Owners put Tudor mansion wedding venue up for sale for £3.9m
- Credit: Supplied/Archant
A couple are selling one of Norfolk's oldest homes and a huge wedding venue, Hales Hall.
Gary Leigh and Helen Johnston are selling the house and barn built by Sir James Hobart in 1478. The current house is a surviving wing and was restored in 1971 by previous owners, Terry and Judy Read who even wrote a book about the project.
The sale includes a 184ft-long Great Barn, with 180 'loophole' windows, a popular wedding venue, and the largest brick-built Tudor barn in England.
Its price-tag makes it one of the most expensive houses, that is not part of a country estate or farm, ever to come on the market in Norfolk. It was outdone by Appletree House in Brancaster, however, which was for sale for £3.95m. It sold for an undisclosed sum last year
Last year the couple offered up the entire Hales Hall estate - which includes nine acres, a moat and various other properties including a gate house and cottage - for holiday rent for £14,000 a week for 26 people or £10,500 for just the hall, for 14.
This was after wedding cancellations because of Covid.
However, Ms Johnston said Covid "had played no part" in their decision to sell. She said: "I can't pretend Covid hasn't been devastating, affecting last year's weddings and a key part of this year but we have a jam-packed calendar for the rest of the year.
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"None of our bookings will be affected by the property going up for sale and we have contacted all our wedding couples to say this. We have absolutely loved Hales Hall and we have grown the business, branded it and given it an identity and loved doing it.
"However, we have lots of exciting projects which we want to pursue and that's the reason for selling."
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The property comes with an illustrious history. There has been a house on the site, near Loddon, for more than 1,000 years. The Great Barn and hall are the surviving remains of a once great house owned by Sir James Hobart, attorney general to Henry VII.
The Great Barn was restored and reroofed in 1996, serving as a spectacular venue for events and has permission for up to 48 weddings per year.
The property underwent further extensive restoration and refurbishment in around 2014 including a total overhaul of the main 1601 roof, which was retiled with the reinstatement of 13 dormer windows and seven bricked-in windows.
An oak staircase rising to all three floors was installed and between 2017 and 2020 the property has been redecorated throughout. A new roof was completed on the cottage and an electrically-operated front gate added.
Outside are formal gardens including an avenue of beech trees, an orchard, meadow and parking.
Natalie Howlett-Clarke, joint head of residential sales at Savills in Norwich, said: “Hales Hall is a magnificent property in the most magical of settings. A picturesque and historic Grade I-listed Tudor country house, if offers great flexibility – whether enjoyed as a home or as somewhere to run as a business and derive income from.”
Pre Covid, the owners hosted about 30 weddings a year, at around £8,000 per wedding, excluding accommodation rental.
For the 2021 calendar year, gross income generated from the property is running in excess of £500,000, the agent stated.
History of Hales Hall
It was once the seat of the Hobart family, including Sir James Hobart , who became attorney-general to King Henry VII in 1485. A descendant of the same family would later build Blickling Hall.
The estate was acquired from Sir Roger de Hales, whose daughter married the Duke of Norfolk. Sir James created a unique triple-moated complex with defensive walls and a massive hall, barn with windows to defend it, a gatehouse and cottages.
When the Reads bought it centuries later, in 1971, it had fallen into disrepair and they restored it over 30 years. They won an award for their work which is detailed in a book they wrote called Hales Hall in Loddon: The Restoration and Story of a Once Great Norfolk House.
In 2017, the new owners, who can trace their ancestors back to Norfolk to the time Hales Hall was built, bought it and have continued work to preserve and breathe new life into the property treasure.