Pub-goers are finally getting to enjoy the stunning interiors that have transformed an historic hall into a brand new pub after lockdown restrictions eased this week.
Thousands of pounds have been lavished on the transformation of the grade II-listed Tenants Hall to become the Churchill Tree pub
It is set at the heart of Bruntwood’s Alderley Park development in Nether Alderley – but due to successive lockdowns owners Cheshire Pub Company were only able to open inside for a couple of weeks in December before shutting down again.
Now, revellers are getting to enjoy the sympathetic refurbishment of the building which was once part of the sprawling Stanley family estate near Alderley Edge.
The hall was built in 1904 and originally used as a ballroom for lavish parties by the Stanley family who lived in the neighbouring Alderley Hall, but in 1919 was turned into a hospital for war heroes.
Much of the Alderley Hall estate was destroyed by fire in 1931 with the Tenants Hall one of only two original buildings that survive on the Cheshire site.
Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously visited the country estate as a young man and planted a tree on the site – which is how the pub gets its name.
In the 1950s the whole park was purchased by ICI Pharmaceuticals, which would go on to become Astra Zeneca, who retain a huge laboratory on the site.
The Tenants Hall would go on to be used as a conference centre on the site in 1977 and in 1989 was renamed after Nobel Prize winner Sir James Black.
In 2014 a swathe of the park was purchased by Bruntwood who have been transforming hundreds of acres into a new luxury housing estate and business park, with the pub at the new community’s heart.
The renovation has retained a host of spectacular original features, including grand fireplaces, spectacular stained glass windows and wooden panelling that feature old family crests.
And for the Churchill Tree’s owners, having a community pub is what they are all about.
Cheshire Pub Company was founded by lifelong pub entrepreneur Simon Kalton who was born and raised in pubs across Manchester from his earliest days at The Woodcourt pub in Sale.
Together with MD Matt Parker, the company now run The Dog at Peover, The Crown and Conspirator that opened last year in Bramhall, and the famous Frozen Mop pub in Mobberley which they took on and completely renovated in 2019.
Despite the struggles of lockdown over the past year, Simon and Matt believe there are now grounds for optimism – they are eyeing rapid expansion and are actively looking for old pub sites to take on across South Manchester and Cheshire.
And they’re delighted that they can fully reopen the Churchill Tree which has been one of their biggest projects to date.
Food is classic pub dining with a twist – created by head chef Jonny Ryder, with a selection of vegetarian options like a baked celeriac steak (£12.50) or falafel burger (£13.50) alongside meat and fish options like steak and chips (£26) or chargrilled salmon taboulleh salad (£15).
Simon said: “Our ethos has always been to keep things simple, and to create a good honest pub for eating and drinking.
“I’ve never liked the term ‘gastropub’ because pubs to me are all about community, bringing people together.
“We have a good steer of what people like and it has always been very important for me to have people at the bar.
“It seems to be a dying thing going to the pub and sitting at the bar, but I remember the days when you’d get a guy selling cockles and shrimps at last orders, and you’d have nibbles on the bar.
“We try to look after the drinker as much as the diner, to keep people at the bar, and keep that idea of community.”
As well as the grand historic ballroom space which is the main bar area for the pub, there is a newly-built annexe for “contemporary dining” named Venetia’s named after a famous member of the Stanley family.
During the early 1900s parts of Alderley Hall were used to entertain guests of power and status, including the then Prime Minister H. H. Asquith and his members of government.
Asquith was a good friend of Lord Stanley, who owned the estate and he became besotted with his young daughter Venetia Stanley.
Even though the PM was married and much older, he persistently wrote love letters to Venetia for a number of years, and even sought Venetia’s advice on political issues.
Venetia was eventually married to another MP after becoming overwhelmed with the PM’s demands, which was said to have broken his heart.
The Venetia’s restaurant space leads through to a spacious outdoor terrace area that was able to open for outdoor dining at the initial stage of lockdown easing in April.