A thoroughly modern Tempest is in charge at Broughton Hall. Sharon Dale joined him for a tour at Christmas time. Pictures by Bruce Rollinson.
In keeping with 900 years of family tradition, Roger Tempest, 32nd custodian of Broughton Hall, has had his portrait painted.
It is a historically accurate picture of the 21st century Tempest, complete with iPhone, casual attire and a pile of books on one of his favourite subjects: spirituality.
Roger, a youthful 52, has also added another contemporary twist to the grand Elizabethan property, near Skipton. He has just put the finishing touches to an eye-poppingly fabulous kitchen painted in hot pink, tangerine and zesty lime. It is part of his private quarters within the 97-room mansion and the colour scheme was inspired by his love of Brazil, where bright colours abound. The enormous photographic mural that covers an entire wall is of nearby Burnsall, one of his favourite places.
“We used to own Burnsall but we sold it in 1597 to build Broughton Hall,” says Roger, who is sat in his favourite chair, a mid-century modern Eames Lounge. It’s next to an elaborate fireplace that was hand-carved by one of his most illustrious and talented ancestors, Eleanor Blanche.
His great grandmother was a Victorian wonder woman who was both scholarly and artistic and who got things done, while defying the conventions of the day. She had her own woodwork room in the house, which still exists along with all her tools. It was Eleanor who commissioned the magnificent stained glass window on the stairs and she painstakingly researched and compiled the Tempest genealogy, which dates from 1066 when the family came over with William the Conqueror.
Her genes have obviously been passed down. Roger’s sisters Bridget and Annie are artists. Annie is best known for her Tottering-by-Gently cartoons for Country Life magazine, which features a family of eccentric aristos.
“She models Tottering Hall on Broughton Hall. You see it in her work all the time, though we are not aristocrats, just landed gentry,” says Roger, who loves art and design and who, like Eleanor Blanche, is adept at getting things done.
Down-to-earth and friendly, he is not your average member of the landed gentry. A fan of Pink Floyd and reggae, he plays guitar in a local blues band and admits: “I can appear a bit scatty but I am actually not.”
A successful entrepreneur with business interests ranging from the Rural Concepts Group, investing in start-up companies, ventures in the Middle East and building a new city in Libya, he has transformed the impoverished Broughton Hall estate into a vibrant going concern.
He took over the day-to-day running of it when he was just 25. Reliant on farming for most of its income, the grade 1 listed property was in a parlous state
“Two world wars, death duties and Dennis Healey’s taxes in the 1970s made it very difficult for places like these to survive and a lot didn’t,” he says.
The first thing he did was get out of farming and he now lets the 2,700 acres of land for grazing. He then converted old estate buildings into a business park that has 52 firms and 600 employees. He commissioned top architect Michael Hopkins to design Utopia, a glass and timber café/events venue, and there are holiday cottages. All profits from the estate have been poured back into it, which means the hall has been restored to its magnificent best.
“When I first came here it was freezing, the roof leaked, there was dry rot, everything was falling apart and everything was damp. The only good thing is that it was too wet to burn down. It was sad but now it feels very homely and authentic,” says Roger, who inherited the place from his uncle.
“I’m quite proud of what I have achieved with the help of the team here. I was basically site foreman and it was a joy, though it isn’t finished, there is always work to do on a house like this.”
The roof was fixed, the plumbing and electrics upgraded and high-tech systems, including CCTV, were installed. It is cosy with constant hot water thanks to a biomass heating plant fuelled by timber from the estate. The interiors have been redecorated and historic furniture and furnishings restored at great cost. “Just to give an idea. I had one chandelier cleaned up. It had 138 pieces and took three months to restore,” he says
Heirlooms that were sold off have been traced and bought back, and they span the life of the house, from Elizabethan to Georgian, when the hall was treated to a Palladian makeover, increasing its grandeur.
His attention to detail is evident and is something staff are well aware of. Roger, they say, “is a stickler” in the nicest possible way. One of his proudest moments was turning on the tap in one of the bathrooms at the top of the house. It gushes piping hot water.
“Getting a good supply of hot water is a big problem in these big country houses so this is something that really thrills me,” he says.
That kind of comfort is why Tatler says it is one of the best places to go for “a brilliant private bash”. This is how the hall earns its keep and the main part of the house is often let so guests can enjoy a “Downton Abbey-style” experience. In fact, Julian Fellowes viewed it as a possible location for the TV series and it was just pipped at the post by Highclere. The house is now decked out ready for Christmas guests, who are greeted with a huge fir tree, candles, real fires hung with stockings and festive greenery.
Although his family, including his parents, Henry and Jane, will have a traditional Christmas at the hall, Roger will be spending the festive season in Rio, volunteering at a homeless hostel run by Mother Teresa’s charity.
“My mother worked with Mother Teresa but she had a bad accident and couldn’t continue, so I try to carry it on for her. We feed 240 people a day at the hostel and that is life-enriching,” he says. His family are staunch Roman Catholics and he visits the beautiful Broughton Hall chapel most evenings to say a prayer and wind down.
As we say goodbye, he hurtles out of the door propelled by a very long to-do list and an energy he puts down to a no meat, no alcohol diet and plenty of yoga.
“He’s always like that,” says a member of staff, smiling. “He’s a whirlwind, our Roger.”
For details of the guest accommodation, businesses and events at Broughton Hall, visit www.broughtonhall.co.uk.