As we celebrate 24 years of hosting weddings on Friday 23rd June, we thought this would be the perfect time to take a trip down memory lane to see just how far we have come from the first wedding.
Heaton House Farm has belonged to the family for many generations, and in the 1990s the 6th generation, Mick and Margaret, were overseeing the farm with the help of their daughter Sarah.
Passionate about giving back to the community, the Heaths hosted annual charity concerts for the Midlands Air Ambulance. After the third concert in 1998, one of the guests asked if they could have a marquee-style wedding in the barn.
We had never had a request like it!
But we were eager to help so we set about getting everything prepared to host the first wedding in the barn. The cows were out grazing so we hired everything in to transform the barn into the perfect space for a wedding reception.
Temporary linings were put up, tables and chairs were moved in and Mick prepared his decks for the evening celebrations. The happy couple arrived from church to find the barn completely unrecognisable…
They enjoyed a delicious wedding breakfast, a Ceilidh celebration and partied the night away!
This was the start of plenty more weddings to come! Guests who attended the wedding began asking if they could book the venue and from recommendations alone, we started to get more and more bookings.
In 2002, we decided to get a license to host civil ceremonies at the venue so couples could spend their whole day at Heaton House Farm without having to travel around.
As we were getting more enquiries, we reluctantly took the decision in 2003 to sell the herd of dairy cows to allow us to convert the farm buildings to enhance the facilities for couples. With the money from the sale of the herd, we bought the linings for the barn and built a permanent bar.
The number of bookings was steadily increasing, and the workload became too much for Mick and Margaret to deal with, so they decided to hire their first employee in 2006!
A year later, we decided to construct a bigger barn to create a bespoke dining area and flexible space to use for larger events. We named the space ‘Steele’s Barn’ after Ralph Steele, Mick’s grandad.
2007 was a busy year for us as we also decided to create a stunning landscape garden for couples to enjoy as part of their special day. The Water Gardens is a beautiful space for couples to take a few moments away and capture some amazing photographs.
Everything was running smoothly, we were taking in lots of bookings and hosting many wonderful weddings… then Hurricane Bill hit in 2009.
The hurricane destroyed three cattle buildings and the awning that connected the main barn to the old toilets. We had a lot to sort out, but every cloud has a silver lining…
We set about constructing a beautiful new office space to welcome guests into two more accommodation rooms including the Honeymoon suite and a family room.
It gave us the opportunity to construct a bridal suite, an office and reception area and some luxury toilets which went on to win the Leek and District Civic Society Gold Disc award for ‘Enhancement of the Environment’ in 2011.
In 2010, a stunning Oak Pagoda was added so that we could offer our couples the option to get married outside. It was carefully designed, constructed by local craftsmen and made the perfect addition to the venue!
Since 2000, Margaret had been providing a bed and breakfast service from the Farmhouse. But as the amount and size of weddings began increasing, we had to look at creating a more permanent solution.
Wincle Beer Company had been using the Stableyard building to home their microbrewery since 2008, and in 2012 their business had expanded so they had to relocate.
This could not have come at a better time! We were thrilled that Wincle Beer Company were growing and happy that we had been able to support them. But we were also pleased that we now had a new space to work with.
We converted the Stableyard into eight more rooms and a dedicated kitchen and restaurant which enabled us to offer an even better service to all the guests and employ more staff!
As time goes on, we are continually improving our buildings and adapting the farm to provide the best service we can for all our couples.
For the past couple of years, we have been hosting over 120 weddings annually and we hope that we can continue to host many more weddings for years to come!
We now employ over 50 members of staff, have built brilliant working relationships with our suppliers and have managed to still operate as a working farm.
The past 20 years have been filled with improvements, renovations and many happy memories as we have witnessed hundreds of happy couples tie the knot.
In the next chapter of our journey, we are looking to connect the farm with the venue as we develop our new company – Stable Yard Catering. We are looking to build our brigade of chefs and use our land to grow all the produce for delicious dishes.
We also hope to plant many more trees on the farmland to continue to do our bit for the environment and create habitats for wildlife.
Looking at our venue, we want to continually improve the service we offer to ensure that every year Heaton House Farm continues to exceed expectations.
Here’s to the next 24 years!