Unveiling The Grey Lady At Irton Hall

After a long battle, the brand new Grey Lady has been unveiled at Irton Hall and she was worth the wait.  

This September saw a cause for celebration, in the grounds of the Lake District’s hidden jewel, Irton Hall. The brand new purpose-built wedding and events venue, The Grey Lady, opened her doors for the first time, to hold a charity fashion show and a week later, her first wedding. 

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The building, which has taken two years to complete and cost around £400,00 overall, has received an overwhelmingly positive response from visitors, who have all said there is nothing quite like it in the area. They would be right of course, The Grey Lady is potentially one of the largest wedding venues in west Cumbria, it’s size, decor and amenities will make it a top choice, year-round, for couples getting wed in the western lakes.  

However, even as champagne glasses clinked on that first night, there was a slight hint of injustice in the air for owner Steve Cottrell. Following three years battling with the Lake District National Park over his temporary marquee, everything came to a head earlier this year and his planning application was refused. With the marquee still in place and weddings scheduled for the summer, Steve was taken to the high court in London and issued with an injunction ordering him to remove it immediately.  

Steve explained: “That’s how serious they viewed it presumably, my solicitor said he has never known them to take such strong action against anyone before. How can I, a small business owner, battle someone the size of the Lake District National Park with the all of their resources?”  

If Steve is to put the marquee up even for one day in the future, he will be in breach of the injunction and risks being sent to prison.  

He continued: “It makes me frustrated and angry at the injustice of it. A marquee on the lawn here, in the middle of nowhere, does nobody any harm. It’s bizarre considering the benefits it brings to the local economy.” 

After all, a wedding at Irton Hall sees an average of 100 guests stay in the area, spending money at local businesses and creating jobs for local people.  

The whole process has had a considerable effect on Steve, both professionally and personally, as he explained: “It was really hard and traumatic. It’s had an impact because I’ve had to pay a considerable amount for legal fees. It’s hit the reputation of my business because I’ve had to cancel weddings, that’s never going to do you any favours.” The injunction resulted in Steve having to cancel two weddings and his annual music festival, Irton Hall’s Summer Line Up.  

He continued: “I was gutted, it was probably the lowest point of my life, having to let people down, particularly the weddings because it’s someone’s special day. It was the worst conversation I’ve ever had to have with anyone.”  

The light at the end of the tunnel though, is that however unfair Steve deemed the verdict to be, it gave him the impetus to put everything he had into completing The Grey Lady. Now that she is up and running, Irton Hall are able to hold weddings all year round, rather than just throughout the summer. They also have a number of other events in the pipeline, which wouldn’t have been possible until now, such as live music and a wedding fair later in the year.  

Relieved that the building is ready and optimistic about the future, Steve said: “I’m enthusiastic about the Grey Lady, it’s such a fantastic venue and I think it will do really well, but at the same time the treatment over the marquee does sour it a little bit.”  

He added: “I have to be positive and think, we’ve got a new venue, it’s great to have it done and we’re ready to focus on the Grey Lady as the future.” 

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