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Ellingham appoints Executive Head Chef fit for royalty

We’re thrilled to announce, multi award-winning Chef John Blackmore, has joined the Hall as our new Executive Head Chef.

John, who has cooked for the Queen and was responsible for putting Alnwick on culinary map, has been appointed to lead the kitchen team as we head into our busiest season to date!

Even John’s extensive culinary experience, which spans over 40 years, couldn’t have prepared him for his super busy start at Ellingham. We thought we’d treat him to a quick break, a brew and chat to find out how he’s finding his new role.


How’s things been since joining Ellingham?

Busy. Ha! It’s been great, busy, but really great.

Although we weren’t running as many weddings as usual for this time of year, things were just as busy behind the scenes. As well as investing in staff and new equipment, one of my first jobs was to create the new 2022 menus for all our couples. It was important I spoke with the team to get a real understanding of what we currently offered, and how we could really drive standards and give people the best wedding experience possible at the Hall.

Over the last month, the team and I have ran a number of tasting events where we’ve catered for over 70 couples, and I look forward to the Autumn when we will be running more of these experiences. I’ve also been working closely with producers to ensure my kitchen brigade have the highest quality of ingredients available to them – this year, we’re proud to say we’re working with more local suppliers than ever, driving our sustainability focus at the Hall.


Taking you back, how did you start your culinary career?

I started my career back when I was just 18 at college. I was privileged to receive an award at the Savoy London for ‘Outstanding Student of the Year’ twice. Following this I was appointed as an apprentice at the InterContinental Hotel in London’s Park Lane and the chain took me to France, Germany and Switzerland.

Moving back to Northumberland with my wife, I opened my own restaurant in Alnwick and owned The Tankerville Arms in Eglingham, before moving to Newcastle United to head up the kitchen brigade at The Magpie Room. In the role, I helped steer the restaurant to the Good Food Guide; the first Premier League club to reach the achievement. Since then, I have worked in several well-known restaurants and wedding venues locally, including The Cookie Jar in Alnwick.


What has been your proudest moment as a Chef?

I was chosen to cook for the Queen while I was at Newcastle United and that is the highlight of my career. She was in the region in 1997 and had just opened the Siemens factory and was received by Sir John Hall for lunch. She was a really nice person and it was such an honour to be chosen to cook for her.


With the 2022 menus now finalised, what would you say are your favourite dishes?

It’s a tough choice. For starters, I’d say the Cheese Soufflé, followed by the Cajun Fried Seabass. The one thing the team already know about me, is I’m a real sweet tooth. I love my desserts, so that’s the hardest to choice for me. I’d have to say Bakewell Tart, I could eat them all day and night!


What are you most looking forward to at Ellingham?

I’m looking forward to helping Ellingham Hall become bigger and better. I’m also so excited to be working with such a friendly team – there’s a real buzz about Ellingham, from the venue, to the staff and all the couples I’ve interacted with so far. The team here are lovely and it’s great to work with such a professional group of people who really care.


One Year since our Corporate Launch!

This September, we celebrated our first year since entering the corporate hospitality market. So we thought we’d chat to our Corporate Sales and Marketing Manager, Lynn Sanderson, who moved to Ellingham Hall last August to drive our move into the sector.


How long have you been in corporate hospitality?

I had worked in the hospitality industry for 7 years, from 2005 to 2012. I was a supplier to most venues in the North East, rather than working at a single venue. But I learned a lot about what goes on behind the scenes during that time.


What drew you to corporate hospitality?

To be honest, I fell into the sector by chance. I took a job with an events company and was tasked with providing a linen hire service to all hotels and venues within the region. I quickly developed excellent relationships with the venues and began supplying them with our full event services (not just linen). It is a very friendly and sociable industry, which I enjoyed, and it gave me great job satisfaction knowing that both my clients and the venues were impressed.


What is the first thing you’d advise anyone who is thinking of putting on a business event?

Planning is key! Allow enough time to properly plan the event and cover all bases. Also, factor in a contingency plan, as things don’t always run perfectly. You need to be clear on both the objectives of the event and what you want to get out of it.

There is also a need to have an event budget. This will help you to make certain decisions about the event and what you can afford to include

Finally, think about timings! This will help you determine a structure and who you may need to involve to help make the event a success. Put yourself in the shoes of your guests and imagine what their expectations would be if attending.


What made you decide to work for Ellingham Hall?

I worked with Ellingham Hall previously supplying event planning services for weddings and events. I developed very good relationships with the team and had a good knowledge of the venue. I had great memories and that, coupled with my love for the venue and great working relationship, encouraged me to go join Ellingham when I was offered the post. I had been out of the industry for 6 years, but during that time I had gained more transferrable skills, particularly in corporate sales development.


What is your favourite room at Ellingham?

This is a difficult one because I’ve seen significant improvements to the venue since returning last year. However, I think I would say the Chapel because this I feel is the biggest major change. Not only does the restored chapel still retain the major historic features, but it also now has a modern look and feel, which makes it more appealing to prospective clients. It is clever how the team made the best use of this space by adding a quirky mezzanine level, which leads out onto a rooftop terrace with stunning views. You could not access that area before the renovation and its added two extra spaces perfect for use for all occasions.


What do you like about working at Ellingham Hall?

It has to be the happy, relaxed working environment, which is key to getting the best out of people. The team constantly strives to improve the venue and the service levels offered. You can’t ask for more! You get a feeling that you’re a very important part of the team, no matter which position you have.


Celebrating two National Awards

Celebrating two National Awards

We’re all celebrating at Ellingham Hall after being named runners-up at two prestigious National awards ceremonies.

Firstly, we were delighted to be named Highly Commended in the Best Independent Hotel/Venue category at the Corporate and Hospitality Show Awards 2019. Being the only North East venue shortlisted and competing against a large number of well-established and long-standing corporate venues, we were honoured to be recognised on such a national scale.

Our Corporate Sales and Marketing Manager Lynn said: “We’ve put in real effort to stand out in corporate hospitality.  The venue only re-launched in the corporate sector late last summer, so be recognised in such a short space of time is a great achievement for our team”.

We were also runners up in the National Weddings Awards’ UK Countryside Wedding Venue of the Year category.

Again, shortlisted as the only North East venue in its category, we flew the flag for the region and were praised for our commitment to our couples and the first-class service we provide.

Our Wedding Marketing and Communications Manager, Rachel, said: “We’re extremely proud to be named Highly Commended in this category. It’s a real achievement and a testament to the countless hours our Weddings Team puts into making each and every wedding experience as special as the last.

We also wanted to take the opportunity to thank everybody for their kind comments during the selection process and for taking the time to vote for the venue since the shortlisted was announced in March.”

These achievements follow 18 months of recognition in wedding awards.

Our General Manager Anthony is delighted with the success. He said: “We have enjoyed real success and it’s always fantastic to be recognised by our peers for our hard work.

“We keep on proving how good our attention to detail is when it comes to weddings, which is now extending to corporate hospitality. It’s amazing how quickly we have made an impact in that sector in less than a year.

“There is a considerable amount of competition in both sectors, and I am immensely proud of what we are achieving. Unlike large venues that have separate teams, we all pull together as a family here at Ellingham Hall, and I’m convinced that is what is getting us the recognition our team deserves. We care so much about our guests’ big occasions – whether that’s a wedding or corporate event – that they receive an unparalleled service.”


Community at our Heart


We like to make sure that we do everything possible to improve the lives of anyone who has contact with Ellingham Hall.

And while that’s a very clear foundation within our core values for visitors, guests, wedding couples and corporate clients, it also extends to the wider community in which we are situated.

Being well known within the county of Northumberland, we believe it is important that as part of our corporate governance we are instrumental in protecting and improving the beautiful, historic rural community we are proud to be part of.

There are several key issues in which we have taken a key role in helping our neighbourhood.


Water Improvement

When Ellingham Hall’s owners bought the Hall, the village’s sewerage system was an outdated septic tank that overflowed and flushed sewage down the stream within the Hall’s grounds. This not only affected villagers, but it also had an adverse effect on wildlife.

A meeting was arranged by our owner Aidan Ruff with local residents, water and river authorities, council representatives and environmental health departments to drive forward an urgent update of the system.

After two hours, a plan was made, and it took only 12 months to find the funding. As a result, the new system not only produces clean water that meets current standards, but wildlife has now returned to the stream and grounds.

Our Environment

As well as looking after the water for our village, the work we carried out has enabled us to offer fresh water direct from the local spring which was part of the old Ellingham Estate and now run by Northumbrian Water to be bottled for visitors to enjoy. Being a sustainable source, it also means we do not have to rely on buying in bottled water, which means a reduction in plastics and vehicles coming into the village as well as their emissions.

Guests are also treated to tasting our own homegrown herbs and fruit when they come to Ellingham Hall. We recently introduced a herb garden as part of plans to grow our own produce, which is currently being upgraded. As well as garlic, rosemary, mint and thyme, we also grow our own rhubarb and have many fruit trees, including apple, plum and pear. All of this produce is used by our Head Chef for his culinary creations and helps reduce our need to transport ingredients, which are also fresher so better tasting!

Ellingham Hall also provides its central heating and hot water through a biomass system. Although this was a considerable investment, we believe this is better for our local and the wider environment because it is a low-carbon option and reduces our emissions. We also use fuel from local suppliers saving on carbon output.

We also have a conservation project that includes continual investment in the grounds to preserve nature and wildlife. In particular, our tree planting programme will be further extended into our next phase of development at our sister venue Lemmington Hall.

We have a recycling point for cardboard, glass and plastics and we’ve banned plastic straw use.

Low energy lighting is also used throughout the entire site and has been since CFL and then LED bulbs became available.

High Speed Broadband

As a rural business, we enjoy many benefits, but one area that is an issue for any business or resident within the UK’s countryside is connectivity. Whilst we were able to access the Internet, it was painfully slow via six aged lines.

As the village’s cables run through our grounds, our owners Aidan and Helen negotiated with BT/Openreach to install a high-speed cabinet within the estate to allow Open Reach and Alncom to install two high speed broadband lines. We also provided the power and helped with the legal work to speed up the process, which has allowed villagers to enjoy fast broadband.

The second phase of this work was the installation of a roof antenna to allow local farms and anyone in nearby villages of up to 5 miles away to access high speed broadband.

As a ‘thank you’ for the ease in which the upgrade was carried out, Open Reach has offered to put in high speed lines to our new sister venue, Lemmington Hall.

See recent press article about the work via link below https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/northumberland-firm-delivers-broadband-solutions-1-9413359

Better Connectivity

Rural Northumberland is a beautiful, unspoiled county, but road connections are now very outdated and in need of modernisation. Having better connectivity will not only make it easier to travel, but opens the county to further inward investment, which will create more jobs.

Our owner, Aidan, has worked closely with local MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan and a campaign to dual the A1 north of Morpeth to Ellingham. Consultations are now taking place after the money for the project was allocated by the Department of Transport. There is a continuing campaign to dual the A1 right to the Scottish Border, and this will help broaden the appeal of venues such as Ellingham to a wider customer base, which will protect and create jobs as well as improve potential future investment.

The work we have carried out so far shows that our business focus is far wider than providing a venue for guests, but we are part of our community. As well as providing employment in a rural area, we are also keen to protect the interests of our community and the environment both now and in the future.


Two Heads are Better than One!

It’s only the second month of the year, but we’re starting 2019 on a high!

We’re delighted to officially welcome two new members to our growing team – and we’ve also recently scooped another award.

Firstly, we are delighted that Lynn Sanderson and Rachel Barlow have joined our team in two posts that we have created to help boost our future growth.

Lynn has joined our team as Corporate Sales and Marketing Manager and is looking forward to arranging events for businesses and private parties.

Whether it is for a product launch, conference, team-building or special meetings and events, Lynn will be going out across the region to explain just why Ellingham Hall is the perfect venue.
She says, “Unlike a hotel, if you arrange business events at Ellingham Hall you won’t have to share the venue with other delegates. The exclusivity and flexibility are what differentiate Ellingham from other venues.

“I’m looking forward to meeting businesses across the region and I’m sure they will be excited by what we have to offer.”

Lynn has worked in the events industry for seven years and has been involved in sales and marketing roles in various sectors for 18.

As well as the corporate market, Lynn will be arranging a calendar of events at the Hall to provide opportunities for people to come and enjoy the Hall and its wonderful surroundings, as well as the amazing food from our Head Chef.

In the past, the only way to enjoy the Hall was to be invited as part of a wedding party, but with events including Sunday Lunch for Mother’s Day, an Easter family fun day and a Father’s Day laser clay experience, we’re looking forward to welcoming even more guests throughout the year.

In January Rachel was appointed as Wedding Marketing and Communications Manager to raise further awareness for Ellingham’s first-class wedding service, in the North East and beyond.

Rachel has been working in the marketing and events sector for almost 10 years now and over the last two years has worked exclusively in the wedding industry.

She says, “It’s so great to be starting at a venue which boasts so many gorgeous spaces and with a multi-award winning and experienced team alongside me.

“Ellingham Hall is such a beautiful venue both inside and out. From rooftop terraces and cascading waterfalls, to our spacious reception rooms and historic Chapel, it’s a joy to be part of something really special.”

It’s going to be an exciting year, and we can’t wait to welcome you.

On a final note, we were officially named Northumberland’s Most Outstanding Luxury Wedding Venue in the Global Luxury Hotel & Spa Awards 2019, which is organised by exclusive magazine Lux Life.

Lynn, Anthony & Rachel


Ellingham Hall crowned Northumberland’s Most Outstanding Luxury Wedding Venue

Northumberland’s Ellingham Hall has been voted the county’s Most Outstanding Luxury Wedding Venue by a select panel of judges.

It was given the title in the 2019 Global Luxury Hotel & Spa Awards – and it comes just months after the exclusive-use venue’s wedding co-ordinator picked up an accolade as being the North East’s best co-ordinator.
Award organisers say they were created to recognise companies, brands and individuals who are “excelling in the ever-growing industry of luxury hospitality – those who go above and beyond to exemplify experiences clients are seeking when looking for their latest getaway or luxury venue”.

Rachel Barlow, Ellingham Hall’s new Weddings Marketing and Communications Manager, said she was delighted that the venue had scooped the award.
“The judges make the decision based on venues across the county. There isn’t a nomination procedure, they judge all venues, so it was a really pleasant surprise to be given this award,” she said.

General Manager Anthony Hunter added: “We were delighted when our Wedding Co-ordinator, Wendy, was named the North East’s best co-ordinator last autumn, and this is a testament to what a great team we have here. We’ve made a substantial investment in the venue, refurbishing bedrooms, the drawing room, and adding even more luxury touches.”

The news comes just as the hall’s owners are focusing on new business from the corporate and events sector, which Anthony said would help increase job opportunities and further grow the business.