.
We were once told that Gorcott was built by someone who loved to entertain (the aforementioned Mr. Yardley), and that he would be proud of what has been achieved here.
We'll take that.
Alongside Mark and the truly brilliant Donna, Allie's daughter Sophie runs things on a day to day basis, and she works tirelessly delivering fabulous weddings. As an 8 year old she lived in a caravan on the courtyard while Gorcott was made habitable. So she, more than anybody, appreciates what a transformation has taken place here. Mark is Allie's partner and he had the good sense to wait until all the really hard work was done before moving in. He loves nothing more than seeing Gorcott come to life when we host another fantastic wedding.
The family, the team and Gorcott Hall love to entertain. A wedding is a very special occasion, and this is a very special place to be when it's full of beautiful, happy people. We love doing it, and Gorcott Hall loves doing it as well. This 500 year old thing of beauty is the most important member of Team Gorcott, bar none.
We'd love you to come and be part of our history.
MW - July 2023