With the ongoing pandemic making it difficult to reopen, along with the need to move out of the post office premises they shared with their mum the postmistress, sisters Kirsty Kershaw and Katie Mace have decided to sell up their Leadenham Teahouse to William Reeve of Leadenham House estate.
William has transferred the equipment and is well under way with plans to reopen the teahouse within the converted carriage block as the centrepiece for his project to renovate the disused stables at the house.
With a lot of work to do they are hoping to launch on January 20 with a mini festival.
William said the exciting agreement had been an aspiration for some time: “When Katie and Kirsty came eight years ago I really appreciated their formula but it was clear they could make much more of it if space allowed.”
He get involved with their second folk festival and things have developed.
“The girls have very loyal customers and since it was mentioned that the teahouse was moving to the coach house they have been deluged with support,” said William. “The excitement that the teahouse will live again is testament to what they achieved. I want to keep up their high standards, but it will very much be a Leadenham Estate operation and with much greater space. We are refurbishing the coach house and will then later fit out the other stables as artisan retail units offered to the traders that come to our markets,” he said.
“It has a fantastic Georgian heritage. We have sandblasted the walls and you can see the historic alterations in the stonework. A couple of wooden shafts come down either side of the central arch, enclosing the clock weights, which was made by Charles Frodsham, a major Georgian clock maker.”
He intends to enlist expert guidance to encase the weights in glass to be on view.
He has been liaising with English Heritage and the district’s heritage officers, who he says understand that these buildings need to be brought back to life. “Heritage is right at the top of my priorities,” William said. “I am more than happy to compromise. The internal walls will be laid bare so you can see the elements of construction and beams on display.”
His father, Peter, remembers when the building was still used as a coach house before the stables were taken over by the farm in the 1960s.
William also wants to open up the dividing wall to a separate room at the far end of the building for customers to view an in-house roastery behind the counter.
“I am a coffee lover and want to roast our own coffee varieties here. I also have a very fine barista and trainer,” he explained. Visitors will be able to browse the retail units in the stables, once installed, where there will also be a shop selling work on behalf of the craftspeople too.
William also intends to convert the barn within the complex into a function venue for up to 400 guests for his wedding event business, with the possibility of a bridal boutique too. He has identified areas to accommodate ample visitor parking where artisan stalls can be placed around the edges and old workshops will be renovated for craftspeople to demonstrate their processes.
He has another plan with a local brewer to create some estate products. “There is a drive and an interest to be sustainable again and not forget our heritage,” William explained.
He also wants it to be a local community space for events, as well as a local history museum in the old fire engine shed. “There was an old housekeeper during the First World war who kept a diary in which she complains about the zeppelin airships frightening the horses,” he said.