Page last updated at 11:52 GMT, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 12:52 UK

Stately home hit by cash crisis

By Julian Sturdy
BBC East

Bylaugh Hall
Bylaugh Hall, in Norfolk, dates back to 1850

Brides have been left in tears after losing deposits worth of thousands of pounds following a series of repossessions at a cash-hit wedding venue in Norfolk.

A BBC investigation has found debts at Bylaugh Hall are estimated to be as much as £9m.

A number of brides have told the BBC they had to cancel their weddings and lost their deposits when the company, Go UpMarket Ltd, stopped trading.

The hall's owners Stephen and Muffy Vince said the weddings could have gone ahead in part of the hall they still owned. Two floors of it, plus various apartments, have been repossessed by different banks.

The collapsing business empire is complex - a series of companies, a trail of debts, court judgements, and the suspension of Stephen Vince as a company director.

Bylaugh Hall, a grade II-listed building dating back to 1850, was in ruins when restoration began in 2000.

New venues

David Williams is the asset manager for one of the banks involved.

He said: "We are currently managing the property making sure it is kept secure whilst the lender goes through their deliberations and decides what they are going to do."

Lyzi and Joe Fuller are among the wedding couples who have lost money.

Bride Lyzi said: "He tore my world apart. It was horrible.

"Every single night you are dreaming of your wedding day and then to be advised to cancel your wedding by your wedding planner. I was in tears and she was crying with me."

Stephen and Muffy Vince
Stephen Vince blamed "aggressive repossession action"

Nine other brides have also decided to switch their weddings to new venues, despite assurances from the Mr Vince that they can use the Orangery.

Mrs Fuller's father, Daniel Doyle, said: "We were determined the Vinces were not going to ruin Elisabeth and Joe's big day. So we contributed - Joe's parents put in and made sure the day was what it was meant to be."

Security guard Howard Banks, who is living on site, said: "It is one of the most idyllic jobs in the world apart from the people coming up three or four times a week.

"Most recently there was a young couple who had come up for their honeymoon on the Friday evening. Nobody was here. I had to send them down to the village. I couldn't help them at all. It was quite heart-breaking when that happens to people."

The Vinces still own some parts of the upper floors of the hall. They also still own the adjoining Orangery, which hosts the weddings, and other functions.

Butcher Dave Smith said he was owed nearly £2,000.

Credit crunch

He said: "Luckily enough we are fairly busy, it hasn't affected us and we haven't had to get rid of any staff but that does leave a bad taste in your mouth."

In 2005 when one of their companies Bylaugh Estates Ltd was wound up in the high court - the Vinces owed a total of £190,000 to creditors, including HM Revenue and Customs.

Stephen Vince is an international sculptor. He tried to build Britain's tallest sculpture off Ness Point in Suffolk to celebrate the Millennium.

Mr Vince declined to give the BBC a statement, but he told us the credit crunch and aggressive repossession action by the banks were to blame.

He said the brides "didn't have to cancel" and that he would honour all bookings in Bylaugh Hall's Orangery.

He said: "We have bent over backwards to ensure the weddings can take place."

Mr Vince said he did not "have a penny to his name". He told the BBC that the reason the hall had been split into separate titles with different loans was because he could not get finance for the entire £10m project on its own.

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A number of brides say they had to cancel their weddings when Go UpMarket Ltd stopped trading



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