Soho Secret Histories: Nick Jones on 25 years of Babington House
In this month’s column, the Soho House Founder reminisces on two and a half decades of fun at our first English country retreat
Tuesday 16 May 2023 By Soho House Illustration by Jack Richardson
My earliest memory of Babington House is driving down the driveway to this incredible Georgian manor and just falling in love with it immediately. My first thought was, ‘I’m going to buy this’. That was around 27 years ago, and at the time I didn’t have the money for it, but I just knew I had to make it happen somehow. Luckily, the people who were selling it were nice enough to give me nine months to raise the money, so I got to work and I did it.
We had been thinking about opening a country House for a while, but as I feel with everything, I wanted ours to be done differently. I didn’t want to follow the rules and create a copy of something that already existed by doing it the way a country house had always been done. I wanted Babington House to create a new rule book: breakfast whenever you wanted it, feeling like home, but being much nicer than your own home. When it came to designing it, I didn’t want to get an interior designer, I wanted someone who had seen design from every perspective to do it and create something unique. So, I got Ilse Crawford CBE who was at Elle Decoration at the time, to come and help me design it – she’s since gone on to become a world-famous designer.
To me, Babington is the most beautiful House. I still look at it and think it’s got such soul. I just knew that it would work well for our members, and not just on weekends, but seven days a week. I envisioned people using it as a place to work, a place to relax or have dinner with friends and, of course, a great place for partying. And that’s exactly what it turned out to be: one big House party.
Some of my favourite and most memorable parties have taken place at Babington over the years. When we first opened, we’d regularly host an event called ‘Babington 24’, a festival that lasted 24 hours with various performers and people creating campsites on the grounds. It was always such a great time – our bar was known to only ever close when there weren’t people there to drink from it, which in other words was never. You’d often come down for breakfast and the bar was still busy from the night before. That was the spirit of Babington.
There are such great stories from members about those early years, and to this day Babington House continues to be a place where people create fond memories. We’ve had brilliant New Year’s Eve celebrations where some very well-known singers led impromptu singalongs in the Library or danced around in the bar. It’s the kind of place where you can’t help but feel the infectious energy when you’re there. It’s extra special to me because it’s where I got married in 1999. My wedding day, and many other highlights, have been celebrated there since we opened our doors 25 years ago, and Babington House will continue to be a home for the best of times in the 25 years to come.
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