The owners of an historic Devon castle have celebrated ten years in residence – with a Tudor Ball attended by Downton Abbey creator Lord Julian Fellowes.
Guests, many in Tudor costume, packed the Great Hall at Bickleigh Castle near Tiverton on Saturday night as Sarah and Robert Hay marked a decade of hard work restoring and running the riverside estate, parts of which date back to the 11th century.
Lord Fellowes introduced guest of honour Lady Jacqueline Killearn, a relative of the Hays, who – he said – was responsible for him and his wife of 23 years, Lady Emma first meeting.
He told more than 80 guests packed into the magnificent 15th century hall that Lady Killearn, now aged 104, threw a London party to which both he and the woman who was to become his wife were invited.
“I experienced the only psychic moment of my life,” he said. “I saw her across the room and I knew in an instance, we would be married.”
Weddings were a theme of the evening with a number of couples who have married at Bickleigh Castle, near Tiverton, over the past ten years among the guests.
A traditional Tudor banquet, starting with soup served in bowls made from bread, fishcakes, game pasties and pigeon pie were served by local “wenches” dressed in traditional costume.
A raffle and auction raised £3,000 for the Children’s Hospice South West, which runs Little Bridge House in North Devon and Charlton Farm, near Bristol.
Castle owner Sarah Hay revealed that representatives from a location scouting company had attended the event and were considering the castle for filming a sequel to the BBC drama The White Queen, which is expected to tell the story of the Queen’s daughter, the White Princess.
She said: “There is a strong connection between Bickleigh and the White Princess, who lived here for a time. The film company are particularly interested in the castle chapel which dates from the 11th century and is one of the oldest complete buildings in Devon.”
The evening ended with a firework display on the lawns between the castle and the river Exe.