The founders of Friends Reunited are to embark on a multimillion-pound refurbishment of Seckford Hall hotel in Woodbridge, Suffolk, having bought the Elizabethan property for an undisclosed sum last year.
Stephen and Julie Pankhurst acquired the four-star, 32-bedroom hotel eight months ago from Christine and Michael Bunn, whose family had run the business since 1951.
Managing the hotel on a day-to-day basis is operations director Mark Suddes, who joined the property last year from the Belmont Lodge Hotel and Golf Course in Hereford. He intends to reposition the hotel as the leading four-star hotel in Suffolk through a refurbishment of the ground floor (including a new Champagne and cocktail bar in the Great Hall), new spa facilities and the addition of 24 bedrooms within the 34-acre grounds.
The east wing of the hotel, once occupied by the Bunn family, is to be incorporated into the hotel with a new event space for 40 guests, boardroom and lounge overlooking the once private walled gardens.
With the hotel dating back to 1530, Suddes is working closely with English Heritage to ensure the improvements retain the original features of the property at which Elizabeth I is once believed to have been a guest.
"We are delighted to announce these refurbishment plans and very excited about welcoming guests to experience the new look Seckford Hall," said Suddes. "As well as repositioning the hotel in the Suffolk marketplace, my vision is to continue its family ethos and build on its already impressive reputation."
The hotel, which is a member of the marketing consortium Classic British Hotels, will remain open during the refurbishment, with the first phase of the work due to be completed by September.