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A deal has been struck between Newark and Sherwood District Council and Kelham Hall Ltd which will increase the use of Kelham Hall for weddings, events and by the public. A joint announcement says that Kelham Hall Ltd has taken over the ground floor of the historic Gilbert Scott wing of Kelham Hall, including the Carriage Court and the unique Dome built in the late 1920s. The deal also includes use of Kelham’s 44 acres of grounds and parkland.
Kelham Hall Limited are opening up the hall to the public, with a restaurant and bar opening in May as the first stages of a gradual transformation.
Mr Jonathan Pass, Managing Director of Kelham Hall Ltd, said: “This is a hugely positive outcome for both the council and the public. We will be opening the bar and restaurant in May and the doors will be open to the hall with full public access to the Gilbert Scott wing, the Carriage Court and associated areas. There will be a new reception desk at the entrance to help people with information. We’re going to be open every day all day.”
The deal follows a period in which the Council has sought interest from potential buyers for Kelham Hall. Kelham Hall Ltd will initially develop the use of the Hall for a wider range of activities over the next two years. In the longer term, both the Council and the company are considering whether there is scope for conversion of more of the Hall so that hotel and spa facilities could be added.
Mr Pass commented: “We’ll be talking to the Council about whether over the next few years we could develop a hotel and spa facility to complement the magnificent hall and country park. We’re already bringing in antiques, furnishings and garden furniture appropriate to the property, and everybody is welcome to come and enjoy the grounds and indeed the house. We want Kelham to be everybody’s Downton Abbey.”
Newark and Sherwood Council Chief Executive Mr Andrew Muter said: “Kelham Hall has served the Council well for 40 years and by occupying Kelham Hall we have saved a historic building that might otherwise have been under threat. By working with Kelham Hall Ltd we hope to breathe new life into the building and grounds and ensure that there are facilities which are attractive to a wider range of the public.”
As well as providing offices for staff and the council chamber for meetings, Kelham Hall’s magnificent state rooms have successfully played host to a huge number of weddings, conferences and other events since the Hall was bought by the council in 1973. The development of hotel and spa facilities will depend on the extent to which the Council is able to reduce its need for space in Kelham Hall or ultimately whether the Council moves its operation away to allow for this to happen.
Jonathan Pass commented: “It’s all about creating a National Trust-style property. We’re taking the same route as they have done, very successfully, on a large number of properties.” Mr Pass said there had been significant initial investment – £200,000 – in furniture and equipment: “The billiard room now has a billiard table, we’ve got a self-playing piano, golf buggies for functions and weddings, to take the bride around the estate, and we’re upgrading the outside with a children’s play area.
“We’ve opened the Dome balcony for the first time in living memory, and it’s now available overlooking the Dome. In May we are starting regular tours of the hall. We’re anticipating very heavy footfall. We have 400-plus car parking spaces, day and night fishing available, tennis courts, cricket and football and we are looking to set up Kelham Hall teams, so if anyone is interested, do step forward. We will support the teams in any way we can.
“We want to increase the camping and caravanning that already takes place on site, but more importantly we want to engage with the local population and businesses. What we have here is really fantastic but it is undiscovered and unknown to most people.
“The Lodge at the original entrance has been cleaned and restored and brought back into use and the gates have been cleaned, so there’s lots happening. New signage to the bar, restaurant and country park will also be installed in May.”