At home at the hall
PUBLISHED: 09:11 10 March 2014
The beautiful gardens at Hoveton Hall have delighted visitors for a long time, but imagine staying at the Regency hall, home to the Buxton family, in the heart of this 620-acre Broadland estate.
Launching this month, for the first time visitors will be able to stay at Hoveton Hall in luxury bed and breakfast rooms within the home of Harry and Rachel Buxton, who took over the running of the estate in the autumn after his parents decided to hand over to the next generation. For Harry it was a return to the fascinating Humphrey Repton-designed, 51-roomed hall where he spent his youth.
“It is just like walking into my old home because I grew up here,” he says. Rachel though, who met her husband when they were neighbours at university in Cheltenham, comments: “I’ve known Harry for 17 years and knew the house, but it wasn’t my home, so moving in and making changes has been lovely but a little bit scary.
“Our baby arrived in August and we moved in September, so we rather hit the ground running. This is a lovely house to live in and we see ourselves as custodians.”
But, as many owners of halls and manor houses will testify, the upkeep of such fascinating old buildings is an expensive and relentless task. And so, the couple decided to launch the bed and breakfast concept, with the en-suite South West Room and the two-bedroomed en-suite Buxton Suite, as well as the self-catering annexe in the East Wing that sleeps six and is available through Norfolk Country Cottages.
The Buxtons also hire the grounds for wedding receptions, a delightful choice with many different locations available for photos, gatherings and a marquee. “It is such a beautiful backdrop to a wedding with so many lovely possibilities - really the limit is their imagination and budget,” says Rachel, adding: “We are both very customer focused.” Most recently she worked for Norfolk County Council and East Anglian Air Ambulance, while Harry’s experience is in event and estate management.
Three years ago, they took on the management of the impressive gardens and the farm on the estate, near Wroxham. The 12-acre gardens and tea rooms will be open on just 31 days this year, from 15 May to 11 June and for special events such as an Easter treasure hunt, as the Buxtons look to develop the bed and breakfast and wedding ventures.
Part of the charm of the hall is that it is very much a home too. Although the rooms are decorated beautifully and there are many touches that hark back to its heritage (the servants’ bells are still in the hallway), this is very much a home too. The Buxtons have four children, Samuel, who is eight, William, six, Charlotte, aged four, and baby Juliet - plus two Labradors and a Jack Russell.
“It is a warm, welcoming house and although the bed and breakfast will be luxurious and beautiful, we don’t want that to put off people - we would love to have families to stay and people to enjoy this lovely place.”
Bed and breakfast is £120 per room, per night with a minimum of two nights at the weekend. A special Valentine’s offer is £400 for two nights including champagne, flowers, chocolates and afternoon tea in the drawing room.
Hoveton Hall, Hoveton, NR12 8RJ; 01603 784297; www.hovetonhallestate.com
History of the hall
Built between 1809 and 1812 to a design by Humphrey Repton for the Burroughes family. His only son didn’t marry or have an heir, so in the 1870s the hall was sold to the Preston family, large landowners in east Norfolk and relatives of the Buxtons, who had the estate until 1908. The first Buxtons at the hall were Geoffrey and May, who landscaped the picturesque water gardens. Harry’s parents, Andrew and Barbara Buxton who now live nearby, restored and developed the gardens and opened them to the public in 1992.