Renovation on a stately scale

Heather Large meets the owner of Ellerton Hall, near Newport, who has transformed the manor house into a luxury holiday destination.

When the opportunity arose for John and Lucy Gough to buy 19th century manor house Ellerton Hall, it was too good to pass up.

Having long admired the property, near Newport, they jumped at the chance to give it a new lease of life as a luxury holiday destination. They embarked on a two-year project to thoughtfully renovate the whole house to cater for large family celebrations and holidays while respecting its history and character. “It’s such a beautiful property and it’s a hidden gem because you can’t see it from the road,” says John, whose family has been linked with Ellerton Hall all his life. “My grandfather, George, came to Ellerton in the 1930s from Cambridgeshire to take on the tenancy of Ellerton Grange, one of the five farms on the estate. Ellerton Hall was the main house on the estate and was owned by the Lawrence family at the time,” explains John. “My grandfather, and later my father, Frank, used to come up to the ‘big house’ to pay the rents at the back door.” In the 1960s, George and his sons, Frank and Peter, were able to purchase the freehold of Ellerton Grange when the estate was split up and sold. A new lease of life was given to Ellerton Hall in the late 1960s when the house was acquired by Tony Burgess MBE, who began an extensive renovation project. The Burgess family moved into the house – which had been built in 1836 – in 1970, and spent 50 happy years in the much-loved home. After Tony sadly passed away in 2020, John and his wife, Lucy, a GP, who live at Ellerton Grange, bought the house, reuniting both under the same ownership.It is now the centre of a 460-acre estate concentrating on food production, property rentals and countryside stewardship. Purchasing Ellerton Hall led to a memorable moment for John as he was able to give his 95-year-old father a tour of the property for the first time. “My father had never been to the house through the front door. It was a very special moment to bring him up the from driveway and to take him through the front door of the house,” he explains. The Covid-19 lockdown gave John and Lucy, along with their children George and Abbie, an ideal opportunity to brainstorm ideas for the property. “It was a great project to have during Covid because we had both children home. George is in his second year of university studying real estate and Abbie is working in the fashion industry in London. They both have skills that are really relevant. “We were locked in at home so we would sit around the dining table on an evening with a bottle of wine and come up with a business plan,” he explains. Despite their love for Ellerton Hall, they had already dismissed the idea of moving into the house and making it their home. Instead they decided to create a luxury holiday rental business and the whole house would be let on a self-catering basis. Work started in January 2021 on a comprehensive renovation to bring the house up to the high standard that a luxury hospitality business will require. “We had only been in our current house for five years and that had also been a two-year renovation project so we were in no hurry to move out. “But that experience gave us the confidence to renovate the hall,” says John. The couple employed project manager Mike Speed to oversee the building work and their good friend and interior designer, Katie Briggs of ‘Keeping it Home’ worked with Lucy to furnish the house in a way that blended the period character of the house with a fresh, modern style. “It was a dream team. All the tradespeople working on the project really put their hearts into it and were really conscientious,” says John. “They really put their hearts into it and we all worked tremendously well together.”The renovation work included fitting an entire new roof and repairs to the chimneys. “The roof structure and timbers were sound but we needed to do quite a lot of repair work on the chimneys so we decided as we needed to put scaffolding up, to re-roof at same time. “It was a big project but fortunately there were no unseen horrors which normally there can be. The chimneys had quite a lot of work done on them. The craftsmanship was outstanding, but sadly you need binoculars to see it,” explains John. “There was also a complete electrical rewire and a new heating system and consequently we had to completely redecorate after this work was completed.” While styling the house, the team made use of some of the existing furniture and soft furnishings. “Katie and Lucy were able to upcycle some of the original curtains. They’ve been cleaned and used to dress the different rooms. The inspiration for the colours in some of the rooms came from the original curtains,” explains John. After a few trial runs with family and friends, John and Lucy opened the main house to paying guests earlier this year. As well as holidays, the house can also be rented for corporate events. There is accommodation for up to 12 guests including six luxurious en-suite double bedrooms, a morning room, a large family kitchen, a drawing room and a dining room complete with a 26ft long table. There is also a high tech cinema room in the basement. “This was quite an investment but it’s a real asset to the house,” says John. Guests can also enjoy the private gardens, south terrace, hot tub and tennis court.Plans are also in place to restore another building over the next few years which will increase the accommodation by three bedrooms. John says he has many favourite places in the main house, including the drawing room, the morning room and the staircase.He is delighted with what the team has achieved during the renovation work and is looking forward to welcoming guests over the coming months. “It definitely exceeded expectations. I’m very proud of all of the work that the team put into it. It has been very rewarding,” says John. “The house is perfect for a large family get-together, particularly where a large family have travelled from different corners of the country to spend a weekend or week together for a special occasion. “It’s a house made for entertaining, it’s such a beautiful, peaceful place. We want our guests to enjoy it as much as we do and make special memories here.” 

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