The project was made possible by the hard work of Mark Colville (4th Viscount Colville of Culross QC) who bought the disused farm in 1997 with his wife Margaret Colville. They worked tirelessly to demolish the modern farm buildings and restore the heritage farm buildings and residential buildings. They planted thousands of trees together with their son Edmund and nurtured the garden into the spectacle that it is today.
There has been human habitation here for probably 800,000 to 900,000 years age in the Paleolithic era when humans first came to England via a land bridge from mainland Europe. The area was perfect for bands of humans to live due to the excellent flint in the area leading to the making of some of man's earliest tools. At the time the Lexham area was on the edge of the marsh and river lands now called the fens and the forest that would have covered the rest of Norfolk making it an ideal place to find various foods and make basic shelters against the elements, sabre toothed tigers and mammoths that also lived here then.
People have been working the land around West Lexham since before medieval times and the Saxon church still remains. The Grade II listed farmhouse, which sits at its heart was built as a Georgian manor for the 'gentleman farmer' as part of the Holkham Estate. A truly local construction, it is made from traditional Norfolk Holkham bricks from local quarries and set with panels of flint that are to be found in the ground wherever you dig in the area.
At its peak, the farm at West Lexham employed the whole 25-house village and supported a pub and a post office. With the introduction of larger machinery and with smaller farms becoming less economically viable, the land was incorporated into a larger neighbouring farm as part of their large-scale operations. Since then the farmyard has been disused, divorced form the land it was built to farm. Until now there has been a dearth of opportunities for local enterprise and employment opportunities.
The Colville family bought the West Lexham farm buildings together with the remaining 21 acres of land in 1997, and soon began the process of renovating the neglected buildings. At first it was a place for the Colvilles to bring their own creative ideas into being, both in renovating the buildings and in their work throughout the property. Upon the tragic death of Lord Colville however, Edmund went ahead with their mutual dream of opening West Lexham to the public as a place for education, relaxation and celebration of community. West Lexham, the business, was born in 2011.
Planning was granted for the full conversion of the site but it had it's humble beginnings in the glamping site and bohemian tents fitted into the old pigsties in the 1950s piggery. Unfortunately, a fire laid waste to this building in 2012 and the business was shut for a year while Edmund and Isabelle took the opportunity to redecorate, rebuild and add to the remaining buildings to create the pantheon of properties West Lexham is able to offer today.
It was very important to them to reference the history of the land by making the new incarnations of the buildings feel loved and lived in: many original features were incorporated into the new design; old objects from the farm were incorporated or upcycled to create something new. Guests should feel not just comfortable but at home, not just visiting but actively adding to the continuity of the story of West Lexham.