It’s been a team effort for the Thompson family to transform Shepherd Neame’s 600-year-old Woolpack Inn at Chilham into the stylish, welcoming venue with a touch of luxury which reopened its doors last week.
Gordon and Sharon Thompson have put their four decades of hospitality experience into the project – but couldn’t have done it without their grown-up children and their partners who have all rolled up their sleeves to tackle the work alongside them.
The family who already run three other Shepherd Neame pubs and hotels between them, have left no stone unturned as they have polished the hidden gem in the Kent countryside to turn it into a top notch haven of hospitality.
A grand reopening was held on Friday (November 24), attended by invited guests, including the Sheriff of Canterbury, Cllr Tom Mellish, and locals.
The two-month renovation has seen the beautiful building’s period features enhanced while everything around them has been brought up to scratch, with the dark bar and dining room now gleaming, and a bespoke reception desk in keeping with the character of the building introduced.
During the refurbishment works, they also hosted the wine makers from the 2023 harvest of the new Domaine Evremond sparkling wine, which is a collaboration between Champagne Taittinger and wine specialist Hatch Mansfield Ltd, with the vineyard a stone’s throw away from the pub. To celebrate this relationship they are serving Champagne Taittinger not only by the bottle but by the glass, and will be including it in their sparking cocktails.
Sharon said: “It’s all about the family – we really couldn’t do any of it without them all. Gordon and I have a wealth of experience, which married with the youth and vigour from our children and their partners is why we are so successful.”
“Over the years the many businesses we have owned and refurbished has brought us to this point – taking on The Woolpack. Our expectations are very high of the finished results but with our experience coming together, we are confident this is the best that we have done.”
The Woolpack has 14 hotel rooms, situated throughout the main house, The Old Stables to the rear and Rose Cottages across the road – these have their own private gardens. The rooms will be refurbished to a high standard in the new year, with stylish décor and features planned including natural floorboards and copper bathtubs.
“It is such a beautiful building in such a beautiful location, it just needs a bit of love,” said Sharon.
“We are custodians of the building and during our time here we will try and look after it as best we can so we can pass it on to the next custodians.”
All members of the family have had a hand in the renovation, from sanding and painting to interior design, copper work, graphic design and gardening, with all the carpentry works completed by their son-in-law Alan Cogger, who is married to their eldest daughter Leanne. Leanne and their youngest daughter Molly Thompson will be running The Woolpack on a day to day basis, with help from the rest of the family.
Gordon and Sharon’s other sites are The Abbey Hotel in Battle, which is run by their son Charles Thompson and wife Kate, The Castle Hotel in Eynsford, run by their daughter Elizabeth Thompson and fiancé Jacob Harper, and The White Horse Inn, Maldon, which is run by Gordon’s brother Malcom Thompson and wife Kristi.
There is a delicious new menu at The Woolpack, offering a diverse range of dishes from sharing deli-style boards, Ploughman’s lunches and beautiful homemade burgers with real hand cut chips to fine dining fish dishes and specials. They are also offering prime cut steaks from the grill, a selection of slow roasted meats accompanied by fabulous purées and jus, along with many vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. Whether customers are visiting for a special occasion, or popping in for a snack after walking the dogs in the rolling countryside surrounding the site, The Woolpack is sure to have something for everyone to enjoy.
An extensive range of ales and lagers is also on offer, alongside premium wines and spirits and a fabulous cocktail menu served in bespoke glassware.
Sharon added: “Whether we are serving a homemade pie or a glass of Taittinger Champagne, it is about the service you are getting, the value for money, the quality of glass you are drinking out of, it is about the ambience, it is about providing a memorable experience.
“Customers will feel comfortable at The Woolpack whether they are here for a pint of beer, fine dining in our restaurant or in their jeans, by the fire, ordering a burger. There is thought behind everything we do.”
About Shepherd Neame
Shepherd Neame has been based in the market town of Faversham, Kent for over 300 years. Perhaps best known for great British classic ales such as Spitfire Amber, which carries the Royal Warrant, its diverse portfolio includes Five Grain Lager, Bear Island East Coast Pale Ale and Bear Island Triple Hopped Lager, and the Whitstable Bay Collection. It also brews international lagers under licence including premium Thai lager Singha. The independent family business boasts an award-winning visitor centre and more than 300 pubs and hotels throughout London and the South East, from the historic heart of the City to the Kent coastline.
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