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Cadhay House (Devon)

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1 Review

Address: Ottery St Mary / Devon / EX11 1QT / United Kingdom / Tel: (0) 1404 813511

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      05.06.2010 08:40
      Very helpful



      Stunning Elizabethan country house located in Devon

      Cadhay is a beautiful Elizabethan Manor House situated in the truly rural location in the small village of Ottery St Mary in East Devon. The house and gardens are regularly opened up for the general public to view. However, the property is also rented out as a very upmarket "holiday home". Cadhay can accommodate up to 22 people and is a really stunning venue in which to holiday or entertain friends and family. Alternatively, you can use the house for your wedding ceremony and/or reception, as the property has the necessary civil ceremony licence.

      We spent a most enjoyable weekend there at the end of March at the invitation of my brother in order to celebrate his wedding. Arriving on Friday afternoon and leaving again on Monday morning, everyone invited had a really excellent weekend. Cadhay really did make my brother's marriage a most memorable occasion, and I can highly recommend the venue as an excellent choice for a wedding, special family occasion or simply a holiday. However, you don't need to rent the entire house to appreciate the charms of Cadhay - the house and gardens are open to the general public throughout the summer on Friday afternoons.


      The house was built by a Tudor nobleman called John Haydon in 1550 on the site of an earlier house. Only the Great Hall (where the wedding ceremony was held) was kept from the earlier house so the timbers in there date back to 1420. The house is built around a lovely central inner courtyard which features four statues - Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary and Elizabeth I, each residing in their own alcove set into the North, South, East and West walls of the courtyard.

      In the late 17th century the fortunes of the Haydon family had declined to such an extent they were forced to sell Cadhay to William Peere Williams. He re-modelled much of the house, giving the entrance a rather Georgian looking appearance. The house continued to enjoy both good times and bad, makeovers and patch-ups throughout the years until the current owners, the William-Powlett family took up residence in the 1920's. The house is now owned by a descendent of the William Powlett family, a furniture-maker called Rupert Thistlethwayte. Mr Thistlethwayte has undertaken any needed remedial work, as well as bringing some welcome 21st century accoutrements such as central heating and additional bathrooms.


      Cadhay is grand yet very welcoming. Parts of the house date back to the 15th century, but most of it was built in the 16th and 17th centuries - with various additions, renovations and adjustments made in the last 400 years. The house offers very spacious living/reception accommodation and sleeps up to 22 guests. It's been built around a central courtyard, which is a lovely feature, and an ideal spot for post wedding champagne toasts (weather permitting).

      The house is filled with lovely antiques and paintings, yet it doesn't have that you-must-not-touch feel that you so often get in historic homes. It's beautifully furnished, but comfortable as well. You can sprawl out on the sofas and put your cup of tea on the antique table (but remember to use the coaster provided!). Many of the reception rooms have splendid fire-places or wood-burning stoves. Just to reassure you, as well as the wood burning stoves, Cadhay is fully central heated - although the heating did seem to come on and go off at odd times. My parents' attic bedroom at the top of the house was not at all warm and they quite envied our ground floor bedroom (and the portable heater we had in there too!).


      Inside, Cadhay has three main reception rooms - all extremely spacious and beautifully furnished. The Library has a vast fireplace and an array of comfortable chairs and sofas positioned around the room. As you'd expect from a library, there were book cases to one side of the room crammed full of various different tomes. I suspect the book collection there is no doubt worth a pretty penny, but all of it was accessible to the guests. The shelves contained leather-bound books with gold tooled titles - things like volumes Debrett's Peerage from the 1920's, and a distinct lack of tatty edged paperbacks. We were delighted to discover we could pick up an internet connection from my brother's laptop in this room. He had only taken his laptop to Cadhay in order to play music throughout the weekend, but upon discovery of the internet connection he was inundated with people borrowing his laptop wanting to log into Facebook et al. I managed to resist the urge to log onto DooYoo :o)

      The Living Room is the largest reception room, and this was where we had originally planned to hold the champagne reception after the wedding ceremony. However, on the day itself, the sun shone brightly and it was unseasonably warm day...despite English March weather being so normally unpredictable. We had set up the champagne and canapés in the main living room at Cadhay (my partner and I were in charge of catering and drinks for the wedding breakfast), but the weather was so delightful everyone decided to go out into the Inner Courtyard and enjoy the first glimpse of spring sunshine (there is plenty of outdoor furniture on which to sit in the courtyard). Despite everyone moving outside into the sunshine on this occasion, the living room did still have plenty of other use throughout the weekend. On one evening the Best Man hosted a pop quiz (with fierce competition and much hilarity) by splitting the guests into four different teams. Less enjoyable was the game of Charades on the following evening, with everyone having to act out a film or book. I was used as a prop for another guest's mime of "Lesbian Vampire Killers", much to everyone's amusement.

      The third reception room was called the Sitting Room, and despite it being a charming room, nobody used this room much - although I did sit in this room a couple of times for some peace and quiet! If you look carefully at one of the window panes in the room, there is a name and date etched into the glass dating back to the 1800's. I wonder if some young Victorian boy got into trouble for vandalising the window, little realizing what a charming feature he'd made for others to appreciate some 150 or so years later.

      Adjoining the reception rooms is a Georgian look Dining Room with a vast fireplace - only outdone by an ever bigger dining room table, which can comfortably seat 22 people. The dining room table made an excellent home for the buffet for the wedding breakfast.


      The property has a very large Kitchen, with nearby Pantry and Scullery. The kitchen has both an Aga and an electric oven, as well as a large kitchen table, where you can eat less formally. The kitchen also houses a walk-in pantry (down a couple of steps), which would have been used in the olden days to keep things cool. Unfortunately, it did very little to keep things cool on this occasion. Next door to the kitchen is a good sized scullery area with large Butler's sink and two dishwashers, therefore making it much easier to clear up after eating.

      I should point out here that all the guests invited to stay at Cadhay for the weekend had been pre-allocated a meal to cater for prior to the event. Thus everyone arrived with their raw ingredients for their particular breakfast, lunch or dinner, therefore filling up the available refrigeration to capacity. With our background in the hotel and catering industry, my partner and I had picked the short straw of doing the wedding breakfast. This would not normally be a massive problem as my partner is used to pre-planning and preparing for this sort of event. However, we discovered that there is very little refrigeration space available at Cadhay. There is a very large 4/5 drawer freezer, and an even larger drinks fridge, which was handy for the champagne. Unfortunately, there is only one medium sized fridge for food, and this was not nearly big enough to keep a buffet for 28 guests cool - especially when it was full of everyone else's raw ingredients for the rest of the weekend.

      We had a terrible job in keeping things fresh and cool before the buffet was served at 4.00pm. My partner had poached a whole salmon as a centre-piece to the whole buffet, and he had wanted to pipe some decorative mayonnaise along the fish's flank. Sadly, it just kept melting off the fish. The same applied to the Pavlovas he had made - the temperatures made them collapse slightly and they looked a little "squashed" by the time we served them. All was not lost though, as despite the wilted look of some of the dishes, the food was still a success and pronounced delicious by all.

      ~~~ AND SO TO BED ~~~

      Cadhay has 12 bedrooms in total (4 x doubles, 6 x twins and 2 x singles), housed over three floors. My partner and I were allocated the only ground floor room as this was nearest to the kitchen (and we knew we'd be spending the earlier part of the weekend in there preparing the wedding buffet). Our Ground Floor Bedroom was surprisingly comfortable and very spacious. Next door was a Shower Room with walk in shower (which unfortunately flooded every time you used it, possibly due to a blocked drain), WC and basin. This bedroom and bathroom would be ideal for an elderly, infirm or disabled guest.

      The first floor had three Double Bedrooms with lovely looking four-poster beds, as well as a couple of Single Rooms. On the second floor were some newly refurbished Attic Rooms. My parents and my Aunt and Uncle took two of these attic rooms to the quieter side of the house, and we put the younger element of the family on the other side of the house so they wouldn't disturb everyone else with their midnight drinking games. All the bedrooms were beautifully presented, comfortable and clean, as were the bathrooms.

      ~~~ HERE COMES THE BRIDE ~~~

      Cadhay stipulate that civil ceremonies for up to 40 people can take place in the house. You can have your ceremony in any of three ground floor reception rooms in the house or you can pay a bit extra and have your ceremony in the Roof Chamber at Cadhay. This is a stunning room which is laced with ancient timber beams dating back to the 15th century. The room is certainly a spectacular backdrop for a civil ceremony. There is tiny ancient spy hole high up on one of the walls in the Roof Chamber, and you look through the spy hole by accessing one of the walk in wardrobes in one of the attic bedrooms.

      If you want a larger wedding reception than the house will allow, then you can erect a marquee in the gardens or you can use the Garden Room, which seats up to 60. Cadhay staff can recommend caterers and marquee hire should you wish to pursue a bigger reception than 60 guests.

      As my brother and his fiancée were only having a small wedding and reception for a limited number of guests, they plumped for holding the ceremony in the Roof Chamber followed by a champagne reception in the Living Room / Outside Courtyard and then a buffet style wedding breakfast laid out in the Dining Room. As all the guests were allocated different meals to prepare this kept the costs to a minimum.

      ~~~ COSTS ~~~

      Renting Cadhay is certainly not cheap, but if you are looking for high quality and spacious accommodation then you expect to pay a premium. That said, my sister-in-law did a lot of research before her wedding and the prices for hiring Cadhay were very reasonable compared to many other similar types of accommodation such as manor houses, stately homes or castles. The rental charges at Cadhay include all electricity, heating, wifi, logs, linen and cleaning. Leisure equipment includes two televisions, a DVD player, table tennis, croquet set, a gas barbecue and garden furniture.

      If you book Cadhay for a week then the booking runs from Friday (4pm from October to April) until 10am on Friday morning. A weekend booking runs from 6pm on a Friday (4pm from October to April) until 10am on Monday morning. The cost of a week's rental depends on the time of year - however winter prices tend to be around £2,872 for a week, with early summer prices reaching to £3,258 per week and peaking during the summer school holiday period at £4,743 per week. Of course, Christmas and Easter command their own prices. Outside of the summer period, the management at Cadhay offer shorter weekend stays at slightly reduced prices. I don't know exactly what my brother and sister-in-law paid, as weekend prices are upon application, but I would imagine it will have been around the £2,500 mark. On top of the house rental, they will have paid an extra £400 for the wedding ceremony in the Roof Chamber (please note Registrar's Fees are not included in this price and would need to be settled direct with the Registrar). Now £2,500 sounds like a lot, but when you work out that this was for 21 guests for three nights, it works out at less than £40 per person per night. How many five star hotels or stately homes do you get to stay in for less than £40 per night. Not many, I'll wager.

      On top of the accommodation costs, you also have to pay a fairly substantial deposit (approximately £1,000) to the owners to safeguard against any damage at Cadhay. My brother and sister-in-law were instructed to arrive a little bit earlier before the Friday afternoon check-in, in order to have a tour and a full briefing on the house. They asked my partner and I to come along too, as the owners prefer to have an individual who is not getting married that weekend attending the brief and the tour. As the house management put it, brides and grooms can often be a little pre-occupied by pre-wedding nerves and may not pay much attention to a briefing! We were especially asked to please use the coasters provided before putting any glasses into the antique sideboards or tables, as they had all been French polished to a glossy sheen. Unfortunately, during the weekend someone left a nasty drink ring-mark on the sideboard in the living room, so my brother and sister-in-law lost some of their deposit as the sideboard would need some attention from an expert :o( There was no one to blame but ourselves as we cannot say we had not been adequately briefed by the management upon arrival.


      Cadhay is approached from the North via an avenue of lime trees, and then through a pair of majestic looking gates. Parking is plentiful to the front of the house.

      The Gardens at Cadhay are lovely with plenty of mature trees and shrubs. After the wedding ceremony we all took plenty of photos in the garden and they made a super back-drop. We were too early for the wisteria to be in bloom, but I would imagine it looks totally stunning. There is a ha-ha to the east side of the property which gives a seamless view over the grounds. The medieval fish ponds are lovely looking too. We were rather glad that ASBO dog (our Golden Retriever) had not been invited to the wedding weekend, as she would have plunged straight into the pond and then trailed into the house to find a piece of period furniture to dry herself on. However, if you have a better behaved dog than we do, then you may be interested to learn that Cadhay allow up to a maximum of two dogs with any party staying at the house.

      As stated elsewhere, the house accommodation is strictly limited to a maximum of 22 guests (and 2 dogs), but there are a couple of options on offer if your party is larger than 22 in number. Staff at Cadhay can furnish you with further details of nearby bed and breakfast accommodation, or you can also rent one of two on-site cottages. The Stables and The Coach House have recently been converted into self-catering holiday accommodation, and both sleep up to six people in three double bedrooms. For my brother's wedding weekend, they rented The Coach House as well as Cadhay. There were 21 guests in the main house (family and the bride's friends) and then 6 guests (the groom's friends) in the nearby Coach House. The guests in the Coach House are just a stone's throw from the main house, and they joined us for our evening meals (they had breakfast and lunch in their own accommodation).

      ~~~ DAY VISITORS ~~~

      Although I have written this review from the viewpoint of renting and staying at Cadhay for a weekend or longer, you can also view the property, by appointment, as a day visitor. Cadhay is opened to the general public every Friday afternoon from May through to September. Similarly, during May and August Bank Holidays the house and gardens are open on Saturday, Sunday and Monday afternoons.

      You can take a guided tour of the house for £6.50 (£2.00 for children) or just visit the gardens for £2.50 (£1.00 children). Opening times are 2.00pm to 5.30pm. There is also an onsite tearoom serving light refreshments.

      ~~~ LOCAL AREA ~~~

      If you're in the area then there is plenty to do and see there, and it's a lovely part of the world. The seaside town of Sidmouth is about five to six miles away and has some very nice sandy beaches as well as some rather nice shops.

      There are some bigger shops to be found in the historic market town of Honiton (about five miles away) including a good-sized Tesco. Honiton used to be centre of the UK lace-making industry, but there is little evidence of its lace-making heritage nowadays. There are a few nice antique shops and second-hand bookshops, but that's about the extent of it. I found it to be rather seedy and run-down to be honest. Stepping over someone passed out in the high street surrounded by empty cans of Special Brew, didn't really add to the ambiance of the place.

      Cadhay is situated about a mile out of the village of Ottery St Mary, which has a rather nice medieval church. Ottery St Mary is also home to Escot - a delightful country park with a maze. I visited, and reviewed (see http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/theme-parks-zoos-national/escot-park-devon/1316816/) Escot last summer, little knowing I'd be back to the area the following year. It was a strange coincidence that my brother and his fiancée decided to get married in the same place we holidayed last year, but at least we knew the area and how to get there!

      ~~~ RECOMMENDATION ~~~

      Oh yes - a huge recommendation from me, and everyone else that stayed there. We had a fabulous weekend, and one that will be remembered as truly special by everyone that stayed there. The house was grand, yet extremely welcoming and comfortable. It was spotlessly clean and had every mod con you could wish for.

      My only criticisms of the place would be a distinct lack of refrigeration and that the downstairs shower room was rather prone to flooding. Some might find the light a little poor in some of the rooms, but that is to be expected in an old house. I would imagine the place would not really be suitable for very young children, as parents may have a bit of a nightmare weekend keeping toddlers from grasping antiques and heirlooms.

      However, small criticisms aside, Cadhay is a very, very special place and highly recommended as a venue for a special occasion, a holiday home or simply a brief tour. The house is charming, unpretentious, clean, well-run, comfortable and above-all fascinating. Five stars from me.

      ~~~ FURTHER DETAILS ~~~

      Cadhay is situated in Ottery St Mary - 10 miles east of Exeter and 5/6 miles from the seaside at Sidmouth. The nearest town is Honiton, about five miles away.

      Ottery St Mary
      EX11 1QT

      Telephone: 01404 813511
      Email: jayne@cadhay.org.uk
      Website: http://www.cadhay.org.uk


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