Backwell House has been transformed to become a cool and quirky venue
If you haven’t heard of Backwell House yet, the chances are you soon will.
This little-known gem has recently undergone a complete refurbishment and is set to become one of the region’s coolest party venues.
It’s the first time the luxurious Georgian stately home has been opened to the public – having previously been a family home – but now it will serve as a nine-bedroom boutique hotel during the week, and a venue for parties and weddings at weekends.
The transformation was the creative vision of Guy Williams – a former surveyor who decided to quit a life of sitting behind a computer screen in favour of a more creative career.
He said: “I’d always been creative and enjoyed working with my hands, so I redesigned my flat and turned it into a holiday let.
“I got in touch with a senior partner at Alder King, who said: ‘I don’t know whether Backwell House is your cup of tea..?’ I said ‘Yes!’
“I was introduced to the owners of Backwell House, the Hobbs family, who gave me the opportunity to pitch my ideas for what this beautiful house could become. I couldn’t stop thinking about what an amazing place this could be for escape-from-the city breaks, parties and weddings. I was fortunate enough that the Hobbs family backed my vision and put their faith and trust in me to deliver what we hope to be the best place to stay in Bristol.”
The refurbishment began in July last year and took nine months and around three quarters of a million pounds to complete.
The result is a simply stunning, a clever blend of contemporary and vintage styling which pays homage to the unusual and extraordinary, but maintaining the Georgian charm.
It’s a look which Guy describes as “quirky country farmhouse meets vintage chic,” and there’s certainly quirks and curiosities around every corner –
think vintage-suitcase style basins, a 20ft chandelier in the stairwell, a wood-fired hot tub in the gardens and a cinema room. There’s also an open-air swimming pool, the option of croquet on the lawn and views that stretch across the valley.
“I’m not sure where my inspiration came from,” said Guy. “Voices in my head maybe! I suppose it was my love of antiques and creating a cosy and romantic place to be, and simple things like country walks and lazy Sunday afternoons in front of the fire.
“Backwell House has always been a family home so we wanted to create a homely feel and be as sympathetic as possible to the building, maintaining and restoring all the original features.
“It was last refurbished in the 1960s and was all flock wallpaper and swirly carpets. We’ve stripped it back to the old oak floors, letting the building breathe again.”
Turning a family home into a sumptuous country retreat was no easy task, and Guy and his team faced challenges with structural issues and removing asbestos, but one of the biggest hurdles to achieving just the result result was something much more simple than you might think.
“The ongoing challenge was the colour pallet,” said Guy. “We probably painted the house three times to get the colours right!”
But all the hard work was worth it and Guy is rightly proud of the result.
“Everything has turned out beyond all expectations,” he said. “I can’t put my finger on one specific element that’s my favourite, but I’m so pleased with the way the bar and the tables in the dining room have turned out – they were all made on site and we used wood that was recycled from the grounds.”
The quintessentially English house was built in 1817 and has a rich and fascinating history peppered with Bristol legends.
It used to be the family home of the Robinsons who had made a fortune manufacturing paper bags in Bristol. They were also avid cricketers. In fact, the Robinson family cricket matches were such memorable events that they even gained Alfred Robinson an obituary notice in The Times newspaper which read:
"He was head of the large family of Robinson of Somerset and Gloucester and in 1878 started family cricket matches which – but for the interruptions of war – have been played each year.”
From that day until 1964, the Robinsons fielded a cricket team that Bank Holiday against various teams – including one, in 1891, made up entirely by the Grace family – the same family from which WG Grace hailed, a man described by Britannica as “the Greatest Cricketer in Victorian England.”
The outdoor space is an important part of the Backwell House experience.
Not only is there the outdoor pool, hot tub and croquet lawns but there also a wonderful walled garden which has been lovingly tended for many years by the house’s gardener Tony. It is hoped that in the future the gardens will provide herbs, honey, eggs and vegetables to feed the guests, and other ingredients will all be sourced from the surrounding areas.
Guy said: “This is the kind of venue that Bristol has been crying out for. It's such a special place and I'm so excited that we can now host weddings, parties, film crews and fashion shows that will be talked about for years to come!"
“I think what makes Backwell House so special is that It’s simply a beautiful building which is intimate and homely and refurbished with a sense of humour.”