This month marks the 10th Anniversary of the opening of Heacham Manor Hotel. In that period, we are immensely proud to have hosted our many wonderful guests, and to have provided employment to hundreds of people in the local community.
To celebrate our 10th birthday, we caught up with Paul Searle, owner of Heacham Manor, and neighbouring leisure resort, Searles.
The History of the Hotel
As the proprietor of Heacham Manor, Paul Searle has a keen sense of the history of the building and its surrounding land, a history which is intertwined with an ancient order of monks, the legend of Pocahontas, and one of the finest sportsmen of the 20th century.
Paul explains that the hotel he acquired in 2009 "was a farm at the time, but it was once owned by monks of the Cluniac order. The land was given to the monks by William de Warenne, who fought with William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings."
This legend provides a glimpse into the storied history of Heacham Manor. The most famous story connected to the Manor, which recently made national headlines, is that of the mulberry tree supposedly planted by the Native American Princess Pocahontas. The English settler John Rolfe owned Heacham Hall, which once neighboured Heacham Manor before it was accidentally burned down by the RAF in the Second World War. In 1614, Rolfe married Pocahontas and later brought her to visit England. In 1617, Pocahontas and Rolfe were gifted a mulberry sapling by King James I who was keen to establish a silk industry in England. Local legend has it that the sapling was later planted by Pochantas in the Rolfe family residence of Heacham Hall. Now situated in the grounds of Heacham Manor, the mulberry tree is still standing!
Pocahontas and the mulberry tree is the most famous story in the history of Heacham Manor, but as a keen cricketer, Paul Searle has his own personal favourite Heacham Manor legend. "The family of Bill Edrich, one of the all-time great English cricketers, actually owned the Heacham Manor farm around the time of the Second World War. It was around that time that Bill Edrich and his famous batting partner Dennis Compton were said to have played cricket on the lawn by the side of the house!"
A Welcoming Country House Hotel
Moving the conversation forward to the present day, Paul was keen to speak about the features that make Heacham Manor so unique. "We're proud to be the only hotel with a golf course in the west of Norfolk, that's a really big attraction for a lot of our guests, and our golf club members from the local area. We've created an atmosphere of a welcoming country house hotel where people can feel as if they’re visiting friends for the weekend. Heacham Manor is very relaxed and laid back, and we pride ourselves on offering our guests an attentive but none-intrusive service. We're in a lovely location here, and we have a really good mix of people visiting the hotel, from tourists, to golfers and groups of walkers. That mix of people is growing and evolving all the time."
When the conversation moved on to some of the highlights of the past ten years, staff and community were the biggest sources of pride for Paul. "When we opened in 2009 it was the period of the recession, so it was a difficult time for the industry in many respects. But we're very proud to have maintained a really strong and steady group of people running the hotel. A good example of that is our original head chef; Neil Rutland, has now returned to us as food operation manager. Ultimately, it's the staff who make the hotel what it is, and we employ 40-45 staff from the local community every year. Along with all the leisure and tourism revenue that is generated indirectly by the hotel, we're pleased to see that Heacham Manor has made a positive impact in the community in those ten years."
The Heacham Manor Function Centre
So much has been accomplished at Heacham Manor in the past ten years, but exciting plans are afoot to expand the business further. Plans have been approved for a function centre, which as well as providing a venue for weddings, christenings, parties and conferences, will also serve as a sports room, with beautiful views from the terrace overlooking the golf course. Paul explained that while Heacham Manor is somewhat off the beaten track, he wanted it to be “a place where people want to come and visit, whether it's cyclists, golfers, or running and fitness clubs. This will become a welcoming place for everyone, not an exclusive club that turns people away because they're not wearing the right shoes. Whether it's a place that people start off from, or return to for a drink, we will make sure that this is a welcoming place for all, just like the hotel."
Looking even further forward, Paul and his team are constantly searching for ways to improve the experience for visitors to the hotel. Indeed, just recently, the hotel unveiled a significant refurbishment programme in some of the main rooms of the hotel. The refurbishment has added a contemporary touch to the interior, while maintaining the period character that is so unique to the hotel.
To visit the historic hotel in the month of our anniversary, check out some of our great offers, including a relaxing 2-night dinner, bed and breakfast break from just £146 per person!