The Newt in Somerset

Known as Hadspen House to the locals, this Grade II-listed house and estate was purchased by South African businessman Koos Bekker in 2013. Since taking over the estate back in 2013, Hadspen House has changed names several times, most commonly known as Emily Estate, and now The Newt. Koos’ inspiration for Hadspen House follows the great success of his most recent venture with Babylonstoren, a preserved Cape Dutch farm estate in the Drakenstein. The Newt is set to follow in the path of the garden at Babylonstoren which looked to the past for inspiration, taking its cue from the Company’s Garden of Cape Town, which supplied passing ships to the Cape with food in the 1600s. All of the more than 300 varieties of plants in the garden are edible or have medicinal value, with everything from blood oranges to asparagus, mushrooms and persimmons. The Garden also supplies the farm’s two restaurants: Babel and the Greenhouse.

Planning permission from South Somerset District Council allowed for the repair and re-opening of the estate’s historic gardens to the public which in itself is an asset and a real beauty to have so locally. The overall vision of the estate was to give visitors the most exciting experience of what rural Somerset has to offer, including orchards and apple growing; walks through woodlands, parkland and gardens; and exploring the local heritage of cheese and cider production as well as the contemporary culture of good local produce and fine dining. The aim was to retain the features, materials and character of the existing buildings and to use traditional techniques and local materials to retain the farmstead feel throughout. The owners and managers felt that by utilising local Somerset teams, to complete this mammoth project, it would support the intention to provide local businesses and communities with something they feel very proud of.

The development of the site was overseen by Benjamin & Beauchamp along with AZ Urban Studio. When it came to the dedicated retail spaces, The Newt looked to Resolution Interiors to design the customer experience and implementation.

Resolution Interiors were commissioned to work on the design of both the gift and farm shops. With a very clear vision from the client, we set to work on the initial design. The gift shop, situated opposite the cider press and to the left of the main customer entrance, was in prime position with one side of the shop being fully glazed to allow vision both in and out. The shop’s purpose is to sell all manner of gifting items. The client wanted this space to be reflective of the farmhouse feel that the estate was hinged on, but with a contemporary designed edge using only the best quality materials, timber, glass, stainless steel and brass.

The farm shop represented further collaboration with the owner’s South African designer to create something truly bespoke and unique. This second shop which was to have a salt room, butchers counter, cheese maturation room, a misting system for fresh produce and hand cut flowers. The material palette evolved, localisation being a paramount concern. As such we introduced locally sourced blue lias and a beautifully hand-crafted tiled feature wall. Each item of unitary in both retail environments was carefully crafted as individual pieces representing a celebration of craftmanship, as opposed to using a more commonplace modular system. Angles stretched and distorted, glass cantilevered and timber treated to retain its purest state. With the added touches of vintage and eclectic furniture alongside meticulous visual merchandising of product sets and stories, both stores are anything but ordinary.

The Newt has been meticulously restored and transformed into a hotel with around 30 to 35 bedrooms, a luxury spa with pool and a visitor center, which also features an 80-cover restaurant using fresh produce from the kitchen garden.