A HISTORIC manor house in the centre of Lewes has been transformed into a stunning venue for ceremonies and celebrations.
Southover Grange has undergone a £1.5million refurbishment project to create new ceremony rooms and a fully accessible registration service.
The Grade I-listed building was constructed in 1572 as a private residence for William Newton, Steward to the Earl of Dorset, using stone from the ruins of the nearby Lewes Priory.
The major renovation project has enabled the council to protect and restore the history of the building, while creating modern facilities which have already attracted nearly 150 bookings.
Nick Skelton, Assistant Director of Communities at East Sussex County Council, said: “We are delighted with the success of this ambitious project. “While creating this attractive venue for the people of East Sussex and beyond, we have worked hard to ensure that the history and charm of the building was not lost.
“Fixtures and fittings have been designed to complement the traditional features and, where possible, originals have been restored.”
Three ground floor rooms and the central hall have been transformed into the ceremony suite, which includes two ceremony rooms and an anteroom for gathering guests.
The rooms retain the original oak panelling and stained glass windows, while a specially commissioned chandelier adorns the anteroom.
Also on the ground floor is the Newton room, complete with the original 450 year-old fireplace, which can be used as a reception room and is available as a venue for community use.
The building now boasts a VIP suite for wedding and civil partnership ceremonies – a space for the bride or groom to prepare, and a unique offering for wedding venues.
A new lift and staircase have been installed to improve access to the first floor, where registration facilities have been renovated. This includes the Registration service’s strong room, holding documents dating back to 1837.
Southover Grange opened for the registrations of births and deaths and notices of marriage on Monday, April 10, and the first ceremonies will take place at the venue on Saturday, April 29.
Members of the public can have a tour of the newly refurbished building at an open day which runs from 10am to 4pm on Sunday, April 30 2017.
Ceremonies taking place on Saturday, April 29, are those of people who won a county council competition.
East Sussex County Council and Lewes District Council officially exchanged Southover Grange and The Maltings in July 2014. The move will ensure the future of the two landmark Lewes buildings. The county council previously leased part of the first floor of Southover Grange for its registration office.
Planning permission for the work was granted by Lewes District Council in April. While the building has been closed for refurbishment, registration services have been offered at Westfield House, in the grounds of County Hall, while register office ceremonies have been offered at Lewes Town Hall.
The building continues to house a shop and gallery for the Sussex Guild – a partnership of artists and craftsmen – and a cafe in use during the summer months.