THE owners of Herefordshire weddings venue have told how their business collapsed under the pressures of the Covid pandemic.

They are also pleading for understanding after being targeted by threats and abuse by people who lost money when their company went into voluntary liquidation.

Ben Owen, who owns 17th-century Lemore Manor, near Eardisley, with his wife, Margaret, said they "deeply regret the hurt, upset and loss" caused to couples whose weddings could not go ahead.

But he rounded on those who he says have taken criticism to unacceptable lengths.

"I have watched the health of my wife collapse under the constant abuse and threats by an organised group who will not stop until they see the personal and professional destruction of us as a couple and individuals," he said.

Mrs Owen had been running a business called Fine Manor Events before the pandemic forced it to fold. Her husband then launched a new firm called More Escapes running the Lemore estate as a hotel, spa, and weddings venue.

He said: "We deeply regret the hurt, upset and loss caused to those who had their hearts set on weddings booked through Fine Manor Events that could not go ahead because of the pandemic.

"If we could push a button and everyone could be happy, we would do it.

"Margaret and I are absolutely devastated at having to put Fine Manor Events into liquidation. We did everything in our power to avoid this and save a dream business Margaret had built over 20 years.

"Throughout this time we have always had the best interests of our creditors at heart, and from 32 weddings booked into calendar year 2021, only four did not go ahead as planned, with many moving dates to accommodate them.

"During the entirety of the pandemic, we have secured as many jobs as possible, sometimes working round the clock in unprecedented and nearly impossible conditions to do everything in our power to honour these weddings.

"At no stage did we ever consider giving up. We were beaten down by a pandemic.

"Unfortunately, some couples who chose not to book wedding insurance, which we always advise they should take, have lost money due to an unforeseen global pandemic that destroyed the wedding industry and has bankrupted businesses on a global scale."

He went on to describe what he described as a "vicious online slander and libel campaign" conducted mainly on social media after the company folded.

"This barrage of negative reviews, harassment of the directors, their family, and their loyal customers, has created unrest in the local community and again hindered new business."

He said it included people contacting customers of his new business, More Escapes, and pressuring them to cancel their weddings.

"To make clear, More Escapes is a separate resort business operating from the same premises whose principal business activities are, yes, weddings and events.


"It also provides the more traditional services of a hotel – selling short breaks, providing accommodation, food, drink, and spa services.

"Any weddings booked through More Escapes are safe. The company in liquidation is Fine Manor Events, an exclusive-use weddings company trading from the Lemore Estate.

"For many months now, staff at both businesses have been abused on site, intimidated in person and on the phone and made to feel unsafe.

"At one point a mother was approached at the school gates. At what point do you draw the line?

"From vicious hate mail, to being called every single name under the sun while trying to save a business and hold a family together takes a very grim toll.

"We felt it necessary to report incidents to the police, and our staff should know we will do everything in our power to protect them.

"We would like to thank our suppliers and customers who have supported us so far, and who are terrified of being similarly targeted by those who have proven vicious in their methods and intent.

"As a husband and father, I am at the stage now where I am protecting my family. Margaret has stepped away entirely from the business side of things. She resigned as a director of More Escapes as of October 8, 2021.

"We remain landlords of Lemore Estate, but Margaret no longer has an active role in the businesses."

Mr Owen said couples affected will have received notice from the liquidators, but if they did not have wedding insurance and turned down an alternative date they were unlikely to receive a refund.

"Like so many businesses inside and out of the wedding industry, the coronavirus pandemic has left us in pieces.

"Our dream business, our savings, the welfare of our staff, our reputation and our very sanity have been relentlessly attacked from all sides.

"I am incredibly proud of the hundreds of world-class weddings we held at Fine Manor Events, made possible only by our team of dedicated staff who are driven by a passion for excellence.

"We are so sorry any of this has happened. I ask now that we be allowed to rebuild, so that we may continue to serve the community we value so dearly."

The Hereford Times has previously reported the despair of couples who told how they lost thousands of pounds when Fine Manor Events.

They complained of poor communications and the loss of life savings.