Building a legacy 

November 1, 2016

Briefly, what is the history of Wynyard Hall? 

Records show that there was a manor house at Wynyard around the 12th century. From that time it was owned by various important Durham families. The most notable were the Vane Tempests. Henry Vane Tempest bought the hall in 1780 and when he died, his daughter, Frances Anne, inherited the property. She married Charles Stewart, who became the Marquess of Londonderry. The Londonderry family developed and built the house as you see it today, which cost around £150,000 and took 20 years to complete. The Londonderrys were known for entertaining on a grand scale and hosting prime ministers, royalty, and even the Duke of Wellington.

We can now add the Hall family to the list of illustrious families at Wynyard. How did you become involved in the estate? 

My parents bought the estate from the Ninth Marquess of Londonderry in 1987 with the aim of creating a large private estate – similar to the gated communities they had been inspired by after a trip to America. Wynyard Hall itself was in disrepair and my parents invested £8 million in its first major refurbishment. The Hall was then used as headquarters for our family property business, Cameron Hall Developments, until we acquired NUFC, in 1992 – 1997. Our family had always realized that old buildings such as Wynyard Hall need an economic use to maintain them and I felt the private Chapel and State Rooms were crying out to be used again as a stunning wedding venue and country house hotel.

You led this project. How did it start and how has Wynyard Hall developed since then? 

My mother helped me with the interior design and the refurbishment and I initially recruited a general manager, two wedding events coordinators and a chef. The weddings were a huge success from the start and from there, we developed the bedrooms, the restaurant, the bars, the library and the state rooms. We then converted the old boat house into a spa and the four cottages into extra accommodation. We now have well over 200 members of staff.

What lessons have you learnt from your father and do you feel you have adopted his leadership style? 

My father has always taught me to stay ahead of the competition, be creative, visit exhibitions, travel, see other places and make new contacts. My mother has always said to make sure you keep a sense of humour!

I’d like to think that I have some of the same leadership qualities as my father, and my parents continue to be a huge influence on everything we do at Wynyard Hall.

Recent changes to the estate have focused on the gardens. Tell us more. 

When the hotel was complete, it seemed like a natural progression to start restoring the gardens and parkland. Phase one saw the construction of The Grand Marquee in the grounds. It’s an amazing space that can seat up to 650 people. I really felt there was a gap in the market for a facility like this in the Tees Valley and it’s since been used for conferences, events, large weddings and fairs.

Phase two then saw the construction of the visitor centre and the rose garden, which my father had always wanted at Wynyard. We used Alistair Baldwin for the garden design, while I developed the visitor centre, farm shop and café. The gardens and visitor centre have been open for a year and have exceeded expectations of visitor numbers.

In September, we completed the edible garden and The Glasshouse. The garden supplies the kitchens at the hotel and The Glasshouse houses a farm shop and a space for our calendar of workshops, which includes floral and cooking classes, children’s clubs and yoga, among other things. This Christmas, we’re also planning to transform the gardens into a winter wonderland and The Glasshouse will become a Christmas barn with gifts, wreath making and other festive crafts.

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So what’s next? 

Wynyard Hall is surrounded by some stunning parkland and we’ve started work on opening it up to the public, with walkways and picnic areas. We’ve been restoring all of the historical follies, monuments and temples over the past six months and we’ve just put planning in for a special children’s garden. We’re hoping to have this all ready for next summer.

Sounds as though you’re creating something for the whole community to enjoy… 

When people come to Wynyard Hall, we want them to come for the whole day. You’ll come to see the gardens and browse the farm shop, which is filled with all kinds of seasonally changing artisan produce – from fresh sausages and cheese from local suppliers, to handmade gifts and children’s toys. Then you can relax in the café with some delicious homemade cake and a freshly ground coffee, or perhaps take one of our workshops.

The hotel will continue to host weddings and provide a tranquil retreat for leisure guests. We are also becoming more and more popular with corporate clients, who choose Wynyard for its unique setting, the level of service provided by the team, the beautiful house and gardens and its convenient location.

What do you hope the Hall family’s legacy will be at Wynyard Hall? 

Wynyard Hall is of great historical importance to the North East and I hope our legacy will be that we opened this hidden gem up for everyone and created something for future generations to enjoy.

Wynyard Hall 

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What I’ve learnt: Alison Thain