National award is a dream come true for Suffolk guesthouse owner

WHEN Susie Darvell-Wright’s Lavenham guesthouse was crowned England’s best at an AA awards ceremony in London it completed a long-held dream for the businesswoman and grandmother.

For years her ambition was to live in a Georgian Rectory-style house in Suffolk, but despite scouring the county from the family’s holiday home in Southwold the right place never came up.

“We were living in Surrey at the time and I registered with lots of agencies but the homes were either too expensive or not quite right,” said Mrs Darvell-Wright. “Then five years ago I came out to see Lavenham’s Old Rectory and knew I had to live there. I made the offer there and then and suddenly realised I hadn’t even told my husband.”

In a moment of inspiration, and to ensure support from husband Jonathan Wright, she decided to buy it as a business and turn it into a guesthouse – even though she had never run one before.

The family moved to Lavenham and for the next four years Mrs Darvell-Wright, mother of two children, Matthew and Michelle, plus three grandchildren, began the task of restoring the rectory and transforming it into the perfect guesthouse.


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Her determination to succeed was not diminished by a severe blow to her health when she was told she had secondary cervical cancer earlier this year.

“If anything it has kept me focused,” she said. “You just have to get up and get on with life whatever it throws at you. I had cancer eight years ago and it returned a few months ago. It has destroyed a kidney and is inoperable.”

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Mrs Darvell-Wright, 56, received her honour on Tuesday when her son drove her to London following her daily radiotherapy treatment at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Out of the 3,000 guesthouses short-listed by secret hotel inspectors, the Old Rectory was named AA Guest Accommodation of the Year at the annual Bed and Breakfast Awards.

Giovanna Grossi, group area manager for AA Hotel Services, said the AA was delighted to award the honour to the Old Rectory.

She said: “This beautifully restored Georgian property offers impressive and individually designed accommodation that provides guests with a lasting impression, and is fully deserving of this title.”

For more information go to www.lavenham-old-rectory.co.uk

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