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Friends Reunited founders sell Seckford Hall hotel off £4.1m guide price

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Friends Reunited founders sell Seckford Hall hotel off £4.1m guide price

Seckford Hall hotel in Woodbridge, Suffolk, has been sold off a guide price of £4.1m.

The freehold property was put on the market by Stephen and Julie Pankhurst, the founders of early social networking site Friends Reunited, in March this year.

The new owners are entrepreneurs Michael Chittenden and Tammy Madge, who also own and run the Manor by the Lake in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. The amount they actually paid for the hotel has not been revealed.

Seckford Hall has 32 en-suite rooms and is set in around 10 acres of land. It is adjacent to the 18-hole Seckford Golf Course and has a restaurant with room for 80 diners, combined with an events room, a beauty treatment spa and a heated pool.

A detached former hunting lodge along with other outbuildings also forms part of the sale.

Paul Barrasford, director in hotels agency at Colliers International said: “East Anglia continues to be a very popular target area from a broad range of buyers for an equally diverse range of hotels.  As such, it was no surprise that we received extensive interest for such a special property as Seckford Hall.  We are delighted to have sold it expert operator Michael Chittenden. The hotel is in great hands and it will be exciting to see how he takes it forward from here.”

Chittenden, who lived locally earlier in his life, said: “This is very much a dream come true for me. This was where my parents brought me for special occasions when I was a boy – it was always the place to go.

“There is a considerable amount of investment needed to upgrade the hotel as it was only partly renovated. We will be investing in those areas to bring the property up to date whilst being sensitive to its history. We will endeavour to make Seckford Hall the place of choice once again by offering good food, fun quirky spaces and importantly, family friendly. Like with all our venues, customer experience is very important and at the centre of all we do. We like to think we sell ‘moments that matter’. We will be spending considerable time training the current team with this in mind as well as deploying extensive recruitment campaigns.”

“This is such a fabulous property – steeped in history and an architectural gem – that small but important changes will soon make this one of the top hotels and event venues in this part of the UK.”

Chittenden has experience of restoring historic buildings. His first venture was Woodhall Manor at Woodbridge, a 16th century listed mansion set in nine acres, which he in Madge acquired in 2007 for £2m from a demolition contractor.

In 2009, he and Madge appeared on Channel 4’s Hotel Rescue, which chronicled their attempts to restore the Royal hotel in Clacton, Essex, with a plan to create a series of themed rooms ranging from “Wild West” to “Elvis” to “Claridge’s” and “Raffles”. The hotel was auctioned for up to £1m the following year.

In 2013, they acquired Manor by the Lake in Chelthenham, a listed Victorian building, which again was being sold in a poor state of repair.

Also in 2013 they bought the Royal Ordnance Depot, a Grade II-listed 20-acre site near Daventry, Northamptonshire, which has been refurbished with some of the buildings in use as business space. Chittenden and Madge have also applied for planning consent to create a £24m mixed use development, which will include new homes, a hotel, visitor centre and care home.

Meanwhile, the Pankhursts embarked on a multimillion-pound refurbishment of the Seckford Hall in 2013 and but decided to sell the hotel “to focus on other business sectors”. They personally made around £30m from the £175m sale of Friends Reunited to ITV in 2005.

Seckford Hall hotel on sale for £4.1m >>

Founders of Friends Reunited plough millions into Seckford Hall hotel >>


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