A POPULAR wedding venue and vineyard is set to expand after its general manager and her husband took it over in a management buyout.

Samantha and James Davies used a £1.1million loan from Lloyds Bank to buy the Southampton site of Three Choirs Vineyards.

They have changed its name to Wickham Estate and plan to create more jobs as the business grows.

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The 120-capacity venue hosted 55 weddings last year and has 60 booked so far for this year. Fifteen acres of the 40-acre site are planted to vine, and produce up to 30 tonnes of grapes every year – which equates to around 25,000 bottles of wine.

Mrs Davies had been with Three Choirs for seven years, most recently as general manager. Three Choirs also has a vineyard in Gloucestershire which remains under the vendors’ ownership.

The couple plan to develop the £500,000 turnover site to introduce new revenue streams, including building more on site accommodation such as shepherd huts and glamping, and exploring live music and cinema events.

The couple also own the Old Mill restaurant in nearby Botley and employ their daughter Hannah’s company Exquisite Catering as Wickham Estate’s sole catering supplier. They have kept Three Choirs’ five full-time staff and its casual workers.

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Samantha Davies said: “Our company is all about the fantastic team that works tirelessly to make sure we are always offering the best service to our customers, and we have a lot of fun doing it.

“Lloyds Bank has taken the time to really get to know our business, and has been by our side and shared our passion for this project from the start.

“I’ve loved working in this stunning setting for the last seven years, and James and I are so excited about all the different areas of it with potential to develop to bring it even more to life.”

Will Gage, relationship director at Lloyds Bank, which provided the loan, said: “The team at Wickham Estate has a real family feel, with everyone pulling together to make it one of the leading wedding venues and vineyards in the South East.

“We’re delighted to have this opportunity to support the team with what is an incredibly exciting venture. Sam and James have such vision and enthusiasm to scale up the operation in the coming months and years, and we can’t wait to see what its future holds.”

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