By Susan Young
When I first visited Cornhill Castle in Biggar, just after Manorview Hotel & Leisure Group bought it, I thought the location was great and obviously, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the company put its own stamp on the building.
Manorview have a reputation for taking over tired, old buildings, and giving them a new lease of life. But Cornhill Castle was a different type of project as the building was already in excellent condition, but the Group did want to invest and enhance what was already there.
Roll on ten months and they have done exactly that. The first phase of the hotel’s £750,000 redevelopment has just been completed.
Today the décor of the former function suite and its adjoining conservatory, which had been added on to the hotel in 2008, is much more in-keeping with the hotel’s ‘castle’ credentials. Formerly, although large, the function suite didn’t have any original features, and although the décor was fine, it was a little dated. But the main issue for Manorview was the fact that it didn’t really fit in with the original ‘castle’ building.
Today, the function suite now feels like it is part of the Castle offering and it also has a new name the ‘Grand Ballroom’ and it is just that, grand!
David Tracey, Manorview’s Operations Manager explains, “Our brief to the designers was to help us create a wedding suite befitting of the hotel’s Castle status and make it feel part of the building.”
Despite the quality refurbishment of the new Grand Ballroom, I was surprised to hear the work had only taken four-weeks. But as Michael Simmons of Space I.D. explained, “It was a quick turnaround but that was made possible by the planning that went into it. And we did Computer Generated Images (CDI) which showed the Manorview team exactly what the room would look like. We also put all our orders in before Christmas to ensure delivery and the contractors Dimension even came back from their Christmas break early in order to get started. Of course, the fact that the first wedding of the year was planned for the beginning of February probably helped focus everyone involved.”
Guests now enter the wedding suite through a large reception area which also houses the newly refurbished toilets. All the doors have been replaced and a quality tartanesque-style carpet mixed with a fleur-de-lis design now leads into the conservatory and is continued into the Ballroom – which brings the whole wedding suite together. The conservatory also has new elegant off-white shutters, new colonial style furnishings and fairy lights behind the muslin which drapes the ceiling.
Says David, “The shutters allow us to change the ambience in this room, and the fairy lights really come into their own at night.”
The new bespoke carpet adds to the castle theme as do the wrought iron chandeliers which are currently in the Ballroom, although they are destined for the conservatory once new chandeliers for the Ballroom arrive. (The only item that didn’t arrive on time!)”
The conservatory has a partition wall that can either remain in place or be folded right back. A nice touch here is the fact the partition wall boasts the same wallpaper as the Grand Ballroom.
The existing shape of the original function suite has been retained and so has the ceiling height, but designers Space I.D. have re-designed the space, with the help of contractors Dimension, and created an optical illusion by sloping the perimeter ceiling to trick the eye into believing the ceilings are higher – more in keeping with the proportions that a building of that period would have. Michael explains, “The original room was a good size, but the low ceiling gave it a ‘letterbox’ appearance. We solved this by sloping the ceiling and by painting the walls a dark colour and keeping the ceiling light.”
They also added intricate cornice and period mouldings on the ceiling, and a dado rail at waist height which completes the look.
Michael comments, “It was extremely difficult to get the moulding right in the time frame allowed because there was only a limited amount of stock. Once it was used there wasn’t anymore. So there was no room for error. Dimension did a great job from the detailed drawings we supplied.”
Another design feature which has been introduced to reinforce the Ballroom’s castle credentials are the faux bookcases which have been used at regular intervals around the walls. They back onto deep blue textured paper – which I was told came from France. The paper has a velvety feel, and looks rich and expensive! It’s also a very nice change from the pastel colours that normally are used in wedding venues.
There is also a stage area situated behind the top table which has a deep blue interior. Bronze curtains frame the stage set which also boasts a very large mirror which adds even more depth to the suite. There are two large castle-window-like mirrors on either site on the back wall, in front of which hang two striking golden chandeliers which have an art-deco look. The other light fittings also stand out particularly the wall lights which are made up of sparkling teardrops of crystal.
The current chandeliers will shortly be moved into the Conservatory area with new chandeliers on order for the Grand Ballroom. But what is also very grand are the two large mirror balls which are located where you would expect to see a ceiling rose! They will no doubt will be used to full effect when the carpet is pulled back and the dance floor revealed. Brides can also be assured that their guests will be able to hear all that is going on. The Grand Ballroom has a state-of-the-art stereo system sourced by SSE Audio, and the speakers have actually been set into the walls, which means they do not detract from the décor.
Despite the designers using deep blue on the walls the room is actually very bright due to the numerous large glass doors on the right-hand side of the Grand Ballroom which lead out onto a wide wooden terrace, which looks onto the extensive castle grounds and its stunning secluded riverside location. The doors, provided by Kemp Construction, are all new and are framed with bronze curtains with tie-backs.
A new addition to the wedding suite is the Bride’s Powder Room which is also at the rear of the suite. Says David, “This has become an amazing selling point. It is a space where brides can disappear to. It boasts its own toilet facilities so the bride doesn’t have to use the public toilets. It also has its own mini-bar which we fill with goodies for the brides and her bridesmaids.
The Grand Ballroom can now accommodate 180 guests, and 250 plus for an evening reception. The hotel also has 12 bedrooms and next on the agenda is the refurbishment of the former manager’s flat, which will add another three bedrooms, and of course the bridal suite. It will be housed in one of the original castle turrets and will be set over three storeys which include a mini spa.
A further phase will include a new disabled room on the ground floor. Anthony Cowley, Manorview Developments Directors explains, “Once we have disabled space on the ground floor we can remove the lift, and this will allow us to restore the lovely staircase which will be a perfect place for wedding photographs.”
There are also plans to convert an existing Grade B listed stable block into 15 bedrooms with an additional courtyard.
Michael comments, “Manorview wanted a wedding suite that had period features and that offered opulence and style. They wanted maximum impact.” Well, that’s exactly what Space I.D and Dimension have achieved. The last word goes to Anthony Cowley, Manorview Developments Director, “In my opinion, this is the nicest function suite that Manorview has ever done. When it’s complete with the grounds, the honeymoon suite and the spa it really will be Manorview’s premier wedding venue. We wanted to create something that complemented the castle and its stunning location and I’m delighted we’ve achieved that with our Grand Ballroom.”
All photos courtesy of Carlo Paloni