Planning a Wedding at Townfield Barn, Shatton
We recently had our wedding reception at the rustic but beautiful Townfield Barn in the Peak District's Hope Valley. In a stunning setting, it's a great venue that can be completely personalised to whatever you want, but does involve a fair amount of effort to make the logistics work. It'd be much easier to do second time around with the benefit of experience, and since we're not planning that, we thought we'd put some thoughts online below in case they're useful for other couples getting married at Townfield Barn in future.
We fitted 11x 6.5ft circular tables in the open-sided "dutch barn" to seat up to 110 people. Any more than that would probably need long trestle tables instead.
Tables and chairs were from Ascot Marquees. Mark Ascot was very laid back, but did just what we wanted for a reasonable price. He also hung fairy lighting and provided gas jet heaters in case of cold weather (which we didn't end up needing).
The main enclosed room is smaller than the dutch barn and would, I guess, seat 60-70 people max. We used it for a ceilidh and disco. It was pretty cosy for the former once the ceilidh band had taken space to set up, but a bit of a squeeze made it all the more fun.
The middle room has plenty of space for bar area and its double-doors open wide to give easy access. There are folding trestle tables at the barn that can be used for the bar itself. Between the dutch barn and bar is a small kitchen, not suitable for catering, but useful if people want to make tea and coffee.
Since the dutch barn was used for formal seating, and main enclosed room taken for catering logistics until the meal, we decided we needed an overflow space in case of bad weather. A teepee next to the barn was perfect for this. The ¾-size teepee from Peak Tipis (peaktipis.co.uk) gave plenty of extra covered space, looked really cool, and comes with optional informal furniture and lighting.
We were lucky enough to get good weather on the day, so most people milled around outside the front of the barn where we'd put the picnic benches that come with the barn.
We considered several Sheffield-based caterers (PJ Taste, Coco, LSJ) and Hope-based Jo's Pantry. Our illusions that catering for 100 people would bring economies of scale and not be too expensive were quickly shattered! A large part of the cost, easily £20 per head, could be welcome drinks and dinner wine, so we decided to buy that directly ourselves, and make sure that the selected caterer was prepared to serve it for us without extra fees.
Once we met Jo Elliot of Jo's Pantry (jos-pantry.co.uk), it became clear that she knew the venue well and was happy to be flexible on matters like providing our own drinks, staffing the free bar, and designing the menu ourselves. Jo's kitchen is just down the road from Townfield Barn in Hope, so where other caterers would need mobile ovens, she could bring food straight from the kitchen on demand.
The one thing that we couldn't find for Jo's Pantry was online reviews or pictures of food from previous events. So with that in mind, here's our little testimonial: Jo executed perfectly on our menu for 100 (roasted veg filo tarts, roasted rolled lamb joints w/ potato dauphinoise and green veg, plates of individual mini-puddings inc. millionaire's shortbread, lemon mousse in chocolate shell, etc). Everything was well presented and delicious, the staff were really friendly (multiple guests commented on this) and Jo herself was absolutely in control -- no need for us to worry about anything. Vegetarians/special diets/fussy eaters/children were all catered to, no problems. We'd definitely recommend Jo's Pantry for other weddings.
For evening catering, we'd come across the idea of a wood-fired pizza oven in a classic Citroen H van (1940s styling with retro corrugated sides). It turns out that Artisan Pizza Co of Sheffield do exactly that, but they were already booked. After more research, we discovered Van Chaud, also a Citroen HY catering van based in the Peak District area. The very friendly Mark and Sally of Van Chaud served up hot staffordshire oatcakes (pancakes) with a range of fillings. They went down an absolute treat and some people ended up going back for 3rd and 4th portions!
It was great to be able to do a free bar and it wasn't all that expensive.
Having considered a road trip to Calais, we decided that bulk buying from supermarkets when decent wines were on special offer was an easier way to do it. A total of ~110 bottles of assorted cava, red and white wine came from M&S and Morrisons home delivery.
Our talented friend Jo Taylor homebrewed 3 barrels of ale, which went down an absolute treat. Look our for "Taylor Made Ale" in the future!
Lager, cider, spirits and soft drinks were all another supermarket delivery.
We didn't test whether the supermarkets would deliver directly to the barn on the Friday, but that would be a really convenient way to transport everything. It took a couple of car-loads to get all the drinks to the barn.
In terms of total volume, we estimated 85 guests would be drinking alcohol, and allowed 9 drinks (pint beer / large wine / double-shot spirit) per person over the ~10 hour reception, including meals and welcome drinks. Multiplied up to ~800 drinks total, we split that between 110 bottles of wine/fizz, 120 pints of ale, and mixed lager/cider/spirits. There was a fair amount (~25 bottles) of wine/fizz leftover, but extra ale, gin and decent whiskey would have been finished.
We looked at a few Sheffield ceilidh bands and decided on Roger the Badger (rogerthebadger.com). They played fun, upbeat ceilidh music and walked us through each dance in advance. Everyone got involved and it was a great way to kick off the evening celebrations.
The band provided their own PA system, but we needed another one for speeches and disco. It was fairly easy to move 2 large speakers and amp between the dutch barn (where we did speeches after dinner) and the main enclosed room (for the disco). A little technical knowledge or decent instructions are needed to plug the mic input and speaker outputs into the right bits of the amp.
PA system hire was from Sheffield PA Hire (sheffieldpahire.co.uk), based in a recording studios in an industrial unit near Kelham Island. They do various wedding packages, with the most basic 2-speaker plus amp being fine for the barn. We actually booked a separate bass speaker too, but it wouldn't fit in our car, and the sound was fine without it.
For disco lighting, a friend brought a full rig including smoke machine and laser, which went down very well. Sheffield PA Hire also do basic sound-activated lighting bars.
The open-sided barn is pretty rustic, with corrugated iron sheet sides, wood chip floor, and optional white plastic side covers. However, it was amazing how quickly it transformed into a fun festival atmosphere with the addition of festoon and fairy lights (from Ascot Marquees) and homemade bunting hung from the rafters. It took roughly 35 metres of bunting to run diagonally between the rafters through the whole dutch barn.
Pegged on twine around the barn, we hung polaroid-style photo prints of us with our friends. It was easy enough to digitally crop regular photos and add white borders, then print them online.
Table decor was simple jam jars with flowers and homemade name tags.
In the evening, we had a couple of metal firepits for decoration and warmth. There was one already at the barn, along with firewood.
Shatton Hall Farm Cottages and other accommodation
In many ways, the best accommodation for Townfield Barn is camping in the field - no need to book taxis or have a long walk, just collapse into bed whenever you're ready. However, for the night before the wedding, or for people who aren't into camping, there's a reasonable selection of hotels and B&Bs in the area in addition to the 3 two-bedroom cottages at Shatton Hall Farm.
Here's the list of suggestions that we gave to guests (with 2014 prices). We'd also booked the Shatton Hall Farm cottages and used these for people who were helping with setup on the Friday.
- Beauchief Hotel, Sheffield, £70/night B&B
- Chequers Inn, Froggatt, from £105/night
- Florentine Pub & Hotel, Sheffield, from £80/night
- Foxhouse Vintage Inn, nr Hathersage, from £70/night.
- George Hotel, Hathersage, from £85/night
- Kenwood Hall Hotel, Sheffield, from £80/night
- Little John Hotel & Cottages, Hathersage, rooms from £70, cottages sleep 4 at £120/night.
- Plough Inn, Hathersage, £80/night
- Rising Sun Hotel, Hope, from £85/night
- Thorpe Farm Bunkhouses, nr Hathersage, group booking required ~£10 pppn.
- Travellers' Rest Inn, Hope, from £78 (£63 single)
- Woodbine Cafe & B&B, Hope, from £60/night
- YHA Hathersage, private rooms for 3, 4 ,6 from £40/night. YHA Castleton also available.
Table cloths and glass hire
Cutlery and crockery for the meals was provided inclusive by the caterer, but she recommended that we hire table clothes direct from YouCanHire in Sheffield. This worked fine, though delivery is a bit expensive, and they're based on the far side of Sheffield (Eckington).
Glasses can be hired for free from the major supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose) by pre-booking at their Customer Services desks. There is no obligation to buy anything from them, just return the glasses clean and pay for any breakages. This sounds too good to be true, but the only/main downside is that they'll almost certainly need a wash before using, and another afterwards. Enough glasses to handle wine/beer/spirits/soft-drinks for a day for 100 people (we hired 500; fewer would have been fine if topped-up with plastic glasses), takes a very long time to wash-up and we couldn't fit them all in a single (Ford Fiesta) carload.
In hindsight, we'd seriously look at the cost of paid glass hire that would deliver/wash-up/collect given the several hours of faff that it took to deal with the free supermarket ones.
We loved the idea of driving to Townfield Barn in a classic sportscar instead of the more traditional wedding limo. A self-drive instead of chauffeur-driven car comes with the logistical challenge that you need to arrange for it to be delivered and collected rather than the driver doing that for you, but it was definitely worth it.
Our choice was a 1960s red convertible MGB from Great Escape Cars. Although the car was from their Harrogate base, they delivered it to the church and collected from the barn later for an extra £150, which saved us any logistics headaches. It was great fun to drive and we'd definitely recommend it to others.
We opted for a cheese cake ("cake" built from stacked cheeses) instead of a more traditional wedding cake. Cheeses can be chosen by size and type using the "Cake Builder" at thecheeseshed.com, then delivered to stack and decorate yourself. This was super convenient, though the sizings weren't very accurate, so our stepped-pyramid of 5 cheeses had levels 2&3 and 4&5 a bit too similar in diameter.
For Invitations and Order of Service printing, we used printed.com. They have a very good range of paper types, print sizes, etc, and are enormously cheaper (10-20% of cost) than the wedding-specific sites that we looked at. However, they seem more targeted at people with graphics skills and don't have foolproof ready-made templates.
If you know how to use Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape (a free graphics tool), or similar, or are prepared to learn, then printed.com will do the job nicely.
I looked at Debenhams and Moss Bros for hiring wedding suits. Going through a chain store made it easier for father-of-the-bride, best men, etc to go to a shop local to them. The suits in Moss Bros seemed a bit nicer and the price wasn't any different, so I went with them, though I wasn't blown away by their customer service or Sheffield location (Meadowhall).