A WEDDING was very much a family affair for one couple after the bridegroom discovered their dream venue was his ancestral home.

Simon Birbeck and Margaret Best were all smiles as they posed for photographs following their wedding at Headlam Hall, near Gainford in County Durham, today (Friday, March 28).

For the happy couple had not only tied the knot but they had done so in a historic country house, built by Mr Birbeck’s ancestor, Henry Birkbeck, more than 300 years ago.

Loading article content

And, in what could be described as a romantic twist of fate or a strange coincidence, the newlyweds had no idea of the hotel’s significance when they booked the venue last year.

Mr Birbeck, an IT consultant from Middlestone Moor, near Spennymoor, said: “We had been to see a number of venues in County Durham but nothing was quite right. We decided to go to Headlam and fell in love with the place.

“It was only when I told my dad where we were getting married that I found out. He immediately said ‘that was built by us'.

“Obviously, I was delighted and so was Margaret. It is a remarkable coincidence.

"The family coat of arms still adorns the mantle of the great fireplace.”

Mr Birbeck’s late grandmother, Miriam Birbeck-Stamp, discovered the connection, while investigating the family tree in the 1990s.

Her research revealed the ‘K’ had been dropped from Birkbeck several generations ago.

Originally from Hornby in Cumberland, Thomas Birkbeck took ownership of the Headlam estate in the 16th century.

But it was Thomas’s second son, Henry, who built Headlam Hall after inheriting the estate at the turn of the 17th century.

As a gift to his wife, Anne, Henry installed an elaborate oak fireplace in the main hall with the Birkbeck coat of arms in the centre.

Thereafter the descent of the Birkbeck family was through the female line and, in the mid 18th century, the hall passed to Lawrence Brockett, following his marriage to Anne, the great, great granddaughter of Henry and Anne Birkbeck.

Andrew Glendenning, the manager of Headlam Hall, said: “This is a lovely link to the history of Headlam Hall.

"It is wonderful to host a wedding reception for a descendant of the man who built this fabulous country house back in the 17th century.”