Bonchester businesses are wedded to matrimony market proposal

Bonchester Bridge blacksmith John Falla,   intends in 2013 to marry his lifelong friend Jackie Riddell who has been his fiancee and partner for the past four years.
Bonchester Bridge blacksmith John Falla, intends in 2013 to marry his lifelong friend Jackie Riddell who has been his fiancee and partner for the past four years.

TWO Bonchester Bridge businesses have proposed to take on Gretna Green as the UK’s wedding capital.

Blacksmith John Falla has linked up with Lucy Agnew of the Horse and Hound hotel in an effort to attract engaged couples to the Rule Water village for their special day.

It was last year John, who owns The Smiddy, suggested to Lucy that to mark the centenary of his business – established by his grandfather in 1911 and still in possession of its original anvil – it could be turned into a wedding venue.

“I thought this was a brilliant proposal and I began looking at the bigger picture,” said Lucy, whose hotel began life as a coaching inn in 1701.

“Businesses in our region need a boost and I immediately saw the potential of people coming from far and wide to tie the knot in Bonchester and hopefully discover the hidden jewel of the Borders.

“I think it’s fair to say that Gretna has become something of a conveyor belt, which is understandable given its reputation and the sheer volume of weddings.

“I was really excited at the prospect of promoting not only our businesses, but also this beautiful unspoilt village set in magnificent scenery.”

Gretna Green is estimated to see more than 5,000 weddings a year.

But the Horse and Hounds, which can accommodate up to 100 in its lounge bar and restaurant, is now putting together special smithy wedding packages which it will market throughout the United Kingdom and abroad in the months ahead.

And already the smithy and hotel combination has proved a marital hit with a new bride and groom.

“About two weeks ago, a couple were due to marry in the village’s Hobkirk Church, and have their wedding breakfast and reception in the hotel,” recalled Lucy, who has been in the hotel trade for 43 years.

“John and I thought it would be a great idea to have a photoshoot of the happy couple, their guests and local minister, the Reverend Douglas Nichol, who performed the ceremony, in the smithy, so we set about decking it out in horseshoes, horse brasses and, of course, the original anvil.

“The result was we created a really ambient and evocative atmosphere, and the happy couple were delighted with the photographs and said they would never forget their special day in Bonchester.”

Lucy added: “It’s a case of suck it and see how it goes, so, at the moment, we are holding off from applying for registration to allow civil marriages to take place in the smithy.

“In the meantime, the Reverend Nichol is happy to do the honours.”

Meanwhile, John, 59, who received the British Empire Medal earlier this month, appears to have solved his own wedding venue problem and is due to tie the knot with his fiancee of four years, Jackie Riddell, in the smithy next year.