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The history of the North Wing – Combermere Abbey’s boutique accommodation

Estate – 22.09.17

It’s back to school season, so we thought we’d share a history lesson on the newly-restored North Wing at Combermere Abbey – one of Cheshire’s preeminent historic buildings with almost 900 hundred years of habitation. Combermere Abbey is soaked in history and dates as far back as 1133 A.D with the creation of the monastery. It’s certainly been on quite a journey from then to the luxury B&B and wedding venue that it is today.

In 1827, Sir Stapleton Cotton was made Viscount Combermere – between 1814 and 1821 he decided to Gothicise the Abbey, copying the fashionable style of the period by covering the Tudor structure with castellations and pointed windows surrounding the arches. Here, the glorious North Wing was unveiled as part of this ambitious scheme to update the original manor house. After Viscount Combermere achieved his dream of building a Gothic home, it was only to be enjoyed by his family for two more generations, when they were forced to sell the Abbey. In 1919, Combermere was bought by Sir Kenneth Crossley – founder of Crossley Cars of Manchester, one of which you may have seen used at Combermere for our brides!

After Sir Kenneth’s death in the mid-1950s, sadly the North Wing was no longer used by the family, and it began to show serious signs of disrepair. Sir Kenneth’s granddaughter Penelope Callander (later Lady Lindsay) inherited the estate, before it was passed to its current owner, Sarah Callander Beckett, in 1992. Upon her inheritance of the Abbey, Sarah made it her mission to resurrect the North Wing.

During an interview with BBC Radio Stoke in 2016, Sarah described the North Wing as ‘completely derelict’. As the North Wing was so unstable at the time, there were fears that it would affect the rest of the Abbey, therefore it was even more important to restore it. It’s one of a few private Grade I listed buildings and was on the At Risk Register, and so, with the help of an Enabling Development Scheme which took 20 years to complete, £2 million was raised to undertake its restoration.

The project began in January 2014 where the Gothic cladding was stripped away, exposing the original Medieval/Tudor frame – we couldn’t begin to imagine the stories the walls could tell us! Restoring the North Wing was a true window into the past: for example, during our work on it, we found a shoe and horseshoe which had been concealed in the Abbey for good luck during building work in the late 18th century. Without this incredible project, we would never have discovered an 18th-century map of the estate which certainly gave us our own history lesson!

In 2015, Edward Bulmer joined the design team and introduced his eco-friendly breathable ‘pots of paint’, and also leading the decoration team was Nina Campbell, an interior decorator whose client list is rather impressive – she counts the Duke and Duchess of York as clients! It took many skilled craftsmen and help from specialist restoration companies to breathe life back into the North Wing; the roof was rebuilt as well as the chimney and the Gothic exterior was reinstated.

We were so lucky to have such a fantastic restoration team help us turn the North Wing into a beautiful self-contained ‘Downton Abbey’ wing where newlywed couples can spend their wedding night together. But don’t think it’s only newlyweds who can enjoy the history and beauty of the North Wing – it can also be booked as a luxurious boutique B&B complete with house manager Stephan to look after you.

Today, the North Wing boasts a striking ground floor living space, complete with comfortable sofas and an antique writing desk, as well as a dining room with a bespoke and discreet kitchen. Guests can stay in either the stately Salamanca or charming Bhurtpore bedrooms.

The finishing touch? You can enjoy the bespoke Wellington drinks and nibbles package after a beautiful day exploring the surrounding countryside. You can even pre-order it before arriving at Combermere so it’ll be ready and waiting for you.

If you’d like to immerse yourself in the rich history of the North Wing, get in touch with our team!