Wakehurst Place

Weddings at Wakehurst Place


If you’re looking for a unique venue this year, then you won’t have to travel far to get something special.

With over 16 years’ experience in the wedding and events industry, local Lindfield resident Jo Chellingworth began working at nearby Wakehurst, Kew’s Wild Botanic Garden, in January. Having spent much of her working life in London, Jo says: “I’m really enjoying working at such an incredibly special place and so close to home!”

The catering and events contract at Kew’s Wakehurst in Ardingly was taken over by Graysons at the beginning of the year. Graysons look after over 40 sites around the UK, including Christchurch Spitalfields and The British Library. Head of Sales & Marketing Rebecca Hawkes explains: “Since taking over at Wakehurst, we have been delighted to introduce a number of new initiatives to rejuvenate the catering offering.” Using the ethos of ‘from farm to fork’ Graysons works closely with Slow Foods; a company dedicated to protecting products which are in danger of extinction with a particular focus on products from the Sussex area. “Developing a strategy like this nicely mirrors the amazing work of the team at the Millennium Seed Bank on site,” Rebecca goes on.

Wakehurst has three unique spaces available for a range of events, including social dining such as birthday parties and anniversaries, corporate functions and, of course, weddings.

Firstly, there is the Mansion. This classic Elizabethan Grade I listed building dates from the 16th century and is highly recognisable locally. The rooms inside feature beautiful sculpted ceilings, ornate fireplaces and wood panelled walls – making you feel positively aristocratic for your big day! The Mansion can seat up to 80 guests, or host standing receptions for up to 180. You can also benefit from having your wedding day all under one roof, as the Mansion is licenced for civil ceremonies and civil partnerships also.

Maybe you would prefer to be outside on the Croquet Lawn? This beautifully manicured garden can take a marquee housing up to 200 seated guests for your event.

Overlooking the Mansion and lily pond, it provides a natural photo opportunity, whilst guests can mingle and spill out into the delightful walled garden.

By contrast to the previous two, Wakehurst also boasts a cutting-edge contemporary space in the form of the Millennium Seed Bank, which can comfortably hold up to 200 guests for a standing drinks reception and is perfect as the venue for a corporate event.

Whichever space you choose to host your event, you will be able to take advantage of over 500 acres of wild botanic garden, with stunning photo opportunities ranging from the picturesque English Walled Garden, temperate woodlands of the world or magical reflections on the lakes. When hosting an event at Wakehurst you will also benefit from free use of the designated events car park.

Making a booking at Wakehurst will also give you access to Jo, who will act as your bespoke coordinator for your event. “All events, especially weddings, are as unique as the people that book them,” she explains.

“I love my job, and the part where I meet the wedding couple and talk through the vision for their big day is very exciting.” After the initial enquiry and being shown round the venue, Jo gets to work planning a bespoke package which brings in the couple’s own personalities – including tasting sessions with the Chef.

“Over the years I’ve had some pretty unusual requests,” Jo reveals, “including arriving on an elephant, bringing sand in to create a beach theme and hundreds of pounds spent on snow machines only to have it actually snow on the day!”

“My role is simply to make it perfect and create a day they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

If you’d like to find out more about the facilities at Wakehurst then head over to their website www.kew.org/venue-hire where you can see images of the spaces and information regarding packages. Alternatively, call Jo on 01444 894024 or email wakehursthire@graysonsvenues.com and she can discuss your plans and arrange a viewing so you can see the stunning spaces for yourself!

The Wind in the Willows - Wakehurst Place - 2017 a review

Wind in the Willows tour comes to Ardingly's Wakehurst Place this summer

By David Tingley

Wakehurst Place, in Ardingly, will play host to The Australian Shakespeare Company later this month when The Wind in the Willows opens its run on 31st August. I was lucky enough to go along for a sneak preview at Kew Gardens earlier in the summer.

I have to say, I was impressed. I was impressed with the whole thing, actually.

From a technical point of view all the actors had microphones – so we never had a problem hearing the dialogue. But, more than that - and something I wasn’t expecting, all of them played an instrument of some kind during the performance and these came over the mic or had a pick-up of their own in the case of the guitars.

I arrived to sit on the grass (note to self, take something to sit on, we didn’t and got slightly damp bottoms!) with two of my girls and awaited the action. As soon as Head Chief Rabbit, played by musical director Zachary Cooke, stumbled across the audience on his walk for adventure – we were taken in to a new world.

Zachary’s enthusiasm was infectious and I found myself quickly entering the spirit of piece and waving my hands on my head to mimic a bunny rabbit on cue! And here is a good point to note; you all have to take part! In truth my girls (at 10 and 12) were a little too cool for the ‘rub your nose like a bunny’ gesticulations and singing along with the songs, but I definitely saw a few laughs and smirks on their faces as the comedy-laden script unfolded. We thought aged eight would be a good top end for the smaller visitors. For adults, on the other hand, well, there was plenty to keep me entertained and amused during the 90 minute or so performance.

The musical numbers were very well done indeed. Tamlyn Henderson played the character of Weasel, and when he added his guitar and vocals to Zachary’s it worked wonderfully. At one point, in the second act, there is a break-out jam session with these two characters as they played versions of Ruler (Lorde) and Up All Night (Daft Punk) the likes of which you’ve never heard before! I don’t think I stopped smiling throughout this interlude!

The story was easy to follow, of course, with each new cast member bringing in a new energy to the piece when they were introduced. I think, for my money, I particularly enjoyed the dryness of Badger (played by Chris Killik) but, I suspect, a five year old may not agree!

The Wind in the Willows begins its run on Thursday 31st August and plays at Wakehurst Place until Sunday 3rd September.

Book your tickets here...