Friday, 8 February 2013

Big House Party 1-3 Feb 2013

Maunsel House and Woodlands Castle didn’t have a booking so Sir Ben decided to give a very large house party at both venues. 70+ people came to stay over the weekend and various locals turned up as well. Over the course of the weekend there was 66 to dinner on Friday at Maunsel House, 58 came to lunch at Maunsel House on the Saturday and 120 dined and danced at Woodlands Castle on Saturday night and a total of 171 came to lunch on Sunday at Woodlands Castle. Unfortunately a lot of people were away as over 390 were invited. This was a practise run for many events which are going to happen in the future.

Sir William Worsley Bt with Sir Benjamin
The Maunsel Estate could not accommodate all these people so a great many guests were invited to stay at Woodlands Castle. They all thought they were going to stay in a large castle near Taunton only to find that when they arrived they were in the Dower house. When they walked the 60yards to the Dower House it said the magic words Premier Inn! It was explained that there were no bedrooms at Woodlands Castle but the Premier Inn had 100 rooms and it was very comfortable and modern. This was thought to be hilarious, but the fact that you can get 300 people in the pavilion at Woodlands Castle and they can walk to the Premier Inn and sleep whenever they want and get up and have breakfast at the Blackbrook Tavern is extremely convenient. Some guests got in their cars and ate a 2nd breakfast at Maunsel House, where we had 50 to breakfast every morning.

Miss Rachel Wrey and Lady Caroline Wrey
The other place that was requisitioned was The Slade Arms in North Petherton which is 2miles away from Maunsel House. It is actually called The Walnut Tree and is very luxurious. Many of the guests had full English breakfast, kippers and all and wandered down to Maunsel House afterwards. The party organiser Sal had forgotten to order minibuses for Friday night so Ashley and Jordan the grounds-men were driving guests backwards and forwards in the farm trucks, so guest arrived and met up in the bar at Maunsel House on Friday night and then wandered through to dinner which was supposed to be at 8:30, but trying to get 66 people to sit down in the right place is impossible.

Mr Charles (eligible) Mitford-Cust with Ms Fiona Thomas 
They were all sitting on one big large table that stretched into a tented extension. This had heaters blowing to keep them all warm. Fires were lit in the long ballroom which made it too warm and so everybody took there coats off throughout the evening. It was thought that the hot air in the ballroom would go through to the tent but in actual fact the hot air blew the wrong way, we are going to have to redesign the wooden extension we are building so that no air can creep in the gap where it joins the house.

Mrs Anthony Fortescue, Miss Sally Melville and Miss Rachel Wrey
Ms Liz Brewer
Anyway the food started at 9pm and was served by Sticky Date who did an absolutely excellent job. The wine was a Pauillac. The guests then washed it down with various other wine followed by a pudding wine, port and brandy.  Some of the guests included the famous author and TV presenter Liz Brewer who had brought a huge wad of her books that she was signing, which mention Maunsel House. Also there was Sir Toby Clarke Bt, who had been complaining all over London that week that he was staying in a hotel and not the main house. He stayed until about 3am in the morning because he needed a lift as he couldn't read maps in the dark and was staying at the Premier Inn in Taunton.

Ms Nancy Prall, Miss Sally Melville, Miss Rachel Wrey, Sir Ben and Ms Bridget Convey
Unfortunately he and a team of people led by Prince Mangal Kapoor, set off via Bridgwater to go to the Premier Inn in Taunton only to go to the wrong hotel and eventually got to bed at 4:30 in the Premier Inn in Ruishton which is where they were booked in. Bridget Convey, the famous banker had been on hand since Tuesday because we had both been to Lady Wills’ 60th birthday party and Bridget had decided to stay and sort out all the things that were going wrong. Both Bridget and Toby Clarke were the heroes that stepped into the fray time and time again to sort out problems, especially when there was no seating plan on Sunday and all the name places had gone missing.

Ms Emma Ellis and Sir Toby Clarke Bt
Ms Charlotte Pike, Lord Northbrook, Ms Andrea Webb and The Duke of Rutland (Rutters)
Mr Will Cunningham from Caprington Castle, Ayrshire, had come down especially as he is one of Southern Scotland’s eligible young men and a cousin of Ben’s. The Hon. Mr and Mrs Olivier Debarge were also present, Robina is Ben’s niece and Olivier runs a big investment group in London called CIM Investment Management Ltd. There was the historian Emma Ellis who’s writing a book about the Napoleonic war, about David Rutland’s ancestor. The property tycoon Kym Erlich was also there to network and do deals. The Hon. Alexandra Foley was there for the weekend and just going off to America to secure very rich Americans for her travel business which visits only the best stately homes in England. Mr and Mrs Anthony Fortescue from Boconnoc were there, they have just restored their vast house down in Cornwall.

Mr William Cuninghame
Foreground - The Hon Mr Charles Cayzer, Mrs Francis Fulford, Mr James Wood, The Hon Mrs Charles Cayzer
Young Arthur Fulford, who works in the House of Commons busily writing a report on the chemical industry, was busy chasing girls as there was dancing and left the bar about 3:30am. Mr and Mrs Francis Fulford of TV fame went to bed at a sensible time. Xenia Howard-Johnston who has some very rich investors announced how she was buying some hotels and supermarkets in Poland and a little voice piped up ‘where abouts?’ and when she said where they were, Matthew Cartisser said ‘that’s funny because that’s my supermarket and I suppose I’m selling that to you and I didn’t know that’.

Mr Arthur Fulford and Ms Sally Melville
Lord and Lady Monson were also around all weekend; he is of course very big in PR in London and recently tried to reclaim his seat in the House of Lords. The Viscountess Monckton of Brenchley danced both nights very hard and is married to the famous politician, power broker and author, Christopher Monkton, who is busy writing books and giving lectures on the nonsense of global warming. Lord Northbrook and Charlotte Pike were in attendance. Lord Northbrook is a Conservative peer in the House of Lords and regularly speaks on finance. Nancy Prall had flown in from Palm Beach especially to come for the weekend and is jetting off next week to San Moritz. The Duke of Rutland came with his girlfriend Miss Andrea Webb, as he needed a rest after the big shooting season at Belvoir Castle where he runs a vast empire of farming and corporate entertainment. Isabel Schaechterle had flown in especially from Germany where she runs a tourist group for very, very rich Germans who wish to visit England, especially stately homes. I wish she would hurry up and bring some more my way!

Mr Alvaro Picardo
Ms Cornelia Schaurecker
Cornelia Schaurecker was in attendance and she drove a really fancy car as she is head of IT at a branch of Volkswagen Group UK which deals with Audi and Bentley etc. Roger Selig of Upton House which is a shrine to the East India Company was there with Claire Ward Thomas; Roger is also a very large sheep farmer in Gloucester and hunts with the Beaufort Hunt. Miss Fiona Thomas the property tycoon, young and beautiful, from Gloucester was in attendance as indeed was Mr William Thuillier the famous art dealer who deals in old masters. Gerald Westminster was staying all weekend in the Bothy recovering from an operation that he had last Tuesday.

The Hon Mrs Olivier Debarge (Robina)
He is making a slow recovery as for a few days he could not eat or drink. It is hoped he will be better next week. Miss Caroline Williams danced and drank both nights and has a good business finding accommodation for very rich bankers in central London. James & Sarah Williams had come out of Cornwall; he is of course famous for his vast garden of rare plants at Tregullow. Barney Windsor-Clive the high tech tycoon was there, one of the most eligible bachelors in England, who is great friends with Sir William and Lady Worsley. Sir William of course is the former president of the CLA and now Chairman of the Scarborough Building Society.

The Hon Avon Cayzer and Ms Kym Erlich 
Mr Keith Holland

Pictures courtesy of Photographer, Ed Mash 
He is also a famous forester and is very lucky to have the Hovingham Estate which was given to the family by Cromwell because they did the decent thing and married Cromwell’s difficult daughter. Sir Bourchier and Lady Caroline Wrey stayed all weekend and Sir Bourchier is now retired but Lady Caroline specialises in thick, dyslexic children and getting them into public schools and is an author of books on curtains and social events. Mr Keith Holland who was section head in MI6, (now retired) regaled us his stories of his old cold war escapes and daring do’s.

Lunch on Saturday
Lunch started at 12 on Saturday in the bar at Maunsel House, unfortunately the party planner Sal had forgotten to lay up for 58 people and the room sits 46 people without the extension, so it was a bit tight to say the least. Dinner in the evening with a bit of music at Woodlands Castle was a wonderful affair for 120 people. One was very pleased to see Nick & Sarah Allen, Nick Allen formerly of Boyer, is a hedge fund magnet, he now has been building luxury hotels in Jaipur India. Also there was Chris & Emma Chanter, Christopher sells a wonderful furniture polish around England and is possibly going to be the local UKIP MP in the local election. Mr & Mrs Peter Edwards flew in from their chateaux and vineyard in Bordeaux. Also Bobby Faber and Sue De Zulueta the famous interior decorator who has a working mill at the end of the runway at terminal 4 were in attendance. Cllr Ian Morrell appeared who is the youngest and most up and coming councillor on Taunton Deane and is on the candidate list to be a MP. Hannah Pike who lives in Wellington but works in Cirencester with Knight Frank & Rutley was a great success with the young men. 

Jeremy & Lady Rebecca Wharton danced the night away, Jeremy is the whizz fund manager at Church House Investments based in Dorchester. Young Sir John Becher also one of the eligible young men in England was staying the night and dancing. Amy Cayzer financial PR guru at UBS was there with her hedge fund husband Avon Cayzer. Lunch the next day, one was able to see Mr & Mrs Ted Coryton and there beautiful daughter Sam who runs Pentillie Castle in Cornwall.  Lady Dashwood (Katie) the celebrity cook and author appeared for lunch looking radiant. Most interesting news for Sunday at Woodlands Castle was Mr Andrew Davis & Andrew Onraet formally of Von Esson Hotels, are busy suing the banks for £450 million and they say it is looking really good. Tamsin Day Lewis the sister of Daniel unfortunately forgot to appear.  DR & Mrs Charles Goodson-Wickes appeared for lunch and he is now a top medical consultant for a big pharmaceutical group after many years in the House of Commons. Mr David Kenyon of Crowcombe Court was able to compare notes on strategy with Sir Ben Slade. Sir John Madejski was with Jackie Osborne all weekend and it is unfortunate that he left his two beautiful daughters behind. He has luckily sold Reading Football Club which was a bit stressful with all those highly paid footballers. 

The Pavilion at Woodlands Castle - Three tables for 175 people
Mr & Mrs Francis Mander came down from Gloucestershire luckily he is a society photographer and he had brought his camera with him and we will be able to add these photos to the blog. Magnus & Lyn Mowat came down from Exmoor, Lyn is head of SAW (Somerset Arts Week) and there is a big do on the 21st March to promote more friends for SAW at Woodlands Castle. Mr & Mrs Martin Sessions-Hodge were slightly worse for wear and did not leave until 5 am after doing a few hand stands on the bar. Mr Tim Smith and Miss Clare Gore-Langton appeared from Hatch Beauchamp, they are very important stock brokers in the city and were giving tips to people. Also involved were Hugh & Jane Warmington who come from Cothlestone House, Jane is a very important county councillor for Somerset. Mr and Mrs Richard Williamson came down from Bath, Penny owns a hotel just outside Bath and she also runs a club called ladies that lunch in London that meets every week. 

Lunch on Sunday
Mrs Francis Fulford and Sir Ben
Miss Rachael Wrey, who is an ‘it’ girl, looked gorgeous all weekend and danced to 3:30 am every night and still looked gorgeous. She obviously has got a lot of young and old admirers. All this was going on when the organiser Sal had forgotten to order any flowers and there was no seating plan for Sunday lunch for 171 people. The day was saved by Sir Toby Clarke who announced that each lady had to grab two men who she didn’t know and hadn’t come with but fancied and sit down quick! This seemed to work. Lunch finished at 4.55 pm.  

The conclusion was that the Premier Inn was more convenient, more comfortable and cleaner than the majority of the stately homes in the West Country and in fact some of the guests decided to leave tips for the staff as thought they were in a private house. The next party at Woodlands Castle, Sir Ben is going to stay there for convenience. 

Gemma Halliwell, Bridget Convey, Keith Holland, Matthew Cartisser

Lady Monson & Mrs Martin Session Hodge

Charelle Armstrong, Gemma Halliwell, Kate Marits, Dylan Nyce

Miss Rachel Wrey, Christopher Shaw, Miss Rachel Wrey, Lady Monson

Mrs James Williams and Mr Richard Williamson

Miss Rachel Wrey, Mr Arthur Fulford, Miss Sally Melville

Ms Jane Martel, Nicholas Bowater

Ms Cornelia Schaurecker, Miss Rachel Wrey, Mrs Francis Mander

Ms Caroline Bellot & Christopher Shaw

Sir Benjamin Slade & Bridget Convey

Sir Ben Slade & Ms Isabel Schaechterle

Ms Nancy Prall, Francis Mander

Sir Ben Slade & Cornelia Schaurecker

Sir Toby Clarke & Sir Benjamin Slade

Images courtesy of Francis Mander


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  2. Some lovely comments coming in from the weekend, via email and post. Too many to mention so apologies for those we missed. Thank you all again for such a grand weekend.

    "Dear Benji,
    Thank you very much for a most extraordinary weekend that I shall never forget. Such unbridled hospitality. It was totally unbelievable, magical and thoroughly delightful. Your staff were absolutely brilliant at every turn and their attention to detail was out of this world. Thank you so much for inviting Jackie and I. We both had the most amazing experience.

    I look forward to seeing you in the not too distant future."
    Sir J.M

    "My Dear Ben,
    What a memory of a fantastic and fun weekend with your address book coming alive!
    A thousand thanks again.
    Maunsel House is magnificent and the staff superbly attentive under your command. The house party were very convivial and bespoke and the dance amazing with great music and a very good placement at the dinner. The innovative newsletter is excellent for keeping us all in touch too about the house's unrivalled and original facilities.
    Woodlands Castle was a terrific setting too for the dinner/dance and the lunch. How generous of you to have me up in the Premier Inn as well.
    Bridget was especially helpful and a glamorous addition to your guest list. I enjoyed meeting her properly for the first time."
    Sir T.C

    "I wanted to thank you for a truly excellent party at Woodlands Castle over the weekend. You managed to put together a great collection of amusing and interesting people. I was surrounded by people I had not met before namely Peter Edward's wife, John Madejski and the rather beautiful Rachel Wrey.
    I do hope your other celebrations went well and we are so sorry we could not join you for Sunday lunch. The food and wines you provided were exceptional."

    "My Dear Benjamin,
    When future quiz masters ask what is the meaning of the question 80-120-160-180 few can have any excuse for answering the atom bomb. It will be on the record book as the Slade party formula. It was a fantastic tour de force one of those memorable occasions which one will use to reference a date and place things at a time. Alas my own modest party efforts are going to have to move up a gear. Thank you millions.
    You were sadly too preoccupied ensuring our enjoyment to have taken in some of the really vintage moments. I found several gentlemen of Somerset who were overcome with such emotion and gratitude that they lost the power of speech. Your careful blending of glamour and age gave the events an effervescence which only very few parties ever capture and never for three days. There were faces and reputations to be savoured at Sunday lunch which would have won an Oscar for central casting.
    It was a truly remarkable and wonderful weekend. You left us all wishing we could start again and with a new dimension in ambition for entertaining.
    Please more."

    "Thank you so much for having me to stay at Maunsel last weekend. It was so kind of you and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I love staying at Woodlands Castle...aka the Premier Inn, or as Nanny called it, "The Ritz" It was very comfortable.
    Woodlands was looking amazing and the pavilion is a great addition.
    What a fun party!"

  3. "Dear Ben,
    Thank you so much for asking me to lunch at Woodlands, it was very enjoyable - you really are a very generous host - Champagne and delicious Beef cooked to perfection. It was such a fun day with so many guests, from all over the world - everything went well and enjoyed by everyone - a great atmosphere.
    You really have done wonders at The Castle, externally and internally. The new drive and the parking and the lovely patio, all are a great success and no mean task.
    Thank you so much for asking me to lunch and I hope to see you again soon,
    With much love,"

    "Dear Ben,
    What another fabulous weekend we had with you two weeks ago. It is hard to know where to start with the highlights as we enjoyed every moment. It was fun to vary the locations between Maunsel and Woodlands Castle each of which accommodated us so well. The catering team did us proud at both locations with delicious meals and the alcohol flowed throughout.
    Many thanks once again,
    Yours ever,"

    "Dear Benjy,
    Thank you so much for dinner at Woodlands Castle. It was a fabulous evening with delicious food. The Marquee looked great and felt cosy with pictures and lighting. It felt like a giant house party! How generous of you,
    Thank you again,"

    "Dear Ben,
    Just a note to thank you for such a fun and fantastic weekend at Maunsel and Woodlands. It was something from a bygone age and your hospitality and generosity was second to none. It was great to catch up with old faces as well as meeting new faces, and also old faces with new faces!
    I only hope that you enjoyed it as much as the rest of us and didnt suffer under the "burden". All i can say from my perspective is that the whole weekend ran like a well oiled machine.
    Thank you again and I hope you enjoy the bottle of port I left for you!
    All the best,"

    "Darling Ben,
    What a fantastic weekend! THANK YOU SO really was a treat to be looked after so well. Delicious food at lunches and dinner, glorious guests and divine house, absolutely wonderful. Much love,"

    "Dear Ben,
    What a great party you gave at Woodlands Castle the other night. Thank you so much for inviting us to it - we did enjoy it enormously. You must have gone to a lot of effort to have arranged it all so beautifully. The Marquee for a start was stunning and gloriously warm on such a cold night. All your guests, to whom we spoke were extremely interesting and entertaining.
    All in all it was a very enjoyable evening, thank you.
    With kind regards,

  4. We are sorry that Prince Mangal Kapoor says he is not an arms dealer. When I first met him the man who introduced me said that he had sold a few Holland & Holland purdey's. I thought that he was big into shooting Tigers, Buffalo's and a bit of Pig sticking. Mangal drove a Rolls Royce and had a smart house so it stood to reason that these Tiger hunting Prince's had a surplus of guns and Rolls Royces.

  5. Thank you very much for a most extraordinary weekend that I shall never forget. Such unbridled hospitality. happy easter images with quotes
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