Now here is a County Durham event venue that will give you something different! Aimed at both weddings and corporate functions, Lumley Castle sits about 5 minutes from the A1 by Chester-le-Street, about 4 miles north of Durham.
The castle boasts just about everything you could wish for in a luxury County Durham event venue. Built in the 14th century, it is classed as a quadrangular design which was the architectural fashion of the time. There are 73 rooms and great vistas of the castle may be seen from many areas, especially the Riverside Cricket Ground.
Lumley castle is also rumoured to be haunted, in fact it is said to be the most haunted place in County Durham. I am a sucker for this kind of stuff, so I had to find out some more.
The primary story surrounds Lily Lumley of the 14th century. She was thrown down the castle well by two priests for rejecting Catholicism. The priests then told her husband (Baron Lumley) that she had left him to become a nun. Ever since, her ghost is said to rise up from the well and roam the castle.
Paranormal activity was noticed on a couple of occasions by several Aussie cricketers in the early 2000s. They were guests at the castle while on tour. Were they genuine sightings or were they just tanked on too much Fosters? Who knows, but it certainly adds to the deep character of the place.
The sheer age of Lumley Castle will mean there are many stories absorbed in its very foundations. Some grim, others heroic and many romantic. So much history, so much charm. Ideal as a memorable County Durham event venue, especially for weddings.
I had always been keen on this venue and last autumn I was asked to do some promotional photography. Nothing fancy, just some exterior and interior images. I was hoping that I could squeeze in some shots of the staff, as they are dressed in period style to add to the charm. A step too far this time, as there was too much other stuff to do. Maybe, next time!
Considering the 6am start, I was allowed to stay in one of the rooms for the night. This also meant that I could do some night time photography. Arriving at about 7pm the night before, I took dinner in the restaurant followed by a couple of beers. The menu was varied and priced as you would expect for a top quality hotel restaurant.
The wine list looked good too. One of my skeletons is a nationally recognised wine qualification, so I know what to look for. It was just a pity I couldn’t order a bottle, as I was on my own and needed to do some photography straight after.
Now for some venue photography
Once sufficiently stuffed and contented, I set about doing some test photos of the building. It was lightly floodlit, which made for some interesting night time images. Now I needed to shoot at just the right light in the morning to get more of what I wanted.
I went back to my room and photographed the bedroom suite. This was a standard suite, but it needed shooting such was the quality of it. By the time I was done, I had 5 hours to get some rest before getting up again. I was out again by 6.30am ready for the dawn. The trouble was that it wasn’t really ready for me. Overcast, dim, a photographer’s basic nightmare. One test shot looked as flat as a pancake.
Then I realised the floodlighting had been switched off. Running in to the reception, I asked the eloquently dressed receptionist if she could get someone to put the floodlights back on. Five minutes later, boom! Much better, not ideal, but a definite improvement. The next two hours was spent wandering around looking at vistas and details in the changing morning light.
A fine poached egg breakfast fired me up for the rest of the day. The shoot itinerary was nicely arranged by the hotel staff as I flowed from room to room catching some wonderful spaces. These ranged quite brilliantly from grand conference rooms to discreet meeting rooms, all decorated with passion and creativity. Even the dungeon was treated to a brilliant makeover as a gothic party room with matching bar.
Hopefully I’ll be back some day to do some more photography of this great County Durham event venue.