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Couple hit with possible delay on expanding wedding venue business

PUBLISHED: 10:18 09 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:24 10 November 2019

George and Lara. Pic: Richard Jarmy

George and Lara. Pic: Richard Jarmy

The owners of a Georgian house wedding venue want to expand the business - but are hung up about an annoying problem which may scupper their plans.

The beautiful Thurning Hall. Pic: Kieron TovellThe beautiful Thurning Hall. Pic: Kieron Tovell

George and Lara Lacey own Thurning Hall, near Corpusty, built in 1720, where they, their three children and Mrs Lacey's mum all live but they use the house as a venue for summer weddings. And, wishing to expand to offer year-round ceremonies - including parties and baby-naming ceremonies - the couple have set on restoring an old stable block.

But they have hit on a common but costly and time-consuming problem - bats. Bats are protected, meaning the Laceys need a dedicated bat survey done before they can even make a planning application and with the creatures currently in hibernation, this cannot be started until next spring.

Mrs Lacey said: "I work closely with local ecologists to consider the natural habitat of all living species as not to impact on them.

"We don't even know if there are any bats within the building but it's common practice all surveys take place on restoration projects."

A wedding at Thurning Hall. Pic: Luis HoldenA wedding at Thurning Hall. Pic: Luis Holden

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Thurning Hall offers the facilities and licensing for wedding ceremonies or blessings inside - the venue first hosted weddings in 1996 - but receptions are held in a marquee in the beautiful walled gardens.

A garden swing is always popular at Thurning Hall weddings. Pic: Benjamin MathersA garden swing is always popular at Thurning Hall weddings. Pic: Benjamin Mathers

Mrs Lacey added: "Our brides tend to come from London, mostly from outside Norfolk, who are looking for a romantic country house which they can take over for their special day but there is so much competition now because there are so many venues to choose from.

"So we thought we needed to up our game and convert the old stables so we can hold winter weddings."

Mr Lacey, who runs his own building firm restoring old houses, said: "The stables are perfect for a winter wedding, it's a beautiful building with arched windows. It's situated behind the hall - originally there would have been an avenue coming up to the front of the house; the carriages would have dropped off the people and the horses would have been taken around the back. We even found a little fireplace and an original bed in the upper room where the groom would have slept."

Thurning Hall was built for the Elwin family before being passed to the Gay family. During the Second World War it was used by the military and housed up to 40 land girls but in 1947 was bought by farmer GW Harrold, Mrs Lacey's grandfather, and passed to her mum, Pauline. Lara grew up in the house which was used for filming the BBC series Mill on the Floss.

The owners' little Shetland which can be part of the wedding party. Pic: Benjamin MathersThe owners' little Shetland which can be part of the wedding party. Pic: Benjamin Mathers

The owners' Shetland pony which can be part of the wedding partyThe owners' Shetland pony which can be part of the wedding party

A wedding at Thurning Hall. Pic: Christa HolkaA wedding at Thurning Hall. Pic: Christa Holka

A wedding at Thurning Hall. Pic:  Richard Jarmy PhotographyA wedding at Thurning Hall. Pic: Richard Jarmy Photography

A wedding at Thurning Hall. Pic: Chris TaylorA wedding at Thurning Hall. Pic: Chris Taylor

George, Lara and their children. Pic: Chris TaylorGeorge, Lara and their children. Pic: Chris Taylor

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A drone aerial picture of the gardens at Thurning Hall. Pic: Kieron TovellA drone aerial picture of the gardens at Thurning Hall. Pic: Kieron Tovell

The owners; Lara, George and their children. Pic: Richard JarmyThe owners; Lara, George and their children. Pic: Richard Jarmy

A wedding at Thurning Hall. Pic: Chris TaylorA wedding at Thurning Hall. Pic: Chris Taylor

Thurning Hall. Pic: Benjamin MathersThurning Hall. Pic: Benjamin Mathers

A bride at Thurning Hall. Pic: Benjamin MathersA bride at Thurning Hall. Pic: Benjamin Mathers

George doing some of the restoration work. Pic: submittedGeorge doing some of the restoration work. Pic: submitted

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