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Hidden Gem in Historic Dorchester

Are you something of a beer connoisseur or a lover of old historic buildings with unique architecture? Sunninghill ‘Weddings’ could be just the place for you. It is set in a beautiful victorian, gothic house in the historic town of Dorchester and is one of Dorset’s newer wedding and events venues. Established two years ago, by Jacky Walker, it has so much to offer. As a photographer I love the setting because there are so many unique backdrops in which to capture couples on their special day; I love the history and architectural aspects of buildings like these. If that isn’t enough this is a great venue for any London couple wanting to marry in a more rural setting, all within very easy reach of coast lines and many quaint villages - all waiting to be explored. To top it all there are a great selection of hotels within 5 - 10 minutes walk from Sunninghill.


So Why Sunninghill?

Jacky, who is very familiar with the school, felt its grounds and rooms potential were not being fully met; she took on the task of giving this beautiful house a second persona. During the week and term time Sunninghill operate as a school; come weekends and holidays it goes through a miraculous transformation under Jacky’s creative flare, to become Sunninghill Weddings.

Steeped in history, the venue has several licensed ceremony areas including on or beneath the grand

staircase situated inside the main entrance. This stunning and ornate wooden feature makes for a beautiful setting in which to get married. The staircase is not its only attraction, it has beautiful, decorative, feature windows providing a superb backdrop for pictures to be taken.

There are seven licenced areas for couples to choose from when booking their ceremony. Each area can hold a different capacity from 40 up to 200. Each of these different locations have their own personalities and suit different party sizes.


A Little History

This old house dates back to the early 1900s; classified as a victorian gothic style building, it oozes character and a sincere and dramatic charm.

Alfred (owner of Sunninghill House) and Eldridge Pope were both shrewd business men and acquired a brewery business from John Tizard after his passing. The family were incredibly successful in business and the brewery was no exception. In subsequent years a number of family members became involved in the business. Alfred Pope was heavily engaged in the brewery business alongside his brother Eldridge.

Alfred Pope commissioned the building of Sunninghil in 1893. Here he and his large family lived for many years. However, the family was hit by tragedy when World War 1 claimed the lives of four of his sons. Despite this, Alfred Pope remained resilient.

This is a year of remembrance for the Suffragettes, here at Sunninghill we learn one of Alfred’s daughters, Hilda Pope, was purported to have been involved in the crusade to bring greater equality to women during this era. His daughters were strong women and keen to play an active role in society. Three of his daughters were actively involved in nursing with the Red Cross in Dorchester.

The following link to the a BBC clip tell a little of the Popes and Sunninghill’s history.

History link - Link to BBC clip in the history of Alfred pope and his family in Dorchester.


During my visit I took several shots around the grounds of this beautiful building. In addition, I was given the opportunity to stage a few shots with a fabulous cake provided by the incredibly talented Blossom Dreams Cakes. The shots were staged beneath the stairs along with various other contributions made by local suppliers. Below is a list of those suppliers that I’d like to acknowledge for their kind contributions.

Here is a gallery with some further shots of Sunninghill ​

Picture this, your wedding cake taking centre stage beneath the grand staircase

The contributors

Staged shots and background to the suppliers

The centre piece to this arrangement was the cake provided by Blossom Dreams Cakes

Instagram: @blossomdreamcakes

The letters and ivy are from Winterbourne Vintage , a Dorset based wedding styling and props hire service.

Instagram: @winterborne_vintage.

The confetti in these pictures was provided by Stripey Finds The variety shown; Cornflower, Rose and Lavender.

Instagram: @stripey_finds

With so many varieties available you can’t fail to find something to suite you and your colour scheme.

It’s worth noting that many venues now have a policy of only using natural biodegradable confetti.

A magical selection of natural flower petals to use in a myriad of ways.

The flowers were purchased from Poundbury Florist

Instagram: #poundburyflorist

Basement Hire: who supplied the lighting that illuminated the stairs

Instagram: @Basementhire

Lastly the venue itself:

Sunninghill Weddings Dorset the beautiful historic house once home to Alfred Pope.

Lastly, I must say a huge thank you to Jacky for the tour and sharing the history with me. She is very knowledgable about Sunninghil, passionate about bringing this superb venue to life and most importantly driven to seeing couples have a memorable experience on their most important day.

Instagram: @sunninghillweddings

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