A DISGRUNTLED ex-employee and his accomplice have been convicted of burning down a 400-year-old wedding venue in a revenge attack, causing £4.5million of damage.

Mark Hall, 28, and Thomas Richardson, 27, set fire to Chilford Hall in the early hours of June 13 this year.

During that evening Cambridgeshire Police’s force control room received a call from a woman who claimed the pair, both from Pipers Close, Haverhill had threatened to burn down the Linton venue and were in a black Honda.

Officers spotted the vehicle driving out of the grounds and towards Linton.

The pair were later arrested in Haverhill and the Honda was seized, with police finding black bin bags containing several bottles of empty spirits and white tissues soaked in alcohol inside.

Investigations by fire officers and crime scene investigators revealed the fire had been started deliberately.

DC Tracey Griffin said: “This was a revenge attack by an ex-employee and his accomplice which caused a considerable amount of damage, not to mention the heartache this caused couples who were due to get married at the wedding venue.

“The fire not only put officers and fire officers in danger but has also had a detrimental effect on the local community and local businesses.

“Thankfully no one was hurt and I hope today’s result sends out a strong message to others of the serious consequences of arson.”

Speaking after the trial, Chilford Hall owner Fiona Alper said the fire had “deeply affected” the staff, clients, suppliers, friends and the community.

“I would like to thank them all for being so incredibly supportive in the wake of this devastating tragedy,” she said.

Among the items lost was an irreplaceable art collection but Ms Alder said: “We have every intention of rising from the ashes.”

“We are lucky to have so many fond memories of more than 30 years worth of incredible events hosted at Chilford Hall and we are looking forward to hosting many more in the years to come.

“We are already taking bookings for our brand new, elegant and top of the range marquee which will be erected in February so that we can continue our business while we plan what to do with our site.”

Hall was convicted of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered on Friday (December 21) following a two-week trial at Cambridge Crown Court.

Richardson pleaded guilty to the same charge at the start of the trial.

However both men were cleared of the more serious charge of arson with intent to endanger life.

The pair will be sentenced at a later date.

Martin Boome, arson manager at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, said firefighters faced a “very real and very serious” risk to life when tackling the blaze.

“The amount of resources needed to tackle this fire were significant and costly, not only for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service but also for our counterparts in Suffolk and Essex.

“We worked closely with police to recover evidence and file reports and we are pleased the outcome of this has led to a successful criminal conviction.”