Solent Forts Logo

Venue Name: Solent Forts


Location: In The Solent, off Portsmouth, Hampshire

Please tell us a little about Solent Forts’ history

When Louis Napoleon, the nephew of Bonaparte, seized power in 1848 and declared himself Emperor Napoleon III there was widespread fear in Britain of a resumption of hostilities with France and a possible invasion. In 1860, after much debate and deliberation, the government of Lord Palmerston proposed the construction of a ring of Forts in the Solent to protect Britain’s premier naval dockyard.

Spitbank Fort was completed in June 1878. The two outer Forts, Horse Sand Fort and No Man’s Fort, although started earlier, were completed in the spring of 1880. Horse Sands Fort and No Man’s Fort are identical, being 200 ft. in diameter and fully armour plated, while Spitbank Fort was only 150 ft. diameter and had iron plating on the seaward side only.

Spitbank Fort at Solent Forts

The stones, beautifully cut and weighing several tonnes apiece, had to be positioned on the seabed by divers who worked without the benefit of today’s technology. Each includes an artesian well to provide the garrison with fresh water – these are over 400ft deep! The cost was extortionate: excluding armaments, Spitbank Fort cost £167,300 (£8.6m in today’s money), Horse Sand Fort cost £424,694 (£31m in today’s money) and No Man’s Land Fort £462,500 (£34m in today’s money). By the time they were completed the invasion threat had receded and the Forts were dubbed “Palmerston’s Follies”.

They were heavily armed, none the less, with the guns being regularly upgraded as technology advanced. By the start of the First World War Spitbank was equipped with roof mounted guns that could prevent light forces from penetrating the Spithead area and the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. Between the wars, all Forts in the Solent were left largely neglected until 1940 when the fall of France meant an invasion by German forces became a real threat. Spitbank Fort, along with Horse Sand and No Man’s Fort, suffered considerable damage as a result of German bombing. They were not able to support heavy anti-aircraft guns for general air defence but were brought to war-readiness for the seizure of French warships anchored off Portsmouth in 1940, after the fall of France. This was the only time that their armament was trained on the targets for which they had been originally built. The seizure was completed with little opposition and actual firing from the guns on the Forts was not necessary.

The Forts were de-activated at the end of the war and decommissioned in 1956, but only sold by the Ministry of Defence in 1982. Since then Spitbank Fort has been privately owned and has gone through many guises before finally coming to rest in the creatively sympathetic hands of AmaZing Venues. We have lovingly transformed Spitbank Fort and No Man’s Fort into unique, luxury wedding venues like no other, and will shortly complete the restoration of Horse Sand Fort.

What type of venue is Solent Forts?

Our three amazing historic sea forts have been, or are in the process of being, transformed into the ultimate private island experience. Perfect for Private Parties, Fort Breaks, Weddings and Lunch Experiences, our venues offer something unique.

Bride looking at view of Solent Forts

Is Solent Forts licensed for wedding ceremonies?

Three rooms on Spitbank Fort are licensed for civil weddings – you can say “I do” in the Officer’s Mess, the Victory Bar or the Crow’s Nest.

No Man’s Fort offers a variety of different spaces for your ceremony and reception, from the huge central Atrium to the Dining Quarters and the Rooftop Deck to the Cabaret Club, each with their own unique characteristics.

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Kinnettles Castle Logo

Venue Name: Kinnettles Castle


Location: Forfar, Nr Dundee, Angus, Scotland

Please tell us a little about Kinnettles Castle’s history

The Kinnettles Estate is first mentioned at the beginning of the 15th century in a document where King Robert III of Scotland grants an annual income from the lands of Brigtoun, Inglestoun and Kinnettles to Alexander Strachan of Carmyllie.

The Strachan family established property on the Kinnettles Estate and held it until 1511. It was then passed to the Lindsay family who held the land until the middle of the 17th century, when the estate was acquired by Sir Thomas Moodie, one time Provost of Dundee. The estate then passed to Patrick Bower, who had relatives at Kincaldrum.

In 1802 John Aberdein Harvey, a schoolmaster’s son who had been left a small fortune by his late Uncle, a successful planter and merchant in the West Indies, purchased Kinnettles from the Trustees of Alexander Bower. With his wife, Angelica Dingwall Fordyce, John Aberdein Harvey built a new mansion on the southern slopes of Kinnettles Hill.

In 1864, James Paterson became the new owner of the Kinnettles estate and decided that the Harvey Mansion was way too restrained. He had it demolished and replaced it with the extravagantly theatrical baronial mansion, designed by Edinburgh architect David Bryce, that greets you today.

Kinnettles Castle

In 1927, Sir Harry Hope, the local MP and Governor of the Angus County Council, acquired the estate. When his daughter Peggy married Squadron leader Dudley Lloyd-Evans in 1939 she continued to live in Kinnettles House, until the estate was purchased by Hugh Walter Munro in the 1960s. He and his family lived here until he remarried and moved to his new wife’s home in Blairgowrie. The house and surrounding woodland were then leased by Universal, a communication organisation, who used it as a staff training facility.

Finally, in March 2011, Kinnettles Castle was welcomed into the AmaZing Venues portfolio and has been extensively refurbished to become the luxury boutique hotel that provides such a splendid setting for celebrations, weddings and corporate events.

What type of venue is Kinnettles Castle?

A fairytale castle and boutique wedding venue with romantic appeal and celebrity cachet to spare…

Set in acres of impressive grounds, amidst the rolling Angus countryside and just 20 minutes from Dundee, Kinnettles Castle looks like it has stepped from the pages of a classic medieval romance by Sir Walter Scott.

Once inside guests are greeted by grand fireplaces, ornate interiors and a sweeping staircase, but given an unexpected twist by décor and furnishings that are strikingly contemporary and unashamedly unusual.

The contrast works brilliantly to set a playfully sophisticated tone – stay at our castle and you know you are in for a lot of fun!

Bride at Kinnettles Castle

Is Kinnettles Castle licensed for wedding ceremonies?

Yes, Kinnettles Castle is a fully licensed civil ceremony wedding venue. Whatever kind of ceremony you have set your heart on we have ample options to make your every wish come true.

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Carberry Tower Logo

Venue Name: Carberry Tower


Location: Near Edinburgh, Scotland

Please tell us a little about Carberry Tower’s history

The land on which Carberry Tower now sits were first mentioned in the 11th century when King David I of Scotland granted the site to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey. The first person to lease the site was John de Crebarrie, but it was the Johnstone family who built the actual tower, a simple defensive structure.

In 1760 the grand tower that stands before you today began to take shape when John Fullerton took possession of the estate. John’s niece, Elizabeth, married the Honourable William Elphinstone in 1774 and the house passed into the Elphinstone family in 1801.

William Elphinstone, 15th Lord Elphinstone, inherited the estate in 1861 and it was he who was largely responsible for the complete redesign of the estate. His son, Sydney Herbert, 16th Lord Elphinstone, married Lady Mary Bowes-Lyon, sister of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The couple made great improvements to both the house and estate, particularly the laying out of the formal garden in 1911.

Lord Sydney died in 1955 and his wife, Lady Mary, died six years later in 1961. Lady Mary bequeathed the tower to the Church of Scotland who used Carberry Tower as a conference centre, building an annexe and chapel (now the Ceilidh Hall). In 2004 the Carberry Tower was sold to Gartmore House charitable trust, and in 2008 it underwent major refurbishment.

In April 2011, AmaZing Venues acquired the property and made more refurbishments, transforming it into the luxurious property you see today.

Carberry Tower

What type of venue is Carberry Tower?

A stately home with rich history and royal connections, Carberry Tower is just seven miles from Edinburgh and far from ordinary.

The Castle sits majestically in 35 acres of manicured lawns and landscaped grounds, an oasis of calm and tranquility that provides the perfect escape from the hurly burly of modern life.

Bride and groom outside Carberry Tower

Is Carberry Tower licensed for wedding ceremonies?

We have a host of different rooms licensed for wedding ceremonies where you can tie the knot and then celebrate in fine style. The combination of imposing architecture and splendid gardens provides many magnificent settings for wedding photographs.

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ITA Venues logo

Interview with: Jodie Martin

Company Name: ITA* Venues


Location: Coopers’ Hall, 13 Devonshire Square, London, EC2M 4TH

What does ITA* Venues do?

ITA* offers a free wedding venue finding service for couples looking to find the perfect venue for their day. We have over 40 venues in a number of locations that range in style, size and budget, and we can cater at all of these through our catering partners Ampersand and Chester Boyd. We make couples’ dreams a reality, whether they are looking for a small intimate wedding, an extravagant affair or something completely bespoke.

We are committed to making a couple’s wedding day both relaxing and enjoyable, but most of all a memorable one.

Bride and groom at Old Royal Naval College

How did the business start and how long has it been going?

Our parent company CH&Co was created to help you locate the ideal catering or service solution to meet your requirements. . With over 30 years’ experience we can create something truly unique for a couple’s special day. Since being born in 2000, ITA* has continued to grow its portfolio of venues and offer a specialist service to clients creating outstanding weddings.

Dessert - ITA Venues

Who works at ITA* Venues?

We have a team of 9 fabulous ladies who all specialise in different styles of events ranging from corporate and private to special events including summer, Christmas and of course weddings! I was lucky enough to be appointed the role of wedding coordinator shortly after joining ITA*; I love being able to work with couples to create their dream day. I love speaking to the brides from day one, hearing all about their engagement, which often follows with meeting their immediate family – this for me is a highlight of my job. Seeing their ideas and dreams evolve into reality is increasingly rewarding and always a proud moment.

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Stanbrook Abbey Logo

Venue Name: Stanbrook Abbey


Location: Malvern, Worcestershire

Please tell us a little about Stanbrook Abbey’s history

The story of Stanbrook Abbey can be traced back to 1272, when Stanbroc End (meaning spring or stony brook) was first mentioned in medieval records. Almost 500 years later Stanbrook Hall was built on the site for a gentleman called Richard Case.

Meanwhile, in 1625, the English Benedictine Congregation, exiled from England by Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, founded a religious community for nuns in Cambrai, northern France. In 1793 the French Revolution forced the 22 nuns to return to England, eventually settling near Liverpool and then at historic Salford Hall, near Evesham. God helps those who help themselves and, in 1835, hearing that the Stanbrook Hall site was for sale, the nuns made discreet enquiries about a possible purchase. Catholicism was still discouraged in England at this time so they were forced to use subterfuge – no Protestant would knowingly consent to sell their property to a Catholic, especially to a Catholic religious order. A Benedictine monk, disguised as a country gentleman with an apparent interest in hunting and fine wine, surveyed the property in 1836. Four other monks, also disguised as laymen, concluded the sale some weeks later. Only months after this did the previous owner realise, too late, that he had been misled.

By 1860 the nuns felt confident enough to commission Edward Welby Pugin and his two brothers to undertake a major scheme of work. Sons of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, who created the sumptuous Gothic wallpapers, carvings, stained glass, floor tiles, metalwork and furnishings that grace the Houses of Parliament, their family architectural practice was a leading proponent of the Gothic Revival style much loved by Victorians. Over the next 20 years they created the church, cloisters, tower and other buildings at Stanbrook that you see today.

In 2009 the nuns moved to Wass, on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors, and the building was acquired by AmaZing Venues.

Stanbrook Abbey

What type of venue is Stanbrook Abbey?

Comfortably nestled beneath the gorgeous green ridge of the Malvern Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Stanbrook Abbey offers a truly unique venue with 57 beautifully appointed bedroom suites, 21 acres of gorgeous grounds and a stunning chapel.

Bride and groom at Stanbrook Abbey

Is Stanbrook Abbey licensed for wedding ceremonies?

Yes, Stanbrook Abbey offers you the choice of five licenced rooms for your ceremony and celebrations, while the extensive gardens and Neo-Gothic exterior provide an impressively grand backdrop for your photographs.

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Chateau Rhianfa Logo

Venue Name: Château Rhianfa


Location: Isle of Anglesey, North Wales

Please tell us a little about Château Rhianfa’s history

Château Rhianfa was built in 1849 for Sir John Hay Williams, a descendent of Sir William Williams who created the much larger Bodelwyddan Castle in Denbighshire. Together with his wife Lady Sarah Hay Williams he spent ten years creating a magnificently lavish mansion surrounded by enchanting gardens.

In 1859 Sir John died leaving Lady Sarah to live in the house until her own death in 1876. At this point Lady Margaret, one of their two daughters, inherited the property. In 1922 the house was advertised for sale, the reasons for which still remain unknown, but a sale never materialised and Lady Margaret remained in the house until her own death in 1930.

Little is known about what happened to the property following Lady Margaret’s death, but in 1955 the house was given to her grandson, Dr Andrew Verney and his wife as a wedding present. Due to work commitments in London the couple sold the house in 1957. It was converted into apartments and much of the land sold off, leaving only 3 of the 12 acres in the possession of the estate.

Despite the many changes over time Château Rhianfa has retained much of its remarkable character. The sensitive restoration by AmaZing Venues has restored the property to its original splendour with all the quirky charm intact.

Chateau Rhianfa

What type of venue is Château Rhianfa?

Château Rhianfa, on the Isle of Anglesey, provides a wonderful setting for entertaining on a grand scale and weddings that are truly extraordinary.

Bride and Groom outside Chateau Rhianfa

Is Château Rhianfa licensed for wedding ceremonies?

We have a host of delightfully atmospheric rooms where you can tie the knot and then celebrate in fine style. What’s more, the AmaZingly picturesque setting and glorious gardens beside the sea provide breathtaking backdrops for your wedding photographs.

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Ackergill Tower Logo

Venue Name: Ackergill Tower


Location: Wick, Caithness, Scotland

Please tell us a little about Ackergill Tower’s history

The architecture of the current castle suggests it dates from the late 15th century, circa 1475, but there seems to be little doubt that a fortification stood on this spot earlier than this.

In 1986 it was bought by John and Arlette Banister who embarked on a two year programme of meticulous restoration, restoring it to its former glory in 1988.

In 2009 it became the flagship property in the AmaZing Venues collection, and following a £2 million upgrading of the facilities, became the luxurious and iconic venue it is today.

Ackergill Tower from a Distance

What type of venue is Ackergill Tower?

Ackergill Tower is a castle to beat them all. The granite walls are stout and forbidding but the beautifully restored interior is luxuriously comfortable and splendidly welcoming.

Whether you are organising a romantic wedding or a splendid family get together, a wild party or a sensational corporate bash, this AmaZing castle ensures a 5 star experience so your event will be truly, madly and deeply extraordinary.

Ackergill Tower

Is Ackergill Tower licensed for wedding ceremonies?

You can hold your dream Scottish wedding, including your civil or humanist ceremony, within the castle and grounds. Choose from a selection of beautiful and historic rooms, each with their own style and character, to create an occasion that’s as special as your love.

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Clearwell Castle Crest

Venue Name: Clearwell Castle


Location: Clearwell, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, GL16 8 LG

Please tell us a little about Clearwell Castle’s history

Clearwell Castle is a Neo Gothic Castle dating from 1727, remodelled from an earlier house built in the 1400’s.

Clearwell Castle wedding venue in Gloucestershire

What type of venue is Clearwell Castle?

Clearwell Castle has a magnificent Castle façade with a warm country house interior. Situated in the beautiful Forest of Dean it is set in landscaped gardens offering privacy, peace and quiet, yet within easy reach of the village.

Clearwell Castle Terrace

Who works at Clearwell Castle?

The team at Clearwell Castle comprises hard working and dedicated wedding experts. We are local to the area and all have an established background in weddings so we are able to advise our couples on just how to create their dream wedding in our beautiful castle setting.

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Leez Priory Crest

Venue Name: Leez Priory


Location: Chelmsford, Essex

Please tell us a little about Leez Priory’s history

Leez Priory was built in 1536 for Sir Richard Rich, Earl of Warwick. Over the years the Priory has been visited by many members of the royal family, including HRH Queen Elizabeth I and HRH Princess Mary.

In 1995 Leez Priory was the very first wedding venue in England to be granted a Civil Ceremony License, allowing couples to marry outside of a registry office or church.

Leez Priory wedding venue in Essex

What type of venue is Leez Priory?

Leez Priory is a splendid Tudor mansion wedding venue in Essex, standing in its own grounds.

Leez Priory Lake

What can a couple expect from having their wedding at Leez Priory?

Every couple can expect a wedding day which will hold special memories for the bride, groom, their family and friends.

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Gosfield Hall Crest

Venue Name: Gosfield Hall


Location: Gosfield, Essex

Please tell us a little about Gosfield Hall’s history

Where do we start! Gosfield Hall dates back to Tudor times and was formerly a Royal residence. Georgian additions bring a touch of glamour to the house, with high ceilings and huge windows bringing in lots of light. The Hall is now a Grade 1 Listed Building and there are an abundance of original features, which offer a plethora of photo opportunities both inside and in the grounds.

Gosfield Hall, wedding venue in Essex

What type of venue is Gosfield Hall?

We are exclusively a wedding venue offering not only an amazing venue for your wedding but also a choice of 21 bedrooms which sleep up to 61 guests for the night of your wedding.

Gosfield Hall Grand Salon Entrance

Who works at Gosfield Hall?

We are very lucky to have an amazing team here at Gosfield Hall. Each and every one of our team is passionate about providing the very best service and works extremely hard to ensure that everything is perfect for your special day.

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