This beautiful Arts and Crafts country house and family home has been put to work as a wedding and events venue. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.
Designed by Major Clive Dixon and his wife, Lillian, in 1909, Chapelgarth has retained all the hallmarks of the Arts and Crafts era.
Its wood panelling, original fireplaces and fabulous parquet floors are in perfect condition, proving that this kind of handcrafted quality is worth investing in.
The manor house in Great Broughton, near Stokesley, was built to Edwardian parameters with great style and plenty of room for the Dixons’ six children and their servants.
Sadly, Mr Dixon, a gifted artist and eccentric who enjoyed dressing up as a knight and taking part in medieval re-enactments, only had five years to enjoy his new home.
He was killed in action during the First World War but his memory is very much alive thanks to his paintings, which still hang in Chapelgarth.
“He was a very good artist and I really like his work.
“His wife was also an artist and an amazing woman,” says Marcella Sutcliffe, who moved to the property in 2001 with her husband Johnny.
The house has been in the Sutcliffe family since 1964 when Johnny’s parents bought it from Clive Dixon’s descendants.
“Johnny’s parents wanted to be close to their mother and father to help them manage the family’s Kildale estate, which is nearby,” says Marcella.
She and Johnny later took on the house while his brother now oversees the estate.
“We had lived in London for 10 years but Johnny wanted our three children to have the kind of blissful, rural childhood he had. He and his siblings loved it here at Chapelgarth.
“It has been a lovely place to bring up children,” says Marcella,who also inherited the llamas that live in the grounds.
“A zoo in Middlesbrough was closing down and needed a home for a couple of llamas so my mother-in-law took them in and now we’ve got eight.”
The couple’s children are now grown-up and the 11-bedroom house is too big for empty nesters, so they have put it to use.
It is now a venue for weddings, celebrations, shooting parties and academic retreats.
There are seven guest bedrooms and, unlike a hotel or dedicated wedding venue, Chapelgarth still feels like a family home. It’s not too large or too grand and it has a calm, relaxed atmosphere.
“Chapelgarth is very homely and very private with lovely gardens and views of the North York Moors.
“It is also very accessible. We’re just off the A19, so it works really well for weddings and celebrations as it’s easy to get to,” says Marcella, who is from Milan and has a keen eye for design.
She dresses the house for events and, thanks to her flair and attention to detail, the property was singled out as one of the best venues in the 2018 English Wedding Awards.
Marcella was also shortlisted in the wedding co-ordinator category.
Over the years, she and Johnny, who met while working at the European Commission in Brussels, have made many improvements to their country house.
Historian Marcella, who studied 19th century British history at university, made sure that any restoration and updating was sensitive to the building’s heritage.
She retained the old servants’ bells for posterity and they came in useful when naming the guest bedrooms.
“I’ve used the names that were on the servants’ bells and I’ve also named one of them ‘The Suffragette room’ as one of Major Dixon’s daughters had a connection to the Suffragette movement,” she says.
She also turned a storage room into a laundry so she could use the old dumb waiter as a laundry chute and dispensed with the butler’s pantry to create a rear entrance hall.
The kitchen is the heart of the house. Two rooms were knocked into one large space, which now has a cosy Aga at one end and a large, bespoke dining table running down the middle.
The painted wood cabinets were handmade to her design and they have stood the test of time since they were installed in 2003.
“It’s a blend of old and new. I re-used the brass handles from the old kitchen and bought some old stone sinks, which I regularly have re-enamelled.
“The industrial-style pendant lights are from Lassco, which specialises in architectural salvage,” says Marcella, who also designed a separate pantry and utility room and made use of an Edwardian gong, which she used for calling her children to meals.
The formal dining room is now licenced for weddings and boasts an enormous painting by Clive Dixon depicting The Battle of the Standard, along with portraits of Johnny’s grandfather, a former MP, and his parents.
The parquet flooring is one the property’s special features. Made from teak with butterfly joints, it was designed for a ship and rarely, if ever, found in a domestic setting.
It was commissioned by Clive Dixon, whose family owned a shipbuilding company.
His art studio is one of Marcella’s favourite rooms. It is a dramatic space with a minstrels’ gallery and is also licensed for weddings.
It opens out onto a recently-created courtyard garden with a canopy for keeping guests dry and a bar.
“It was used for keeping chickens in but we have restored it and now it’s really useful for weddings as it’s pretty but also sheltered from the wind,” says Marcella, who enjoys her job as host and co-ordinator.
“I’m really pleased that we decided to let Chapelgarth out. I have met some really nice people who keep the house alive and the income helps with the upkeep of the building.”