We are an independent family-owned business
and proud custodians of this splendid estate
Thirty years down the road and still so much to do.....
The Wiser family bought the Hall and six acres of neglected gardens in 1987 and after ten long months of restoration and refurbishment the hotel came into being. Since then it has been a long and wonderful journey during which we have acquired a further 95 acres of land, built a new entrance onto the A38, created a deer park, re-established the Victorian walled garden and won a number of awards and accolades including our coveted red star status from the AA. We have a magnificent team of enthusiastic and committed staff, who share our passion for the building and our way of life.
When we bought the Hall back in 1987 there were six acres of overgrown gardens and ponds choked with weeds. Now we have a beautiful 100 acre estate comprising formal gardens with ornamental ponds, a very productive, Victorian walled vegetable garden, a woodland trail, a 45-acre wild deer park and a small flock of rare-breed sheep.and woodland.
In 2003 we embarked on a 10-year Countryside Stewardship Scheme run by DEFRA to help us develop the land in an environmentally-responsible way. We established the deer park, planted 600 metres of hedgerows, re-stocked the park with oak, beech and horse-chestnut trees, created a scrape to encourage wetland birds and started to restore the Victorian walled garden.
We established wild hay meadows, which produce hay and silage to supplement winter grazing for the deer and commissioned a Woodland Management Plan from the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group.
We have now completed the 10-year programme but continue to run the estate on well-established principles using no pesticides or chemicals and respecting the seasons and the wildlife.
In 2016 we introduced a small flock of rare-breed Manx Loagthan sheep to graze under the chestnut trees at the front of the hotel. These are faring well and will provide estate-reared lamb and hogget for the kitchen in due course.
THE DEER PARK
The deer park was established in 2004 with 2,000 metres of deer fencing and the arrival of two stags (Napoleon and Solo) and twelve young hinds. We now have a very healthy and thriving herd of 80 Sika deer which roams very happily through meadows and woodland.
Sika deer were brought to England from the Far East in the 1860’s to populate deer parks in stately homes so are well suited to their current environment. They are similar in size to fallow deer but darker in colour. Their Summer coats are dappled with white spots and they have a distinctive white rump all year round.
The deer graze throughout the year and their diet is supplemented in the winter with hay and silage grown on the estate and root vegetables from the walled garden.
To prevent excessive fighting during the rut and to ensure the herd is kept healthy and stress-free, a number of young males are culled each year providing estate-reared venison for the restaurant. Sika deer provide the finest venison that you will ever taste.
THE VICTORIAN WALLED GARDEN
The walled garden is managed in as natural a way as possible. Compost is made from grass cuttings, raw fruit and vegetable peelings from the kitchen and shredded cardboard. Chemicals and pesticides are not used and the impressive brick wall keep the majority of rabbits at bay.
We now grow a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and herbs for the kitchen and last year introduced three hives so we can start producing our own honey.
We produce an abundance of fruit, vegetables and herbs in the Summer months and the kitchen use the surfeit to make pickles, jams and jellies to see them through the leaner Winter months.
In 2012 the grounds staff built a 50-foot greenhouse along the external east wall has given us scope for growing produce throughout the year and the ability to create more plants from seeds and cuttings. The greenhouse was constructed using re-salvaged materials in line with the hotel’s environmental policy.
HISTORY OF THE HALL
The manor of ‘Swynfeyn’ is first recorded in the Domesday book of 1086 as belonging to the Bishop of Lichfield, and a manor house has stood on this site since Medieval times.
The present Hall was completed in 1757 under the direction of local architect Benjamin Wyatt, the founder of one of the greatest architectural families in English history. The Hall was originally built for Samuel Swinfen, his wife and a domestic staff of 55.
The most colourful character among the Swinfen dynasty, was Patience Swinfen, a former parlour maid who had married into the family. In the 1860’s she inherited the Hall, but the will was fiercely contested by another branch of the family. Seven long years of litigation followed and Patience became a cause célébre throughout the land, upsetting Victorian conventions of gender and class.
The last of the family to live at Swinfen Hall, was Lt Colonel Michael Swinfen Broun who built the South wing, including the magnificent oak-panelled ballroom for his daughter’s 21st birthday. It took three years to complete. However, the celebrations never took place as his daughter eloped two weeks before the big event. He died in 1948 leaving the proceeds of the estate to the Cathedral and city of Lichfield. The surrounding land was subsequently sold and the Manor House stood empty for over thirty years.
It was eventually sold to a builder who opened part of the building as a wedding venue but unfortunately the following year the company went into administration.
The Wiser family purchased the Hall from the receivers in 1987 and after ten months of restoration and refurbishment opened as a hotel. In 2003 a further 95 acres of adjoining farmland was acquired and in 2004 the 45 acre wild deer park was established. The land has been restocked with oak, beech and horse-chestnut trees, wild hay meadows have been created and 400 metres of hedgerows planted. The Victorian walled garden has also been restored and the kitchen now has an abundant supply of fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs throughout the Summer months.
Television programmes such as Boon have been filmed at the hotel and it was also the site of the first “Blind Date” wedding hosted by Cilla Black in 1991. Since then it has overseen the weddings of a multitude of celebrities.
For further reading on the history of the Swinfen Hall we recommend The Great Swinfen Case written by Howard Clayton, a local historian and former mayor of Lichfield.
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