Glamour at the Manor, with John Lewis Exeter

Our contributor, Elizabeth de Bakker (business owner extraordinaire over at and my most glamorous friend), was invited to be my ‘plus one’ for the ‘Glamour at the Manor’ event hosted by John Lewis Exeter. 

When I was invited to attend a swanky soirée of food, fashion, and fabulous frocks at Winslade Manor, Exeter –  I jumped at the chance. (An evening of glamour? Yes please!)

Read on to discover my take on this month’s hot fashion ticket – Glamour at the Manor – an exclusive Fashion and Beauty event hosted by John Lewis Exeter.

The 5-star event …

This VIP, ticketed affair was billed as a glamorous evening of fashion, beauty, and foodie treats, and it certainly delivered! 

The evening consisted of a welcome drink, a delectable three-course meal, a lively catwalk show featuring John Lewis’ latest Spring/Summer ‘24 pieces, a private ‘pop up’ shopping experience with luxury Beauty Houses, some brilliant, supporting local brands – and a luxe goody bag to take away. 

Glamour at Winslade Manor with John Lewis Partnershops

Lush flowers, a glass of bubbly, and beauty treats, oh my!

With our respective shades of red lippy slicked on, we strutted past the enormous ‘welcome’ screen, and through the red velvet ropes. Upon rounding the corner, we were greeted with a warm smile and a glass of bubbly each.

A gorgeous, 3D floral sign informed us we’d arrived at the right place. If we were ever in doubt, we needed only to cast our eyes around the room to spot that luxury Beauty Houses (such as Charlotte Tilbury, Bobbi Brown, Clarins, and Benefit, amongst other beauty brands) were on hand for the ultimate pop-up shopping experience! 

A selection of tempting beauty treats was on offer, and friendly John Lewis associates were ready to answer questions and provide touch-ups. 

Upon my recommendation, Steph headed over to the makeup chair at Charlotte Tilbury to try out the brand’s famous “Pinkgasm” blush … and was so delighted with the results that she bought it on the spot! (Personally, I indulged in a particularly tempting Bobbi Brown gift set – valued at £165 and a total steal for less than half price.) 

We also had the opportunity to buy tickets to a charity draw, raising money for Force Cancer Charity UK. John Lewis and partners generously donated prizes, generating much-needed funds for a great cause.

The venue – Winslade Manor

And what of our surroundings? Were they worthy of the suggested promise of ‘Glamour in the Manor’?

Absolutely! The venue itself is gorgeous, offering the relaxed and lush surroundings Devon is known for, but with an upscale, Chelsea bar/meets Soho House/meets sprawling estate interior that will appeal to the well-heeled. 

Just minutes outside of Exeter and surrounded by 86 acres of beautifully manicured parkland, Winslade Manor epitomises understated luxury. 

In recent years, the original Grade II-listed Georgian mansion has been given a stunning makeover. Now, customers can enjoy an inviting and sumptuous space—think luxe, rich velvets, and opulent golden touches—that is both classically informed and captivatingly modern.

I was initially disappointed to discover that due to the size of the event, we were to be hosted in the more modern Winslade Park conference and event space, The Forge, but I needn’t have been! 

After a quick redirection by friendly staff, we were welcomed into an atmosphere of chic, modern elegance, sky-high ceilings, and impressive sweeping views. 

Editor Steph Darkes, of Exploring Exeter, admiring the view

The Forge function suite features oversized, modern chandeliers, a full bar, wraparound windows, and a gorgeous sun-soaked terrace with stunning views over the private parkland—a perfect space for a glamorous evening!

Read more or book on Winslade Manor’s website.

The Forge function suite features oversized, modern chandeliers

Salcombe Gin introduces us to “The Marmajito” (aka, the best gin cocktail you’ll ever have!)

After mingling with other guests and after having a play with the various beauty offerings, we made a beeline for the incomparably delicious Salcombe Gin cocktail area. 

That’s right! In addition to showcasing its various Beauty Houses, John Lewis also featured one of its boutique, local brands: Salcombe Gin. John Lewis is one of the official stockists of Salcombe Gin, and, from my point of view, it’s a glorious collaboration! 

One of the highlights of the evening for me was our interaction with Howard Davies, Co-Founder and Director of the Devon-based Salcombe Gin Company.

Not only is Davies a truly lovely and modest man, he’s also a gifted mixologist who, simply put, made us the most incredibly tasty gin cocktail I’ve ever had! (No, really … generally, I’m not a big drinker – at all – but I would have gladly downed three in a row!)

Treating us to a “Marmajito” (aka, the best gin cocktail I’ve ever had!)

Davies made us a “Marmajito” – Salcombe Gin’s take on the classic Mojito (but in my opinion, 100x tastier!) His spin on the classic recipe uses a secret ingredient – in place of regular sugar, he uses Salcombe Gin-infused citrus marmalade! 

In the shiniest copper cocktail shaker I’ve ever seen, Davies expertly mixed Salcombe Gin with 10 fresh mint leaves, a dash of lemon, and 2 bar spoonfuls of blood orange marmalade, before topping it up with refreshing elderflower tonic water. After whipping out a cut crystal glass, he added a slice of ruby grapefruit to the edge and slid it our way with a knowing smile. 

The result? The taste of summer in a glass! Utter perfection. 

(Head over to Salcombe Gin for the full recipe!)

The table décor, luxury goody bags, and surprise guests!

After enjoying our cocktails out on the terrace, we were invited to take our seats in the main conference space. 

The author, Elizabeth de Bakker, enjoying the “Glamour at the Manor” event 

Adorning the tables – laid out with white linen and sparkling silverware – were chic, matte black gift bags topped with satin champagne bows, just waiting for guests to discover their luxe contents.

The luxury goody bags included perfume samples, premium beauty treats (from the likes of Charlotte Tilbury, Elemis, Sisley, Lancome, YSL, Clarins, and Estee Lauder, to name a few!), and a bottle of Luscombe Ginger Beer. Also included were various vouchers – including a generous £10 to spend in store at John Lewis! 

The luxe goody bags, filled with premium beauty treats

The food

A 5-star event wouldn’t be a truly glamorous affair without a star! We were lucky to be seated at a table with Cheska Hull (of Made in Chelsea fame) and her lovely fiancé Damian Crook, who entertained us with brilliantly funny stories all evening. Their glamorous attire belied their down-to-earth vibe: much like the host of the evening, John Lewis, whose beautiful offerings are actually made truly accessible by their friendly associates. 

Made in Chelsea’s Cheska Hull, and fiancé Damian Crook

And as for the food? What can I say – it was absolutely sublime.

Chef Director Matt Mason, one of Devon’s finest and most decorated chefs, headed up the evening’s fine dining offering. We were treated to mouth-watering local ingredients, intriguing flavour combinations – and beautifully presented dishes, to boot. 

Chef Mason’s 30-years’ culinary experience shined: from the first mouthful, it was evident why he’s won multiple prestigious awards and has been invited into the Master Chefs of Great Britain – an honour reserved for the very ‘best of the best.’ 

I enjoyed every tantalising mouthful of my meal – from the delicious cured salmon with zesty lemon curd starter, to the melt-in-your-mouth tender sea bream, mashed potato and broccoli main, to the exquisite chocolate delice dessert – everything was expertly prepared and artfully presented. 

I can’t wait to indulge in more of Chef Mason’s delicious offerings, and will be booking a meal at Winslade Manor ASAP!

(You can follow @chefmatt123 on Instagram)

Joy, colour, and inclusivity: A celebratory fashion show!

After the delicious 3-course meal, we were treated to the highlight of the evening – an incredible Spring/ Summer 2024 Fashion Show which celebrated inclusivity, colour, and joy in fashion.

The catwalk show featured brands such as Mint Velvet, Hush, French Connection, Phase Eight and many more, including the John Lewis Rental Service. 

The best part was that the uplifting and high-energy fashion show featured models who were, in fact, all John Lewis Exeter Partners! Rather than the stereotypically ‘sexy’ or miserably foot-pounding walks you’d expect at London Fashion week, models served up fun, quirky walks and spins, with gloriously happy, smiling faces. 

The fashion show was a celebration of colour, joy, and inclusivity

Everyone commented at the end of the show how well they all did, and how genuinely happy to work for John Lewis they all seemed. It was wonderful to see the shared laughs and comradery between employees!

The show included male and female models of varying ages and shapes – but one thing tied them all together: they genuinely all looked fabulous in their John Lewis wares!

The show was a feast for the eyes featuring gorgeous new collections in pops of Kelly green, punchy red, and dazzling royal blue. Styles ranged from casual beachwear to glamorous attire: whimsical floral dresses, sequined evening numbers that cut an elegant figure, and relaxed summer shorts all made their way joyfully across the stage. 

I was particularly struck by a head-turning bright green, pleated jumpsuit by Phase Eight: I was mesmerised by how elegantly the wide-legged green jumpsuit flowed – its billowy fabric giving the illusion of an evening dress, but with the unexpected modern twist of culottes.

A billowy, pleated jumpsuit from the Spring/Summer ’24 collection

I was equally taken by a stunning, raspberry-pink, two-piece linen suit by Hobbs. It looked so summery and effortlessly chic – perfect for transitioning from the office to after-hours cocktails with a simple swap of accessories.  

At the end of the show, the staff paraded around the room and gathered on the stage, grinning confidently from ear-to-ear. It was a great example of how fabulous fashion is accessible to all through a partner like John Lewis. 

After the show, the rails of beautiful clothes from the catwalk were featured in the bar area. Personal Stylists were on hand to let us know about the 100% free personal styling sessions available at John Lewis. 

We were informed by one of their professional stylists, Susie, that customers can book a one-hour or two-hour appointment to discover options for either a specific outfit needed, or for a total wardrobe refresh. Personalised style consultations are available – completely free of charge, and with no minimum spend – featuring friendly, honest advice to help customers find the right styles and shapes for their unique body type and lifestyle needs. 

What an amazing opportunity to access top-notch fashion advice free of charge!

(You can book your personal styling session here:

A dazzling night to remember …

When I was invited to the ‘Glamour at the Manor’ event, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. 

I relished the opportunity to soak up an evening dedicated to showcasing the exceptional Beauty and Personal Styling services available at John Lewis. It certainly did that, and then some! We left saying that we are so lucky to have such a boutique experience available in Exeter.

As a professional makeup artist and transformational life coach, I always tell my clients that feeling beautiful and confident should not be the preserve of a select few: we all deserve to feel great in our skin! 

John Lewis’ ‘Glamour in the Manor’ event underscored the importance of this truth: whilst it can be fun to glam up for an evening, at the heart of it, fashion and beauty should be both uplifting and accessible to all – enabling a person to access the feeling of confidence any time. 

The evening was a resounding success and served up a reminder for us all: you are worthy and deserving of putting your best self forward! 

About the author: Elizabeth de Bakker

Elizabeth moved to Exeter in 2011 from Canada and she hasn’t looked back! Elizabeth was instantly captivated by the magic of Exeter back in 2010 during an initial two-day visit … which prompted a life-changing, international move (resulting in children who don’t sound remotely like her!)

Elizabeth is passionate about coaching and empowering women midlife to transform their self-esteem and self-confidence through beauty makeovers and transformational life coaching. 

The owner of deLush Makeover Studio, her 15 years’ experience as an ICF-Certified Life Coach, Master NLP Practitioner and Professional Makeup Artist enables her to offer clients transformational “inside/outside” midlife makeovers that go beyond skin deep.


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