About Heaton House Farm
The history of the farm
We can trace our history all the way back to when the farmhouse was built on the hill above the village of Rushton Spencer, still with the original date stone of 1824.
According to the 1851 census, Dr. Robin occupied Heaton House, working as a farmer as well as a consulting surgeon. Local legend has it that by the time villagers climbed the hill to see him about an ailment, they’d either be killed or cured given the strenuous walk! It’s quite possible he threw some parties – perhaps even a wedding celebration – on his land during his time here too.
It was a few years later that the farm was acquired by the present family, with Thomas Tomkinson taking up a position as a tenant farmer here. The Tomkinson family raised a daughter, who went on to marry one of the farm workers, Ralph Steele. The tenancy succession passed to the Steele name, with their son, also Ralph Steele, marrying locally and purchasing the farm himself in 1958.
The second generation Steele’s had one child, a daughter named Eileen Steele. She would marry a local farmer’s son named James Eric Heath, continuing the family owned heritage of the farm under the Heath name.
The farm then went from strength to strength over the decades, with each generation of farmers adding more animals and more diversity to a growing business.
From milking cows to DJ-ing weddings
By the time the 1990’s rolled out, Heaton House Farm was under the ownership of the 6th and present generation of Heath family members Mick & Margaret, with Sarah – the 7th generation – already helping out with anything that needed doing from mucking out pigs and shearing sheep, to taking care of successful herds of dairy and beef cows.
Our family has always loved giving back to the community and have been hosting charity fundraising events on their 164-acre farm since 1994. In 1996, we decided to make use of one of our barns to host a charity concert to raise money for the Midlands Air Ambulance.
As it was such a success, we turned these into annual charity concerts at the farm featuring acts such as The Barron Knights and Showaddywaddy. It was after our third concert in 1998, that we were approached by one of our guests who had family looking for a wedding venue in the area, and wondering if we would host their marquee style wedding in one of our barns.
Of course, we were eager to help, and in 1999 we held the very first wedding at Heaton House Farm. In 2000, we had our second wedding, and we haven’t looked back since!
In addition to farming, Mick had been a mobile DJ for some years and often DJ’d for the weddings we were holding, getting up at 5am to milk the cows and then hitting the DJ decks at 7pm until the late hours.
Transforming the farm buildings
By 2003, we were hosting several weddings a year, so we took the difficult decision to sell the dairy cows. Although it was a sad day to see them go, we still kept the beef herd and sheep and had plenty on our hands to look forward to.
We set about converting our existing barns and outhouses to better accommodate wedding parties and transform the buildings into a luxurious wedding venue. With the money raised from selling the cows, we invested in our own permanent marquee linings for the wedding barn along with all the latest sound and lighting equipment.
With the help of our own craftsmen, stone and oak crafted here on site was used to construct new barns, ready for the next wedding season! We took great pride in all the work we did, and even our venue toilets won an award for their outstanding quality!
In 2007, we added Steele’s Barn to our site, named after Sarah’s Great-Grandad, Ralph Steele. We are passionate about our heritage so to help tell the story; we have named the barns and the bedrooms that were to follow, to remind us of the history of our family and farm.
We’d already converted an area into two accommodation rooms in 2000, and we continued to tackle each building one by one in the coming years. In 2014, we added our final 2 rooms and completed a full overhaul of our buildings to allow step-free disabled access from the wedding venue to over half of our luxury guest rooms.
Over the decades, our buildings have seen many changes of use. Our Old Stableyard restaurant for example, formally where Dr Robin kept his horses, was also where the Tomkinson and Steele families milked their Shorthorn cows, the Heath family milked their Friesians, and where the Wincle Beer Company brewed their first pint of Wincle Ale, as it was rented to them as a microbrewery for three and a half years. Now you can enjoy breakfast in there! In 2014 work was completed to convert the old milking parlour into the breakfast room and is now the perfect place for a relaxing breakfast the morning after the wedding, and can host up to 70 guests.
Proud of our countryside
We’re extremely proud of our heritage, our farm and the surrounding countryside. We are still a working farm, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
When they’re not helping to organise a wedding, you might find Margaret in a neighbouring field marking out the locations of ground-nesting birds so the plough can navigate around them. Or you may see Mick tending to his prize-winning Norstaff herd of pedigree Belgian blue cows!
Our sheep feature in some of our weddings too, with our very friendly lambs often coming up to the fence to get in on the photos. We have a few Texel sheep along with speckled Jacobs and Black Nosed Swiss Valais Sheep, the cutest sheep in the world.
Working to a sustainable future
In 2014, we rebuilt our stone-arch building that used to house horses & carts – after Sarah’s Granddad knocked it down in 1970! We’ve kept it in the same, authentic style and named it after another member of the family. The Tomkinson Barn is now home to the powerhouse for our farm; a biomass burner, an array of solar panels and our automatic standby generator.
In an effort to reduce our carbon footprint and be 100% carbon neutral in the very near future, we’ve installed our biomass burner as a sustainable fuel source, along with 250 solar panels on our buildings producing up to 60 KW of electricity. We also recycle as much as possible too; even the fruit from your drinks gets sent to a specialist company and is used for energy production in an anaerobic digester.
We’re championing a field-to-fork approach for our food too. Eggs at breakfast are served from the farm just across the valley, and you’ll find our homemade jams are bursting with fruit from our kitchen garden. All our other ingredients are locally sourced at every opportunity.
Our incredible history makes us who we are as a working family farm that hosts countryside weddings, and we’re always looking to the future for ways we can improve and develop even more.
If you would you like to know more about our history and find out how some of our rooms have come to have their unique names why not pay us a visit? We’d love to show you around.