A fire which caused £6m worth of damage during a wedding reception at the 48-bedroom Peckforton Caste hotel in Tarporley, Cheshire, was started deliberately, a court has heard.
The bridgegroom, Max Kay, 36, of Liverpool, admitted arson with being reckless as to whether life was endangered following the blaze in the early hours of the morning on 19 June.
However, he denied a charge of arson with intent to destroy or damage property and to endanger life.
Chester Crown Court heard that 100 firefighters were involved in bringing the fire under control at the Grade I-listed 19th Century property. Around 200 people, including 11 children, were evacuated.
Kay, who had drunk large quantities of vodka, was seen on CCTV going into the drawing room after rowing with the staff and hotel's owners regarding late payment for the wedding and a bar bill. The fire stated as a result of curtains being set alight in the drawing room - the hotel's largest function room where the wedding reception was to be held.
Judge Roger Dutton granted Kay, a father of two, bailed, but warned him that a custodial sentence was "inevitable".
In Kay's defence, Patrick Thompson, said the offence had taken place at a time when the defendant was under "great personal strain" and he was "near bankrupt".
Peckforton Castle was converted to a hotel in 1988 and was bought by Tony Naylor and his family in 2006 after his eldest son Chris, now managing director, married at the property during the previous year.
Although a quarter of the property was severely damaged by the fire, the business only closed for five days as a result of the incident. A marquee was erected soon after the fire to accommodate weddings and other events whilst the drawing room and the east wing of the castle have been undergoing rennovation.
The Long Gallery bar and Library function room, together with 10 bedrooms, are due to reopen on 9 December, while the drawing room and three bedrooms will be relaunched 0n 10 February 2012.
Three members of staff - bar manager Paul Heany, operations manager Daniel Naylor and night porter Simon Oxley - were presented with a special recognition accolade at the Marketing Cheshire Tourism Awards for their role in evacuating guests from the hotel.
By Janet Harmer
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