Babington 25: Meet the members of our original rural retreat

Babington 25: Meet the members of our original 
rural retreat | Soho House

As our first countryside escape in the UK turns 25, we meet 10 members bringing the life and soul

Monday 15 May 2023   By Soho House   Photography by Mark Anthony Fox Hair and makeup by Liz Daxauer

Each of our Houses is unique, but as our second-ever club and first countryside outpost there’s a special place in our hearts for Babington House. The honey-hued Georgian manor is the birthplace of Cowshed and the original home of garden-to-table dining, but it has also played host to some of our most memorable member moments over the past 25 years; from parties and weddings to post-Glastonbury wind-downs. 

This summer, expect even more memories to be made as Babington House celebrates its 25th year. For wellness fans, relaxation begins in the Cowshed spa, with the 25 Years: Deep Tissue Massage with Hypervolt 2 Pro and the Babington Botanical Facial (which is exclusive to the House and uses ingredients sourced directly from the Walled Garden). Acupuncturist Ross J Barr will also be on hand for an exclusive residency at the House on Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 May, delivering Five Element Acupuncture to relieve stress, anxiety and low energy levels. Later in the summer, we’ll be hosting a series of supper clubs, joined by some of the biggest and most exciting names in food. And, of course, we’ll also be shining a light on Babington’s local creative scene, with art and design events celebrating everything that makes the community so special.

But as ever, it’s our members who bring the real magic. As Soho House’ Founder Nick Jones says, ‘it’s not about one set – our Houses should be filled with creatives of all ages’ and we’re proud that Babington is a home away from home for every type of member. Musicians, designers, writers, directors and now the next generation of creatives – we’re celebrating the best of Babington with the people who make it. 

Keep reading for tales from 10 of our most dedicated members, featuring skinny dipping, a post-lockdown blowout and ultimate date nights. 

Babington 25: Meet the members of our original 
rural retreat | Soho House

1. Pearl Lowe, designer 
Pearl Lowe is known for her kaleidoscope of talents, having perfected her hand at everything from songwriting to fashion design. She has been a Soho House member since 1996, and while she’s spent many nights in our London Houses, nowadays she lives in Frome with her partner Danny Goffey and their three children, not far from Babington House. It’s been the setting for some special memories for Lowe – where she celebrated with friends after her 30th birthday (the main bash taking place at 40 Greek Street), and got married to Goffey in 2008. 

‘It’s like one big, happy family,’ says Lowe of Babington House. ‘If I’m having a bad day, I pop in there and I’ll always see lovely people – and the mood of the place lifts me. I swim there every morning and, to be honest, I don’t think I would have lived in the countryside so long if it wasn’t for Babington.’ Lowe’s advice on how to get the most out of a day there? ‘Ask for the Pearl salad. There used to be a delicious salmon, beetroot, feta and quinoa salad that I loved so much; I would ask for it when it wasn’t on the menu. All of my friends caught on, and eventually the General Manager Neil [Smith] named it after me.’ 

'It's like one big, happy family. If I'm having a bad day, I pop in there and I'll always see lovely people - and the mood of the place lifts me'

2. Ross Wilson, Babington House resident DJ 
The Houses are all about fusing work and play. One member who does this expertly is music advisor, brand consultant and Babington’s resident DJ, Ross Wilson. After visiting our Houses in London and New York with friends, Wilson – who lives just 15 minutes away from Babington with his partner, two boys, rescue dogs and cat Lulu – was invited to play at the first of what would be many late-night parties. 

He became a member five years ago, and says he uses the House to meet other creatives. You’ll usually find him DJing poolside all summer long, with an extra-spicy Picante in hand, especially on a hot day. ‘Babington held a Bonfire Night party just after the lockdown restrictions had been lifted and the energy was electric,’ says Wilson. ‘It was very special watching people come together and let loose after such a difficult time. The dance floor was full from start to finish; it was amazing to see the House so alive.’

Babington 25: Meet the members of our original 
rural retreat | Soho House
Babington 25: Meet the members of our original 
rural retreat | Soho House

3. Audrey Greensmith, actor 
Babington is a home away from home for its members, but few can say they actually grew up there. Audrey Greensmith, a Somerset local who is finishing her last year of college, has been visiting the House since she was a baby. ‘Babington is like family to me. It’s been a huge part of my life and where some of my dearest memories have been made.’ 

For Greensmith, trips there are very much a family affair and you’ll usually find her sitting by the pool chatting to her mum over a Mojito. Her ideal day starts with Eggs Benedict in the main restaurant where ‘the vibes are unmatched’, before a gym session and swim, and a well-earned slice of Margherita pizza. Her favourite time at Babington is summer, when she says ‘the pool makes the tedious English heat feel like a vacation abroad’. With school firmly behind her, Greensmith is focusing on her career as an aspiring actor, and with parentage that includes an award-winning film director and seasoned rock ‘n’ roll musician, it’s hardly surprising she’s meant for the stage. Watch this space.

4. Simon Morray-Jones, architect 

Back when Babington House was just a twinkle in Nick Jones’s eye, Simon Morray-Jones was one of the first on the scene, tasked with scoping out the architectural implications of transforming the historic family home into the club we know today. Morray-Jones has been on the Babington founding committee for 25 years and credits the House as the setting for meeting, and marrying, the love of his life. 

‘My best Babington moment? It has to be my first date with my wife Berni,’ he says. ‘She told me – “let’s have lunch, and bring your swimmers.” It was a day of perfect sun, followed by a sky full of stars. You might call it a very extended lunch.’ From saying his vows in the chapel to skinny dipping in the pool (‘I was younger then’) and many moments in between – including rubbing shoulders with Van Morrison, festivals, Christmas by the log fires, films and even camping out on the lawn – he says the best feeling is turning onto the drive and letting the world fall away. 

 
Babington 25: Meet the members of our original 
rural retreat | Soho House

5. Suzanne Bisset, creative producer
Suzanne Bisset ticks every box on the creative checklist. Since opening her first gallery aged 19, she has curated exhibitions with Bob Dylan and U2, worked with photographer Rankin on developing Dazed & Confused’s events, and opened experimental art space the Bruton Art Factory. Most recently, Bisset launched a diversity programme highlighting talented and gifted young people in the creative industries. Throughout all of this, she says that Soho House has been a go-to for everything from family holidays to late-night partying. 

Since moving to Somerset in 2015, Babington is where she feels most at home. ‘It’s the old age adage of “where everyone knows your name”,’ says Bisset. ‘I can run in and grab something quick to eat, take the kids to the pool or enjoy one of our Committee dinners in the Log Room.’ You’ll find her in the pool where she swims every morning – and the British weather doesn’t put her off. ‘I love the rain,’ she says. ‘It makes daily swims very atmospheric.’ 

Babington 25: Meet the members of our original 
rural retreat | Soho House

6. Heidi Greensmith, director 
Award-winning director Heidi Greensmith’s Babington House journey started at its first-ever wedding 25 years ago (‘a very rock ‘n’ roll affair’ she confirms) and it has played a big role in her life since then. Greensmith recalls her second date with her husband as a particularly special Babington moment. ‘I was living in Hoxton at the time and he had just finished touring with his band in Japan. He turned up and drove us all the way to the countryside, checked us into the hot tub room on the roof (would recommend) and we didn’t come out for three days.’ 

So, what’s kept her coming back for more all this time? ‘Babington has all the coolness you would expect from Soho House, but it feels like an old-school original. I love that you can see years of good times etched into the wall panelling.’ Her tips for having the best day there include breakfast on the Orangery Terrace, writing in the Walled Garden, a massage at Cowshed, and a hearty dinner of Castlemead chicken with a glass of Lady A. 

 
Babington 25: Meet the members of our original 
rural retreat | Soho House

'The pool parties are amazing, Christmas is just outstanding and Bonfire Night is dreamy'

7. Danny Goffey, musician 
Danny Goffey is a musician, singer-songwriter and former Supergrass drummer, who lives in the nearby town of Frome with his partner, Pearl Lowe. A Soho House member since the beginning, it’s fitting that he first discovered Babington House at a wedding in 1997, and then married Lowe in the same spot 10 years later. ‘We had a winter marquee and a David Bowie tribute band, it was brilliant.’ 

For Goffey, a relaxed atmosphere is the most important factor in a members’ club – ‘it shouldn’t be too stuffy’ – which is something he feels Babington House has nailed thanks to its friendly staff. ‘I’ve got to know so many people working here over the years, and many have stayed good friends – in fact, some are still working here a decade later,’ he says.

 
Babington 25: Meet the members of our original 
rural retreat | Soho House
Babington 25: Meet the members of our original 
rural retreat | Soho House

8. Angel Mackintosh, musician 
Nineteen-year-old musician Angel Mackintosh may not have entered her twenties yet, but she can give any of the people in this list a run for their money when it comes to long-standing membership. ‘When my parents lived in east London, I was made a Founder member of Shoreditch House when I was a very young child – Saturday rooftop swims and the sweet jars were my go-to.’ Now, living between Somerset and London, Mackintosh makes full use of both our city and country Houses for everything from meetings with her band to a weekly family brunch. 

Her perfect day at Babington House starts with a walk through the woods with her Doberman puppy, Tewkesbury, followed by a gym session, ice bath and massage at Cowshed. Then, a healthy lunch of poached salmon and spinach with an iced oat milk matcha latte. Afternoons are spent relaxing by the fire in the Library: ‘The Snugs and Library are where Tewkesbury feels most at ease, so you’ll usually find me in there cuddled up with her.’ As for her favourite memory, it’s a toss-up. ‘At last year’s Halloween party, one of our favourite waiters accidentally jumped out at my mum with a terrifying outfit on and she was so scared that only a complimentary cocktail could make up for it. Or, there was the time we took my 103-year-old grandma clay pigeon shooting… and she shot a hat trick!’

9. Dominic Greensmith, musician 
Dominic Greensmith, of 1990s rock band Reef, has been a Soho House member for 21 years. Now, he lives just a stone’s throw away from Babington House with his family in Somerset. ‘Babington means a lot to us and we actually have a rule that we can’t move outside of a 10-mile radius from the House,’ he laughs. ‘Some of the best times we’ve had are just doing the simple things – scrumping raspberries in the Walled Garden, watching It’s A Wonderful Life in the cinema at Christmas, or floating around in the pool with the kids.’ 

On his ideal day at the House, Greensmith says he’s keen to fit in as much as possible: ‘I would start with a swim, lounge on a sunbed with a coffee, and have a Sunday lunch with the family followed by afternoon tea. Then, I’d have a late-night film and sleepover, before enjoying a lie-in and a classic Babington House breakfast.’ Regarding his favourite memory, he is more circumspect. ‘All I will say is that one of our children was definitely conceived at Babington, but we’ll never tell you where.’