Uphill Manor reopens after fire

Amy Horsfield By Amy Horsfield
3 weeks ago | Updated 3 weeks ago

UK: The Grade II listed Uphill Manor in Weston-Super-Mare has opened its doors after recovering from the fire in 2016 that left it closed to the public for 18 months.

Made possible by a pay-out of almost £5 million by the business' insurer NFU Mutual, the gothic manor house, used as a Bed & Breakfast since 1997, has been refurbished through an extensive reinstatement project.

The owners celebrated the re-opening with a long overdue family wedding of Adam and Harriet Mcconnachie. Sadly the owners, Craig and Tina Kennedy, had needed to cancel their daughter's wedding at Uphill Manor when the fire happened.

At 22.55pm on Sunday July 31 2016, owners of Uphill Manor received a call saying their property was on fire.

Uphill Manor was a Bed and Breakfast venue which hosted several bookings per night. Generally the owners didn't take bookings on Sunday evenings, meaning that on the day of the fire, all guests had left the building by 10am. That morning, Mr Kennedy checked everything was in order, locked up and left the premises at around 1pm with his wife Tina for a weekend break.

Craig Kennedy said:  "It's difficult to put into words the feelings of shock, fear and sadness we experienced upon receiving a phone call to say that our home and livelihood was on fire. I initially thought it was a hoax as the fire service asked whether the premises was empty, and so hung up on the first caller. It was only when we started receiving countless calls from our children, neighbours and friends that it really started to set in. We jumped in the car for what felt like the longest drive home of our lives. When we got there, there were crowds of people surrounding the grounds as we all helplessly watched the building burn and collapse. Once the fire had been contained we were able to retrieve some belongings. It was a tough evening for us all."

While the fire was likely to have started in the laundry room, due to the extent of the damage, it has remained impossible to determine the cause and exact location of the start of the fire.

The fire itself caused some damage to the domestic quarters, however most damage was caused by the 60,000 litres of water used by firefighters to put out the blaze, and the smoke, which destroyed the ceiling and wall paintwork throughout the interiors.  The dining room, library, smoke room, drawing room and octagonal hall and entrance halls were also severely damaged by smoke and water.

The owners had sufficient buildings, contents and business interruption insurance cover in place with NFU Mutual. The fire loss adjusters from Hawkins and Cunningham Lindsey also evaluated the damage in the days following the fire.

Deanna Gladki, agent at NFU Mutual in Somerset, said:  "Being able to provide comfort and good news to our clients at the most worrying times of their lives is the most rewarding job in the world. The thing that sets NFU Mutual apart is our local offices. We talk face-to-face with our clients to properly understand their needs and in this instance I strongly recommended and subsidised an external survey to assess the proper rebuild costs, uncovering that there had been a large underinsurance gap. If the Kennedy's hadn't received our advice to make sure they had enough cover, this could have been a very different and very sad story."

Becky Evans, claims handler at NFU Mutual, added: "We were able to make emergency payments and make prompt decisions to help the Kennedy's at their time of need. Being flexible and getting the right team in place was key to the successful project, and this was all sorted within a day's work."

Craig Kennedy commented: "Watching your home and business go up in flames your first thought is whether anyone is in the building and the precious belongings and memories you could lose, and the second is whether you're going to be left bankrupt. I did think, what are we going to do if our insurer won't pay out? But it became very quickly apparent upon speaking to our local NFU Mutual agent that we were going to be looked after - it was incredibly reassuring to know we were covered and they set everything into motion for us right away so we didn't have to worry, including accommodation, paperwork, and getting our claim and restoration arranged. From that point on, we had incredible experts coming to restore the manor bit by bit and we were also able to make improvements to the original layout. I felt as though everyone was moving heaven and earth to help us and we were lucky to have the same project site manager from the beginning. The intricacies of the restoration itself are remarkable. I was particularly impressed with the work of Marta Sledz of Chroma Conservation who repainted the historic gilded gold leaf on the walls by hand."

The manor reopened for its first event - the wedding of the Kennedy's own daughter, Harriet, to husband Adam, which had been delayed by a year due to the fire.

The manor has reopened as a self-catering venue that can sleep up to 12 people, with exclusive use of the entire property for family groups and celebrations.

Craig Kennedy added: "While the past two years have been a very difficult, peculiar time for us, all those involved in helping us get back on our feet couldn't have been more delightful and we would like to thank NFU Mutual for being there when we needed them most. After much deliberation we decided not to open the manor in its previous capacity as B&B as after two years off the job, we're a little out of practice and are also getting older. We'll forever be grateful for everyone who helped with the restoration of our beloved manor and look forward to welcoming families to enjoy it."

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