Lots of wedding venues boast perfectly manicured surroundings and impressive backdrops for your big day, but few lay claim to 800 years of history and five generations of family stewardship. Pengenna Manor occupies a secluded valley in North Cornwall, near the pretty village of St Kew and just three miles from the coast at Port Isaac. It is the ancestral home of the Blewett family, and is steeped in history and grandeur. House and grounds have been sensitively updated to provide modern couples with a unique and immersive wedding experience – during which lifetime memories will no doubt be made.
“We genuinely want people to feel at home during their time here,” says Richard Blewett, who is the current custodian of the Elizabethan manor house (the first official mention of Pengenna was in 1538, though a medieval hall existed as far back as 1200) and the extensive land surrounding it. “Guests are invited to treat it like their own – exploring the whole estate and enjoying family meals and relaxing down-time in the house – like the country house parties of old!”
Emulating this bygone era is no great leap of the imagination, surrounded by Old World splendour as you are at Pengenna. Much of the décor is in the English Country House style, with antiques and paintings collected by the family over the years. You’ll also find all the mod cons, plenty of stylish, contemporary touches and bags of character. The bright and spacious Bridal Suite is where Richard has let his love of the Art Deco era run riot, with specially designed fabrics, carefully-sourced accessories and a lavish bathroom with 1920s-style fittings.
Just like the metropolitan socialites of the twenties who craved hedonistic weekends in the country as an antidote to city life, guests can wander off into the grounds and find peace and seclusion. There are two acres of beautifully landscaped gardens bordered by picturesque meadows and ancient woodland to explore, giving way to farmland. The entire estate occupies 300 acres and there are many lovely walking routes; you can even bring the hound as Pengenna is a dog-friendly wedding venue and pets are very welcome to accompany their owners for the entirety of the celebrations.
The whole venue is exclusively for the use of the wedding party, and most couples opt to have the house and grounds for 48hrs over the course of three days, leaving them time to prepare, reconnect with their closest family and friends, and winddown after the wedding itself. You can choose to stay for longer and many do, taking the opportunity to tag on a brief mini-moon in glorious isolation in this beautiful corner of Cornwall.
Richard and his team are incredibly magnanimous, giving couples free rein to design their nuptials with full flexibility and making use of the many distinct areas of the property however they choose. For the ceremony itself you can choose between a beautifully appointed summerhouse perched whimsically at the end of an avenue of heritage apple and cherry trees; a 200-year-old former cowshed, with a vaulted beamed roof and beautiful rustic stone walls; an Elizabethan archway with original oak door; a rustic stable filled with candles and festoon lighting; an elegant drawing room packed with period features; and a cosy dining room which is ideal for wintertime or smaller ceremonies. All of these areas lend themselves beautifully to photography; your wedding album will certainly be something to treasure.
Drinks receptions, wedding breakfasts and evening parties also present many options. From the stylishly renovated Cowyard Barn or Stables (delightful rustic spaces just oozing character), to a marquee on the lawn; guests can wander freely amongst patios and walled gardens taking in the stunning views and soaking up the atmosphere. Summer weddings at Pengenna lend themselves to an outdoor, festival feel. There’s even a camping area in the meadow which can be converted into a mini ‘glamping village’, with some couples installing an outdoor spa area with woodfired hot tubs for guests; bliss!
Meanwhile, winter invites you to seek comfort within the ancient walls and behind mullioned windows, whilst fires glow in the grates and the manor becomes a romantic haven. Squishy sofas, reading corners, board games and leisurely family meals become the order of the day. “We host lots of smaller weddings and elopement-style celebrations during the winter months,” says Richard. “They can be everything from low-key and relaxed to ultra-luxurious and elaborate.”
After the celebrations, staying guests can relax in comfort and style. Aside from the Bridal Suite, Pengenna has four other bedrooms, all of which are included as standard when booking your wedding. A newly renovated kitchen is also at your disposal (“many families like to prepare a meal together on the night of their arrival,” says Richard).
For the wedding itself, catering arrangements are very flexible. “We’ve had everything from pints and pasties to six-course fine-dining,” recalls Richard. “The outdoor space lends itself well to live fire cooking in the summer, which creates a nice focal point, or we can lay long colourful buffets on banqueting tables in the courtyard. We work with a large variety of caterers and again the couple can choose to enlist whichever caterer fits their style and budget.”
Though Richard’s style is ‘hands off’, giving each couple scope to make the venue their own without interference, the proprietor and his team are there to guide and assist, making suggestions and recommendations for those who are arranging their wedding from a distance. “Many of our couples have family connections to Cornwall or perhaps holidayed here, but now live in London or abroad. We can provide more assistance in those cases, or work with wedding planners if one is appointed as a go-between,” explains Richard.
“We offer the antithesis of the package model, where choices are so restricted,” says Richard. “We want each wedding to be completely unique. It’s a little more work, but it keeps things interesting for us too! And these days weddings are much more of an expression of personality – there are very few hard and fast rules you have to stick to.”
In fact, the one hard and fast rule at Pengenna is to immerse yourself completely in the unique experience of this ancient, secluded manor in the Cornish countryside. If ever a wedding venue could transport you away from the cares of modern life into a romantic haven reminiscent of bygone days, it is Pengenna.
For more information about weddings at Pengenna Manor, visit: pengennamanor.co.uk
Extracted from The Maverick Wedding Guide Cornwall. Words by Lucy Studley.
Photography credits: Alex Poppe Photography, Liberty Pearl Photography, Leo Photography, Mark Shaw Photography.