Photo by Lina & Tom Photography
Photo by Lina & Tom Photography
Photo by Caroline Hancox Photography

Once part of the grand Wimpole Hall Estate, South Farm was bought as a derelict farm in the 1970’s by the Paxman family and over the last 50 years the farmhouse and barns, nestled within 20 acres of glorious grounds, have been lovingly restored and brought back to life, turning South Farm into the wonderful landscape you see today.

Photo by Elite Aerial Imaging

Where it all began

The long history of South Farm dates back to the Tudor times of the 16th Century and is  entwined with that of Wimpole Hall, the largest and grandest house in Cambridgeshire built in 1640 by Sir Thomas Chicheley and now a National Trust Property. The story of South Farm took many interesting turns before becoming home to the Paxman family in 1974 and opening for the first time as a wedding venue in 2005. The rest, as they say, is history, but there is much more to our story than it would first seem.

Our Story

We’ve come a long way. Turning an abandoned farm into a beautiful home and vibrant business over the years, diversifying and contributing to our rural community in more ways than you’d imagine. The passion, love and care has been matched with imagination and unfaltering dedication and along the way we have created one big happy family. The couples marrying at South Farm support a diverse and talented little community. We are proud to be family owned and our passion, commitment and the strong bonds between our team are apparent from the moment you visit us. For us, it’s a labour of love and we’re so happy to be able to share our unique venue and our story with you.

Our History

South Farm became part of the Wimpole Hall Estate in 1740 when the estate & outlying farms were acquired by the 1st Earl of Hardwicke. Over the years the Wimpole Estate passed from the Hardwicke family to the Clifden family. In 1894 Lord Clifden invited his Cornish to take up some of the vacant farm tenancies on the Wimpole Estate. Among these, the Bath family, who drove their Hereford cattle on horseback all the way to South Farm, starting an association to last a century.

The Bath Family

The Bath Family prospered at South Farm and when the Wimpole estate offered some of its outlying farms for sale in 1911 they were quick to purchase their home, followed by the acquisitions of Manor Farm in Shingay and Church and Vine Farms in Wendy. In the 1960’s the advent of industrialised farming led to the remodelling of old fashioned farm yards, making way for industrial scale steel and concrete buildings.

The Restoration

South Farm was saved from the fate of industrialised farming by the decision of the Bath family to consolidate operations to Vine Farm. Left to sink slowly into history South Farm became a time capsule of original barnyard and largely untouched Tudor house. In 1974 when South Farm was bought by the Paxman family the site was a blank canvas of arable fields with just two trees. The restoration project was a challenge the family embraced with enthusiasm. It was a year before the house was fit to live in.

Modernisation

On uncovering the two fine old chimney stacks it became clear the original late Tudor house was simply a two up two down cottage built around the huge red brick fire places with the grand Georgian elevation to the front built in the late 18th Century. Works continued and an extension created a new suite of spacious rooms in 1975. The barnyard, comprising of buildings from the 16th to 19th centuries, was stabilised but not restored, except for the old pony trap shed which was renovated and would eventually become our elegant Coach House Suite.

Photo by Milk Bottle Photography Photo by Milk Bottle Photography

Planting An Idea

Extensive planting and landscaping also began creating the Cherry tree driveway, the hardwood plantings and the indigenous hedgerows. Planting continued over the years and in 1998 the Nature Reserve and Kitchen Garden were established and with them a seed of an idea was sown. By 2004 the decision was made to open South Farm as a Wedding Venue. Listed Buildings Consent, for change of use of many of the buildings for Weddings and Functions, was granted

Photo by Liz Greenhalgh Photo by Liz Greenhalgh

Weddings

In the Winter of 2004 half a million pounds was invested into restoring the Barns, Hovels, Cow Byre, Granaries and Stables. Construction of the state of the art catering kitchen and new visitor facilities began as South Farm prepared itself to welcome weddings and guests! In 2005 the first weddings were held. The venture was a gamble that paid off with huge benefit to the farm. Popular from the outset with couples looking for a countryside wedding venue we didn’t stop there. In 2007 our new organic smallholding was created to supply the kitchen.

Photo by Lina & Tom Photography Photo by Lina & Tom Photography

The Gardens

The garden improvement, under the direction of designer Stuart Bennett, led to the Winter Garden in 2008. The same year the seven sided oak Summer House was built and licensed for outdoor weddings. The Herb Garden and Potager followed in 2010 when a further 11 acres were added to the estate creating the arboretum. Numerous large specimen trees were planted around the new estate boundaries and the gardens grew and flourished.

Photo by Ria Mishaal Photography Photo by Ria Mishaal Photography

Further Improvements

Never resting on our laurels we built new polytunnels in 2013, housing growing space for a large variety of all year round crops. The same year our Summer House pond was enlarged and our new ‘Monet’ bridge was installed. In 2014 the extension and improvement of the Kitchen Garden was completed.

Photo by Liz Greenhalgh Photography Photo by Liz Greenhalgh Photography

The Horse Barn

An ambitious project to convert and extend the Horse Barn was completed in 2016. Originally home to the eight shire horses that worked the farm, the Horse Barn now offers a multifunctional venue space complete with guest facilities. In 2018 we redesigned the Granary creating our third licensed bar and an additional welcoming space.

Photo by Lina and Tom Photography Photo by Lina and Tom Photography

Our Sustainable Ethos

Our original kitchen garden was the inspiration for our much larger smallholding which enables us to embrace our sustainable values and be as self sufficient as possible. What has never changed is our environmentally friendly ethos and our desire to continually develop and improve our grounds, buildings and facilities. We strive to provide our couples with a countryside wedding venue offering the best of exclusivity, service, flexibility and wonderful home grown food in an accessible location.

Photo by Liz Greenhalgh Photography Photo by Liz Greenhalgh Photography

Our Industry

We are proud to be a founding member of the Association of British Wedding Businesses, who have given our industry cohesion and a collective voice this year. We have also proudly received of a number of industry awards, winning Best Venue category in the Four County Wedding Awards in 2017 & 2018, Highly Commended Nationally in the Wedding Industry Awards 2016 and Regional Winner in The Rural Business Awards 2018/2019.

 

Our Paxman Engine

Our Paxman engine has a story all of it’s own. Built in 1913 by Philip’s grandfather it spent its’ working life in forests above the Douro river, Portugal, providing the power for a sawmill. Philip’s long search for a Paxman Engine led him to Portugal in 1978 where he negotiated it’s purchase from his Grandfather’s customer! The engine was shipped back to South Farm and stabilised, preserved and returned to its’ original colours in 2014. Believed to be the largest extant portable boiler in existence it is unusual as the vast boiler drove not one but two flywheels.

Photo by Ria Mishaal Photography Photo by Ria Mishaal Photography

It was a perfect day, fantastic venue, great staff & unbelievable food.

Jane Killock (Mother of Bride) READ MORE

Call us on 01223 207581 or email info@south-farm.co.uk
South Farm, Shingay, Royston, Cambridgeshire, SG8 0HR
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