First look: Butley Priory and farmhouse to host 'staycations' and wedding retreats after revamp

Butley Priory, where the revamp has taken place. 

Butley Priory, where the revamp has taken place. - Credit: Butley Priory

The owners of "one of the most romantic houses in England" have completed a nine-month renovation of the historic Butley Priory and its farmhouse - creating a wedding retreat which will also appeal to those looking to holiday closer to home.  

The 700-year-old Butley Priory building has been a successful wedding location for more than 25 years, showcasing the "undiscovered Suffolk" to guests celebrating their special day. 

The front of Butley Priory and the grounds, which have been revamped and are ready to welcome guests. 

The front of Butley Priory and the grounds, which have been revamped and are ready to welcome guests. - Credit: Butley Priory

However, late last year the coronavirus pandemic led to the collapse of Butley Priory Limited, the company which hosted weddings at the 12th century building. 

The company fell into administration, but owners of the priory, Sir Edward Greenwell and his wife Clare, are bringing the business back from the ashes. 

Edward and Clare Greenwell said they are excited for the new plans at Butley Priory. 

Edward and Clare Greenwell said they are excited for the new plans at Butley Priory. - Credit: Greenwell family

They have since taken back the lease for the priory and have launched a brand new wedding company under the name of Greenwell Farms, taking on the existing staff and honouring any bookings.

Not only have they refurbished Butley Prior, but the Greenwells have also taken over Butley Abbey Farmhouse which sits in the grounds and is where Edward grew up. 

Butley Abbey Farmhouse, which sits in the grounds of Butley Priory and has undergone a complete transformation. 

Butley Abbey Farmhouse, which sits in the grounds of Butley Priory and has undergone a complete transformation. - Credit: Sara Thomas

With the help of Clare's interior designer daughter Georgia Mann, who was living in Sydney at the time, the Greenwells have spent the last nine-months completely transforming the 12-bedroom Georgian farmhouse.

It is now ready to welcome its very first guests alongside Butley Priory - once restrictions are eased - hoping to offer a "wedding retreat" which will cater for up to 37 guests in both the farmhouse and The Priory. 

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They have also submitted plans to convert the Grade II listed Monks barn - which was the refectory for the monks for 300 years - into a wedding venue for up to 150 guests (or unlimited with additional marquees). 

butley abbey farmhouse

Inside Butley Abbey Farmhouse. - Credit: Sara Thomas

If plans are approved, they hope to start work in the early summer, renovating the barns and creating a courtyard garden. They hope that the bride and groom will enjoy the whole venue; The Priory, Monk's Barn and Abbey Farmhouse.

The renovation of the farmhouse was completed during lockdown, scouring websites, fabric warehouses, car boot sales and online auctions, most of which are locally sourced. 

They have been working 10-hour days to complete the Georgian farmhouse, which overlooks a large garden with a tennis court and croquet lawn. 

Inside Butley Abbey Farmhouse, which has been completely revamped. 

Inside Butley Abbey Farmhouse, which has been completely revamped. - Credit: Sara Thomas

Inside, there is plenty of space to spread out, offering a total of three sitting rooms, all with open fires, and a large dining room sitting up to 24.

Speaking of the reasons behind the renovation, Sir Edward said: "Everyone wants to walk home from weddings, they don't want to get taxis. There is a real demand for on-site accommodation.

"More people are also reluctant to travel abroad because of coronavirus, so there is likely to be a rise in staycations and Suffolk has so much to offer."

Inside Butley Abbey Farmhouse, which has been completely revamped. 

Inside Butley Abbey Farmhouse, which has been completely revamped. - Credit: Sara Thomas

Clare described the revamp of the two buildings as "old-fashioned English" with some contemporary twists. They have kept the tones of The Priory very white and romantic. 

Upstairs it consists of four bedrooms, one of which is the bridal suite, named The Tudor Room, with a free-standing bath and a stunning four poster bed.

Clare said: "It feels entirely like your own house, it is very private with the ancient woods surrounding you. It really is the most beautiful building.

"The Priory is Grade I listed, it has stunning vaulted rooms, a huge fire place and even a secret gin bar which is hidden in some panelling. 

"Brides love the magnificent cantilever staircase. There is nothing quite like it in the country."

Butley Priory

The ceiling in Butley Priory. - Credit: Butley Priory

The farmhouse won't only cater for wedding guests, but also for families and groups of friends who are looking for a long weekend or week-long "staycation" here in the heart of Suffolk.

They are also breathing life into the gardens, where the sister of Henry VIII, Princess Mary, once walked, when she often stayed at The Priory. 

Clare also plans on hosting a charitable tea party for the local care homes, as they want to share the beautiful grounds with the community. 

The kitchen at Butley Abbey Farmhouse.

The kitchen at Butley Abbey Farmhouse. - Credit: Butley Priory

"It's very magical," added Sir Edward. "The Suffolk coast has become increasingly popular for visitors, with many seeking to explore the 'undiscovered' Suffolk."

Butley Priory will continue to be managed by Emma Thomas-Abbott, who will also take on the farmhouse when they are allowed to open. 

Emma Thomas-Abbott

Emma Thomas-Abbott, who manages Butley Priory, will also take on the farmhouse when they are allowed to open. - Credit: Emma Thomas-Abbott

She said she feels "very lucky" that the business is going full-steam ahead in these challenging times. 

"Butley Priory is a really unique setting, there is nowhere else like this in the UK," she said. 

"People are still quite reluctant to travel, so there is going to be a staycation boom in the upcoming years. We are in a really good position and it is very exciting for the area."

To book your stay at The Butley Priory or the Butley Abbey Farmhouse, visit their website or head to Group Accommodation

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