Meet the owners of Blackwell Grange: William and Didi Vernon Miller tell us all about their new onsite accommodation

Find out more about Blackwell Grange’s beautiful and unique new accommodation, 1604, in SoGlos’s interview.

By Zoe Gater  |  Published

As one of the county’s most sought-after venues, Blackwell Grange is now offering guests a glorious new opportunity for an overnight stay with its newest accommodation addition – 1604.

Discover the rich history that inspired 1604’s high end design in SoGlos’s interview, offering unseen insight into the venue for brides and grooms to-be.

About the owners – William and Didi Vernon Miller, Blackwell Grange

Blackwell Grange has been the Vernon Miller family home since 1944, after the current owner’s grandparents both served during WW2. The story began as a breeding stud for National Hunt Racing, which was successfully run by both grandfather and father as a breeder and trainer until retirement in the late 90’s.

The current owner runs several pedigree sheep flocks alongside the arable farm and with the fourth generation napping at the heels, another diversification was sourced to keep this Cotswold farm in the family under the strains of all that modern agriculture in the UK has to contend with.

How has the pandemic affected the wedding industry – and Blackwell Grange specifically?

It has been crippling! Both financially and emotionally, but like all adverse situations in life you make choices that define you and Covid-19 wasn’t going to be a reason for this family not to continue with their plans for the expansion of Blackwell Grange.

That aside, it has been brutal at times, listening to couples adjust to the suggested alternatives for their dream wedding day in the beginning when there was still so much unknown as this unprecedented worldwide pandemic took hold of our business, through to seeing our suppliers struggling in the height of 2020 to keep their businesses was heart wrenching, while we all watched across the industry incredulously as to how we were all going to survive in this business sector.

At times it felt like we were being hung out to dry and all the while listening and witnessing some of the most harrowing accounts for families within our day-to-day existence suffering such horrendous sadness and loss.

What was the inspiration behind your new accommodation, 1604?

The horses had bolted from the stables, for the last time, literally! The name concept actually comes from a date stone on one of our properties here on the farm. At BG we are renowned for turning something old into something new and this has been a much-anticipated addition since we first opened in October 2016.

We had already renovated the exterior of this collection of 17th-18th century farm buildings during phase one and felt that the time suited within our business to go for it. However, starting before the first week of lockdown in hindsight could not have been more challenging for so many reasons and dogged determination prevailed. A labour of love it certainly became!

What makes the accommodation at Blackwell Grange different from other wedding venues?

We live, eat and breath all that BG has to offer as onsite owners. We constantly think and create from all angles across this business sector, now more so than ever with the last eighteen months in mind, we really focussed in on making each room a place where every guest could have an element of surprise and delight in our individually designed bedrooms, especially with covid-19 still firmly on our shoulder.

We made a choice to welcome everyone from all walks of life who want BG to be a part of their special occasion. We offer exclusive use, but we ultimately have chosen to share our home and our focus in what they would enjoy; what they would expect, but in an understated way that thoughtfulness and most importantly comfort prevails in all that is offered both within BG and now 1604.

There should be no one size fits all approach when designing within a collection of buildings that span several hundred years, but offer different options within the modern-day event to suit all guests that we would host.

We fully immerse ourselves in what suits our ethos combined with a realistic balance of what suits the character of the specific building, whether that is a light fitting that we all just adored or choosing the colour of the embroidered linen curtain fabric in one of the suites, inspired by the colour of the owner’s engagement ring, or how we run our in-house laundry as sustainably as a commercial system will allow, or perhaps that some of our electric is generated from our solar panels across our farm.

From a design perspective, it was simple, as our principal concept was to follow that BG is at the heart of our home every day of the year and we have been the soul for four generations.

We wanted 1604 to be an extension of our family home, (slightly more luxurious in places!) to share the layer of historical sentiment woven into our family’s tapestry. We are spoilt across the surrounding Cotswolds for accommodation, but rarely in a wedding venue can you immerse yourself into such a nostalgic renovation that guests tell us ‘staying one day isn’t enough!’.

The design brief was given to the owner, by the other owner – not as easy as it sounds!

We are fortunate to have one part of this duo who has both a brief surveying background and a deep rooted love and understanding of how old buildings sit within their modern day environment – in addition to over twenty years quietly honing private residential homes as an interior designer.

There is a wealth and depth of knowledge and understanding of what both guest and home owner wanted, breathing elements of family heritage into each concept, while keeping all sentiments of any commercial concepts firmly at bay.

The other half of this husband-and-wife duo is a skilled craftsman in his own right, elements of his work can be seen throughout, created whilst sharing the reigns on both projects overseeing all day-to-day project management and procurement with a hand selected local team.

There are dashes of delight, every suite of the 10 included are individually designed and are all bursting with colours, some muted, some not so much! Room names are sentimental and in one building, hark back to winning National Hunt Gold Cups, bred and trained here at Blackwell Grange.

There is sympathetic design in abundance and coupled with the use of some ethical and current British designers across the interiors industry, there is a wonderful eclectic and authentic mix that just makes 1604 charming but most importantly, it feels like home.

What can Blackwell Grange offer to people looking for a wedding venue? (e.g., any packages which include venue and accommodation?)

We don’t specifically offer set packages, it’s not really us! We’re all about what we can create for you, and we work together on what your vision is and with our expertise across this sector we will help navigate the array of options. We also run the venue and the accommodation as two entirely separate entities.

Is 1604 only available for wedding guests, or can people hire for other events too?

No, we are excited moving forward that we have many ideas on the race track for 1604 for all different types of events, both private family occasions — not necessarily weddings — and also some local, national and international corporate opportunities too that would benefit both sides of the rails. And with the owners’ design backgrounds both in interiors, and as one of our recommended wedding florists, there is ultimately a lot to share with what we have created here.

We are immensely proud of this rural but attainable slice of the Cotswolds, steeped in our family but to share our home with others as custodians for future generations is a necessity that many farming families have come to understand to survive but most importantly have come to love and to thrive.

What are the room rates at 1604?

We work on an individual booking basis, as all our requests are bespoke and unique, depending on the length of stay and all the other offerings we have as our current weddings are all run on an exclusivity. Please come and visit and we can share the wider picture of what is the heart and soul of BG and 1604.

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