ONE of Wellington’s most iconic homes and businesses celebrated its 20th birthday earlier this month, but the history goes back much further than that.

The Big House Co, who own Tone Dale House in Wellington, have been operating since April 6, 1996 when Victoria and Ben Fox moved into the house.

The house was built by Ben’s ancestor Thomas Fox who built the house in 1807, and founded one of Britain’s most respected wool merchants – Fox Bros. & Co Ltd.

As well as supplying khaki cloth for soldiers during the First World War, Fox Bros. has also supplied to some of fashion’s biggest names, including Ralph Lauren and Mulberry.

Although the company has changed hands since then, the wonderful house still remains in the family.

The house was given to Ben and Victoria by Richard Fox, the last residing house member; the pair have helped transform it into a popular hire house.

So far more than 90,000 clients from as far as New York and Hong Kong and as close as Wellington itself have stayed.

There have been plenty of celebrities too, and corporate companies including Microsoft.

And more than one million glasses of champagne have been consumed.

Each bedroom has its own theme – reflecting the history of former inhabitants, with unique bits of memorabilia.

One room is dedicated to fourth family generation member Francis Hugh Fox, who once captained the England team – his cap and shirt are still up in the house.

There’s also a room dedicated to skiing as, back in the late 1800s, Thomas and his cousin Gerald Fox took skis over to Switzerland – they were the first skis in Bernese Oberland, and Gerald taught local boys to use them for sport rather than function – the skis are now in a museum in Grindelwald.

Ben said: “It’s really thanks to Richard Fox that we’re here and that The Big House Co ever came into existence.

“Although back in those days we were just plain Tone Dale House, sometimes The House of Fox.

“The idea for the company name came from listening to our local neighbours, who referred to the place as ‘the big ‘ouse’ in wonderful, broad Somerset accents.

“We didn’t want to run a hotel or bed and breakfast, and being entrusted with the house felt like we had the responsibility to maintain its integrity as a home as much as possible.”

It took Ben and Victoria a year of planning and four hectic months of renovation works before they could get underway with their plans.

Soon after, the business grew and started out life as The Big House Co, with Caroline and Peter Insall, Ben and Victoria’s friends from university days joining as partners.

Ben added: “It’s been a huge, exciting adventure and as with everything in life, the best bits have been about the people.

“A massive thank you to everyone, for all the help along the way.”

  •  Ben is looking for people who used to work for Fox Bros. to get in touch – if you have memories or photos, email them to