Featured in Feast, issue 37 – June 2019 – Spotlight Feature
Bressingham Hall and High Barn near Diss isn’t just a wedding venue. It can be hired for all sorts of events, as Emma Outten discovers every event venue needs a USP and Bressingham Hall and High Barn has got it in spades, not least because it’s home to world renowned gardens, which span across 17 acres and have been evolving for more than 60 years, thanks to the Bloom family.
Yes, it’s become an award winning wedding venue but the Hall and High Barn also make for a great location for corporate away days, business meetings, conferences, company presentations, workshops and corporate functions, including charity fundraisers – in other words, any variety of events ranging from 10 to 150 people.
First things first: Bressingham Hall itself. The recently refurbished Grade II listed Georgian mansion is perfect for smaller events for up to 20, utilising the drawing room, dining room and conservatory. It is available
for overnight stays, with seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, sleeping up to 19 guests.
Whereas 18th century High Barn has undergone an amazing two year renovation, opening in 2015 as a wedding and events venue.
Which is where Operations Director Samantha Clifford comes in. She has been involved from the start and earlier this year took over the direct running of the business. The Hospitality Management graduate from the Hotel School at City College Norwich has worked in hotels around the world and in London, but Bressingham is turning out to be her dream role giving her the opportunity to run her own business…. as she explains: ‘Being able to work with other passionate people I know and trust. And being able to bring it on to the next stage.’ Plus, she adds: ‘I have a strong relationship with the Bloom family so it’s worked out brilliantly.’
Echoing the Bloom family ties at Bressingham, it’s something of a family affair for her as well, as her daughter Ellie, gets involved with the company, Clifford Event Management, injecting ideas in bar trends (during her bar shifts) and focusing on social media, outside of her degree.
Standing in High Barn, she says: ‘I’ve seen it go from pretty much a shell to what it is now,’ and adds: ‘I know the venue inside out.’
At one end is a bespoke rustic oak bar which has been revamped by Sam and the team. One of the first things she organised was for Adnams to be present, with Copper House Gin behind the bar, and Ghost Ship (‘often our top seller on the night’) and Mosaic Ale on the bar. ‘That’s been a new thing for this year.’ Also, look out for St Giles Gin and Bullards Strawberry and Black Pepper Gin.
And she adds: ‘We have got a new drinks station for this year – a vintage cattle trough.’ The idea is for guests to pick and mix their drinks: to pimp up their Prosecco or gin (pick five gins and the team will provide all the mixers, fruits, and herbs to add to it).
The Barn leads through to the marquee, which has had a new glass reception area. The main caterer is Absolute Catering Excellence and its ethos is to create impressive plates of food reflecting local Norfolk produce. Local suppliers include CJ Chenery and Son in Diss and Norfolk Veg Box in Great Ellingham; Traditional Norfolk Poultry, in Shropham, for Norfolk Black Chicken; Scotts Field Pork in Thetford; The Bakery in Attleborough; Fen Farm Dairy in Bungay, for Baron Bigod Cheese; and Clarkes Farmers Butchery, near Halesworth. ‘Catering is incredibly important,’ says Samantha.
There are four menus in all to choose from: Rustic BBQ, the Bressingham, the High Barn and the Hall; plus there’s a decent vegetarian and vegan menu (‘the spiced lentil and mixed bean casserole topped with sliced crispy sweet potatoes is extremely popular’) and a children’s menu with homemade offerings. Then there are all the buffet options to choose from: ‘our wood fired pizzas have the wow factor – we do this out on the courtyard under a gazebo.’
Although Samantha does make the point: ‘We can also do a bespoke menu.’ For smaller-scale events, Bressingham use alternative caterer Claire Calton-Moore, who specialises in hog roast, vintage afternoon tea and BBQs.
And it’s worth mentioning that the famous Gallopers carousel, part of the Bressingham Steam and Gardens, can be hired after hours. ‘That’s a big USP for us. Companies can hire it for a summer party,’ says Samantha.
This month, there will be school proms to cater for, as well as weddings, of course. And Samantha is already looking ahead to Christmas party season. ‘The chef is all for Christmas parties.’ Beyond that, she has all sorts of plans for the venue and the type of events it can cater for – so watch this space.
‘We are a very versatile venue, with lots of space indoors and out, and are particularly looking at corporate events and any sort of bespoke events. There is so much you can do outside in these world renowned gardens. Most things we can accommodate, however weird and wonderful.’