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Wedding Ideas Hodsock Priory – the story behind our bespoke wallpaper
Hodsock Priory – the story behind our bespoke wallpaper

Hodsock Priory – the story behind our bespoke wallpaper

As well as being an award-winning wedding and event venue, Nottinghamshire’s Hodsock Priory is also a carefully restored family home that is steeped in centuries of fascinating history. If the walls could talk, we’re sure they would have some incredible tales to tell. It was with this in mind that Hodsock’s owner, George Buchanan, set artist and designer, Sally Brown, the task of capturing the estate’s history and telling its story through her beautiful illustrations, to be turned into wallpaper. The end result is the most incredible, bespoke wallpaper that graces Hodsock’s toilets. And here’s where it all began…

The hodsock priory wallpaper brief

George Buchanan, Hodsock Priory’s owner, knew that Sally Brown was the right artist for the job from the very beginning. Keen to replace the existing oversized snowdrop wallpaper with something truly unique to the estate, he sent over the brief:

“We’d love to tell the story of brother and sister Henry and Anne Mellish in the wallpaper. Might that be something you could play with?

Henry owned 40 racehorses, dressed like a Regency dandy and gambled most of the Hodsock estate away in 1805 by challenging the Prince Regent whether a pat of butter would stick to the ceiling of the dining room.

After Henry died in 1817, Anne inherited what was left and set about landscaping the gardens, planting flowers, snowdrops, and the trees, building our family home as we know it today and adding Priory to our name. Her legacy lives on 200 years later.”

Sally was keen to take up the challenge of telling the story and have her artwork on the walls inside such a beautiful historic building like Hodsock.

Celebrating the history of Hodsock

Before Sally began, she threw herself into researching as much as possible about Henry and Anne, and Hodsock Priory’s past. In Sally’s words, there was a lot to consider: “So, who were Henry Francis Mellish and his sister Anne? Were there any images of them? I also needed to decide what style I should do the drawing. Should the design be full colour or monochrome? What would sit well within the walls of Hodsock Priory?”

While Sally usually works mainly in realism, she felt this style wasn’t right for the Hodsock Priory wallpaper project. Instead she decided that the design should be influenced by artwork from the Georgian period.

Sally's inspiration board for the Hodsock Priory wallpaper
Some of Sally’s inspiration for the Hodsock Priory wallpaper

Transforming the space

The space which George Buchanan had in mind for the wallpaper meant the project wasn’t going to be straightforward. The snowdrop wallpaper in the toilets at Hodsock had been installed with mirrors glued on top, meaning that the new wallpaper would need to fit around these mirrors.

Here, Sally spotted an opportunity to design a long panel of wallpaper to tell the story of Hodsock. Running along the top of the walls, edged with a picture rail to form a frame, it’s what Sally described as “Art in the loo.”

After measuring and remeasuring the space, it was time to get designing.

Planning and sketching

It was decided that the story would be told chronologically, and Sally was determined to honour the facial likeness of the main characters as much as possible.

Panel One – The Race

The first section of Hodsock Priory’s new wallpaper was to reflect Henry Mellish’s love of horse racing and gambling. Two of Mellish’s horses won the Doncaster St Leger in 1804, with jockey Frank Buckle riding a horse called Sancho, and John Jackson riding a horse called Staveley.

Using a caricature of Henry Mellish and Frank Buckle, by artist Robert Dighton (1752-1814), as inspiration for the men’s appearance, as well as old drawing of the racecourse building, Sally was able to create a vibrant illustration packed with movement and historical accuracy.

The Race Hodsock Priory wallpaper
The Race for the new Hodsock Priory wallpaper

Panel Two – Blyth Hall

The history of Blyth Hall is intricately woven with that of Hodsock and Henry Mellish. Sally explains: “Blyth Hall was built by Edward Mellish between 1684 and 1865, on the site of an old priory. Edward dies unmarried in 1703, leaving the property to his cousin’s son, Joseph Mellish. Henry Mellish inherited the Blyth and Hodsock estates when his father Charles Mellish died in 1797. His older brother having been disinherited for being irresponsible.”

Blyth Hall by Sally Brown for Hodsock Priory wallpaper
Blyth Hall for the new Hodsock Priory wallpaper

Panel Three – The Bet

Of course Henry Mellish’s infamous bet with Prince Regent had to be referenced in Hodsock Priory’s wallpaper. Sally captured the, presumably wine-fuelled, party and bet perfectly. She used shots from a 1930’s auction catalogue to get the interiors looking just right.

The Bet drawing by Sally Brown for Hodsock Priory wallpaper
The Bet for the new Hodsock Priory wallpaper

Panel Four – The Duel

This panel was to feature the story of a duel between Henry Mellish and the Honourable Martin Hawke in 1807. Brought to life at the time by well-known caricaturist and satirical painter Isaac Cruikshank, it was useful to have a visual reference for inspiration.

The duel is said to have come about when an argument broke out over who had acquired a vote for Lord Milton, a candidate the pair were both supporting in a parliamentary election in Yorkshire. The argument developed into a pistol duel with Mellish wounding Hawke in the arm. As the story goes, the pair left the duel as friends, despite the injury!

The Duel by Sally Brown for Hodsock Priory wallpaper
The Duel for the new Hodsock Priory wallpaper

Panel five – Hodsock

The final panel was to showcase George Buchanan’s favourite view of Hodsock. It was the perfect way to round off this grand story and bring us right up to the present day. While this was the easiest panel to complete as far as research went, Sally admitted “the pressure to get this illustration right was immense.”

George Buchanan's favourite view of Hodsock
George Buchanan’s favourite view of Hodsock Priory

Capturing Hodsock’s intricate architectural details, while reflecting the drawing style used for the rest of the wallpaper, it was a challenge but one Sally expertly executed. Here, she also included an illustration of Anne Mellish – an artist’s interpretation as there is currently no known artwork of Anne to refer to.

Hodsock Priory illustration by Sally Brown
Hodsock Priory for the new Hodsock Priory wallpaper

The Shield

With no known coat of arms for Henry Mellish, Sally came up with her own illustration. This featured a combination of symbols used by other members of the Mellish family. It was to be used as a divider in the wallpaper, to highlight the beginning and end of the story.

Coat of arms for Hodsock Priory wallpaper
Coat of arms for Hodsock Priory wallpaper

Adding the colour

Now it was time to bring the illustrations to life with colour. Keen to have a level of consistency throughout, Sally chose to use watercolour pencil crayons and created a colour chart for all the main colours, like the blue sky and green grass tones. Once she’d added colour to all of the panels, the individual artworks were scanned and put together in Photoshop to create a 2.12m x 40cm wallpaper design.

The final hodsock priory wallpaper design

Creating something like bespoke wallpaper is a collaboration, so after feedback from the Hodsock team and tweaks by Sally the finished design was complete. With expert advice from Jon at CreateIn, who printed the wallpaper, the decision was made to opt for a slightly textured peel and stick wallpaper.

Hodsock Priory wallpaper design
Hodsock Priory’s finished wallpaper by Sally Brown

The installation

Hodsock Priory is a busy wedding venue, so trying to fit in a time to install the wallpaper was tricky. After all, the snowdrop wallpaper needed to be stripped first and the room painted before we could do anything else.

Finally, in January 2024 we were able to install Sally’s wallpaper artwork. The toilets were transformed with this beautiful wallpaper adding a fresh feel while showcasing the history of this incredible house.

Finishing touches

It was decided that each panel of wallpaper would be turned into a print. With some accompanying text explaining each scene, it continued the storytelling theme. These were printed using a fine art printing company, framed and hung in Hodsock’s vestibule, outside the toilets.

The end result

Hodsock Priory is filled with stunning artwork that tell stories, capture a moment in time and bring that wonderful sense of history to this exclusive venue. Now, with the addition of this beautiful wallpaper, Hodsock continues to preserve its legacy and celebrate its history for all our guests to enjoy.

Come and see for yourself

Set in 800 acres of glorious countryside, on the Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire border, Hodsock Priory is an exclusive-use wedding venue with the wow factor. We’d love the opportunity to welcome you to Hodsock Priory and show you around our stunning country house wedding venue – you’ll even have the chance to see our bespoke wallpaper for yourself. Just click here to get in touch and a member of our team will get back to you straight away.

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