It was the Spring of 2016 and Sam, our new farrier, was attempting to lift the foot of our rescue donkey, Paris. Hating having his feet touched, he attempted to give Sam the slip and proceeded in throwing me face down into the gravel before cantering off down the field - ears forward -looking very rather smug.
Having only just met Sam, I wrongly thought he was a man of few words; what had started off as an awkward conversation quickly moved into a chatty one as he helped me drag a very stubborn donkey back up the field complete with a new set of playground knees for his owner.
At that time I was running The Pilgrims Rest as a cafe but had been itching to turn it into a wedding venue for some time. As we chatted, Sam mentioned that his girlfriend was looking to leave her job (and obligatory neck tie) in the events team of a 5* hotel. Sam headed home and announced to a bemused Amy that had found her a new job. Two days later she knocked on our front door; I was greeted by a huge smile and we hit it off straight away.
Amy was amazing from day one. In the early days she and I pulled out the old commercial kitchen, painted walls and scrubbed floors. I bought a book called “Building a website for idiots” - built one and launched the business. We had no wedding licence then, no chairs, let alone a mirror in the dressing room and looking back it is quite extraordinary we had any bookings at all!
But faith in our new venue came in the form of Zoya and Damien who loved it and booked nonetheless. By the time they married we had a wedding licence, chairs and a large dressing room mirror. Ever since we have kept improving, and adding to, the venue with seasonal looks, pea-lights galore and a second dressing room. It is funny looking back at old photographs and seeing how far we have come.
Initially, Amy would run the wedding days on her own - even cleaning the loos the following day (what was I thinking?). Our couples loved her and, as it turned out, so did Sam who finally proposed to his childhood sweetheart of 13 years on their favourite beach in Cornwall. Now happily married, Amy is on maternity leave with their new addition, the gorgeous little Jack who was born straight into lockdown. Not quite the maternity leave she was planning at all but we are all looking forward to having her back in January - 2021 is certainly going to be a busy year.
It was in early 2018 that Amy and I realised we needed another team member. We advertised, read though heaps of C.V’s and, although highly qualified and experienced, none of them felt right. One of our caterers mentioned he had met another Amy who he thought we would like. A phone call later, Amy-Lou bounced down the path to The Pilgrims Rest, laughed at my jokes (always a winner for me) and Amy and I knew we had found our girl - she was the perfect fit.
Amy-Lou (or Little Amy as I call her) is a self confessed geek and loves a spreadsheet almost as much as she loves weddings. This little power house has been incredible during the last few months working with couples during a very difficult time and I am eternally grateful for everything she has done. Recently she was bemoaning the fact she needed to take some holiday. “It’s very annoying”, she said, “It just gets in the way”. But to the West Country she finally headed with her own Sam for a staycation and is now back after a well earned break.
Talking of the West Country, another “A”, in the form of Anita, packed up her bags in Devon last year and moved to Battle, settling just across the road from The Pilgrims Rest. Her neighbour Tres, who makes the best coffee in Battle, brought her in one day to meet her new neighbours and is now another member of our team. Anita sprinkles her fairy dust wherever she goes keeping The Pilgrims Rest shining like a new pin; fluffing the furs; polishing the windows; even folding the loo paper into little points. She meets and greats and helps on wedding days and we really can’t remember how we managed without her.
Anita brings with her the four legged member of our team - Amber - her beautiful little dog. With a coat like velvet and a permanently wagging tail , Amber keeps Anita company while she dead heads the roses in the garden and sweeps up confetti.
We certainly have created an “A” team in more ways than one. Our most recent member of the team’s name doesn’t begin with an A but has the right vowel so we think it counts. Waverley joined our team a few weeks before the world turned upside down. As it turns out, she met her fiancé Luke right outside The Pilgrims Rest a few years ago. Back in the office once again after lockdown, she announced that they had finally decided to tie the knot and were nipping down to the registry office to say their “I do’s”.
Not knowing us especially well, being a team newbie, Waverley asked if they could take a few happy snaps outside The Pilgrims Rest in her dress. Well, we couldn’t idly stand by and have one of our team left out in the garden, so we suggested they made a morning of it getting ready in The Bryant and Fitzherbert dressing rooms. As a surprise wedding present, we asked the lovely Sarah Williams to come and capture their morning, and capture it she did. There were lots of tears (joyful ones) and smiles (huge ones) with both of them looking fabulous and very, very happy.
Choosing a venue is as much about the team behind the scenes as the venue itself. As you will see from our reviews the Pilgrims Rest team goes above and beyond to ensure your day goes without a hitch. It might be small, but it really is a perfectly formed “A” team.
If you would like receive more information about The Pilgrims Rest or arrange a personal video tour then please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07552873448 .
Photographer: Sarah Williams Photography and Darren Buss Photography
Over the years I have been to many weddings both great and small, from village halls to local pubs; Claridges to The Savoy. During the last few months I have found myself reflecting on weddings, wondering what makes one imprint on your memory more than the next?
For me, one particular imprinted wedding was that of a great friend who had only invited 16 guests. Having never been to what is now referred to as a Micro Wedding before I was surprised to see so few of us at the church. It wasn’t that they didn’t have many friends - they did, but had decided to only have their very best friends and close family.
I knew the bride had opted to wear a designer suit up the aisle so was amazed when she appeared at the church door. It turned out she had woken the day before the wedding with the realisation that she wanted to look like a traditional bride. Hanging her suit back in the cupboard she hurried off to a local wedding dress hire shop. A few hours later, having tried on every dressing the shop, the owner disappeared upstairs and returned carrying her own wedding dress - a classic 1960’s number covered with enormous daisies, a square neckline and flowing sleeves - complete with a rather strong smell of mothballs.
To put this in context, this was back in the 1990’s and at the time 1960’s wedding dresses were worn to fancy dress parties as a joke. Not wanting to offend, my friend tried it on to find it was a perfect fit. She took it home and hung it out in the sun to air. On the morning of her wedding she picked some wild flowers, popped them in her hair and walked down the aisle looking like a boho bride twenty five years after (and before) it was fashionable; she looked absolutely perfect!
As they say the devil is in the detail and, being a chef, the bride had been very specific about the meal. Food was the order of the day and we sat around a huge table chatting and laughing, with delicious food and excellent wine. It was a truly wonderful day and we all felt incredibly honoured and special to be part of their tiny guest list.
Their wedding was the polar opposite from another we had recently been invited to. The bride’s father was extremely wealthy and nothing was too much for his little girl - evening having a huge lake dug on their property to create the perfect view from the marquee. As the couple left the church we were lined up like little soldiers and given dried rose petals in little baskets to throw. In those days you would normally nip into a newsagent and buy a packet of confetti on your way to the wedding, so we all quickly hid our shop bought ones and stood, throwing the pretty petals over the bride and groom as instructed. As the happy couple settled in their convertible classic car, a little boy, who had been watching us, scooped up a pile of grass cuttings, leaves and twigs and lobbed them right at the bride’s head. There she sat - totally horrified - completely covered in churchyard debris. It was not part of the carefully curated wedding day at all but it was terribly funny.
I don’t remember much else about that particular wedding - what we ate, what the band played, the flowers on the table or even the view of the lake, which just goes to show that the amount of money you spend doesn’t necessarily make a lasting impression. It is only the image of this happy little boy, wanting to be part of the fun, that has stuck with me for decades.
It is safe to say that 2020 has been a year that will not be forgotten in a hurry, but alongside some desperately sad stories there have also been ones of joy. I think we have realised what is important to us having missed our family and close friends above anything else. As a team we have greatly missed hosting weddings at The Pilgrims Rest, so when we receive phone calls from our couples telling us they are tying the knot this year with, or without, government restrictions in place there is a great deal of excitement.
The Pilgrims Rest team we would like to take this opportunity to wish every 2020 couple out there, wherever they choose to marry, the very best of luck on your wedding day. We hope this little blog might help to reassure you all that, when surrounded by your very best people - no matter how few - your wedding day will be one that stays in hearts and memories for a very, very long time.
The Pilgrims Rest has last minute availability for the final months of this year. If you would like to arrange a virtual viewing of the venue or further information, then please contact a member of our team on 07552873448 or email us at email@example.com.
Photography: Georgina Piper Photography
The Pilgrims Rest is 600 years old this year. Rather like a ship we refer to our wonderful building as a “She”. Much more than just bricks and mortar (or in her case, sandstone, lathe and plaster), The Pilgrims Rest has a real soul and, although this might sound strange, it is true; you can literally feel if she is happy or sad - as if she is taking on the spirit of her visitors. This is why weddings bring out the very best in this grand old lady and she comes to life when laughter and happiness floods through her walls.
It is true to say that she has seen more than her fair share of life over the centuries - good and bad. Visitors have come and gone, from the original pilgrims to Battle Abbey in the 15th century, right up to brides and grooms in the 21st. She has hosted gatherings from medieval banquets to 1920’s tea dances with tankards of ale and glasses of champagne happily consumed beneath her eaves.
Her doors have been temporarily closed in the last few months but seeing as she was around during the black plague and Spanish flu I doubt this is for the first time. We are just a small part of her history - a chapter - and in centuries to come another custodian of The Pilgrims Rest may well write about the time when COVID-19 meant she had a little rest for a few months.
During this time her gardens have been tended and she has been fluffed and polished. The time for resting is over and although weddings are not yet taking place, couples are still getting engaged and planning their wedding days. Countless weddings this year have been postponed and, with our 3d virtual tours well under way new bookings for 2021 and 2022 are still coming in. It seems that nothing can stand in the way of true love. As they say, “You can’t keep a good man (or woman) down” which seems particularly true of engaged couples.
So, we are waking up our old lady and re-opening her ancient doors for appointments. Come and see for yourself why The Pilgrims Rest is such a unique venue and become another chapter in her history…
For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07552873448
We all love to have something to look forward to, whether a summer holiday or the perfect wedding day. Whatever the dream, it is the planning of, and the run up to it, that is all part of the fun. In recent weeks, people have seen their holidays cancelled and wedding plans ruined. For couples who have saved for months and even years, they have had to watch their wedding days come and go; the doors to their venues closed, wedding rings still in their boxes and not a trace of confetti blowing in the wind.
Across the country, thousands of weddings have been postponed over the last few months with couples and venues like ours finding new dates to hold weddings. Happily, with a new wedding date planted firmly in the diary, previous disappointment can quickly evaporate and excitement resumes - a new wedding dream shining brightly at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
With a new date can come new ideas - both creative and practical. It is easy to get swept along in the wake of Pinterest weddings so, for those who have nagging doubts about their initial choices, this is their chance to take a step back, carefully reflect and decide what is really important on their day.
Small weddings have always had an appeal for some, but “Micro” weddings are now gaining increasing popularity. Lockdown has made couples realise whom they have missed and are now radically cutting their guest lists. Fewer guests means you are able spend the day with the people you really love rather than those you feel you ought to ask. An added bonus is that smaller weddings simply cost less, freeing up more budget to spend on something totally extravagant or not spend at all.
Some wedding dates have been postponed to a different season and it is great to see so many couples embracing the chance to have some fun with decoration and colour - peonies are being swapped for pumpkins; cherry blossom for twigs; bunting for baubles. Your wedding plans may have changed a little but change is often as good as a rest.
Talking of rest, The Pilgrims Rest is a venue unlike any other. Beautifully furnished and with two separate dressing rooms, it includes seasonal decorations in the venue hire. From furs for the benches to pea-lights and wood for the fires, all you need to do is add your own personal touches. 600 years old this year, The Pilgrims Rest is truly magical and perfect for weddings all year round.
We now offer a 3d personalised virtual tour and will be opening our doors for booked individual appointments. For more information please call The Pilgrims Rest team on 07552873448 or email email@example.com
Photographs by Tali - Photo & Film