Northumberland man who helped wedding venue rise from the ashes following blaze wins regional award

The general manager of an exclusive Northumberland venue has been named North East Employee of the Year.

Sunday, 15th December 2019, 12:00 am
Updated Monday, 16th December 2019, 8:55 am
Anthony Hunter, general manager of Ellingham Hall.

Anthony Hunter, who celebrated 10 years in his post at Ellingham Hall at the end of last year, was named the overall winner at a ceremony in Newcastle.

The 34-year-old was initially awarded the outstanding service accolade before going on to be crowned Employee of the Year 2019.

Anthony has successfully turned Ellingham Hall into a multi award-winning wedding destination, and for just over a year, has led a team that has turned it into a unique corporate events venue too.

As the driving force behind the operation and growth of the business, which now employs 40 people, his core beliefs in inspiring teamwork, attention to detail, customer service and accessibility delivered a unanimous result from the judges.

Anthony said: “I was thrilled to be nominated in the outstanding service category at this year’s awards, and even more pleased to win it! That in itself was completely unexpected.

“I’m incredibly grateful to my team for submitting the nomination, as it’s their hard work and dedication that makes our workplace and my role at Ellingham Hall so special.

“I also feel very fortunate to have won such a prestigious North East award, and the feedback from the judges on the night and peers since has been entirely humbling.”

It was for a very personal reason that Ellingham Hall’s owners Helen and Aidan Ruff decided to put Anthony forward for the awards.

Just over a year after taking the reins, the couple suffered a personal loss when their 16-year-old daughter, Bethany, tragically passed away.

Just 12 hours later, they were told that the Chapel at the Hall was on fire. The blaze ripped through that historic part of the building and meant weddings that were booked that summer were at risk.

Anthony ensured that those who had planned their big day at the Hall that summer weren’t disappointed when he swung into action. He worked around the clock to ensure other arrangements were put into place.

Helen said: “Anthony could have easily walked away from the business at that point. Despite being young, he had already built up an incredible reputation in the industry. The Hall was in ruins rendering many couples weddings an impossibility.

“Turning the impossible possible, his determination, constant communication with couples and acts of kindness to couples gave us a wedding season to remember. Without him Ellingham wouldn’t still be in operation.”

Helen revealed that as well as the day to day running of the business, Anthony takes charge of redesigning the interiors and has also been key in working with architects on future building plans for 2022.

She said: “Anthony is so much more than an employee, he’s a son to my husband and I. His commitment, determination and care for us as people clearly radiates on every person that walks through the doors of Ellingham.

It’s clear that this attitude towards customers has driven sales, repeat custom and ultimately the success of the business over the last 10 years.”

Colleagues also told judges that Anthony was not a typical general manager.

Wendy Sproul, head of operations, said: “I know I speak for all departments when I say the service he provides to couples is just as good as the service he gives to the team looking after us all like one big family — he will never let his title get in the way of supporting the team.”