Dillington House is one of the most beautiful conference and training centres in the South West of England. It is architecturally breathtaking in a bucolic setting of 100 acres of mature parkland on the fringes of Ilminster in Somerset. Operated by Somerset County Council since 1949, it is a calm and relaxing backdrop for some serious thinking, strategic planning or team bonding.
There has been a house on this site for more than a thousand years and the present grade II listed house and mews dates, in part, from Tudor times. The house was acquired through marriage by Lord North, Prime Minister to King George III. After his death in 1792, Dillington was eventually sold to John Hanning, whose descendants still farm the surrounding estate. Architecturally speaking the house, with clear Elizabethan, late Georgian and early Victorian Gothic influences, has emerged as a harmonious setting for its present purposes.
Today Dillington House plays host to its own programme of concerts and public lectures, whilst also offering residential courses in a wide variety of subjects. It caters for companies or private groups wishing to run their own training sessions or conferences and is a popular venue in the area for weddings. The latest addition is The Hyde, a residential arts studio which now gives the complex 11 conference rooms and 40 bedrooms, catering for functions from 2 to 160 people, who have just one thing in common – a need to sustain the inner man.
Serving up to 160 covers per day is an integral part of the Dillington proposition. In charge of catering and a key member of the management team is George Ceely, recruited 18 months ago for his vast experience as catering manager at Royal Naval Air Station, Yeovilton, where he was unfazed by serving a broad spectrum of diners, from royalty to ‘squaddies’. He describes the cuisine as wholesome home cooking with the emphasis on regional suppliers. Given notice, the menu can be themed to match individual groups’ interests. The provenance of all meat used here is well documented by the local butcher in Ilminster. Journalist and broadcaster, Rosie Boycott, supplies Dillington House with salad, vegetables, fruit and 650 eggs a week – and that incurs nil food miles, since her smallholding is right next door!
Café du Monde has been supplying Dillington for 10 years with all its coffee and coffee equipment. Says House Manager, Loraine Newcombe: “Coffee is the first thing delegates want when they exit their seminars. So it has to be good. But more than that, we rely on our coffee supplier to advise us on the correct type of coffee service for different occasions. It is our good fortune to have met Café du Monde, which knows its business backwards. I recommend them without reservation”.