The ability to keep calm, carry on and turn a negative into a positive is a blessing when you run a business because, as the old Yorkshire adage goes, “there’s allus summat”.
Helen and Daniel Gill, who bought Grade II*-listed Rise Hall from Sarah Beeny and her husband Graham Swift just over two years ago, have those attributes mentioned above. So when the gargantuan East Riding mansion was forced into yet another pandemic-induced slumber, the Gills decided to view it as an opportunity.
The Leeds-based couple, who run the luxury events, weddings and catering business Dine Events, had already used the first lockdown to do work on the 30 acres of grounds and when the weddings, corporate events, stays and celebrations they had booked in had to be further postponed, they decided
to once more use the fallow period effectively.
“Most heartbreaking was having to postpone the weddings again but we decided to put the time to use by redoing some of the bedroom suites,” says Helen, who was hands-on with the interior design and sourcing.
The revamp was hurried along by Sarah and Graham who wanted to reclaim furniture that they had left at the hall while they built a new home in Somerset.
This was helpful to the Gills, who weren’t faced with refurnishing everywhere when they got the keys to the door but a deadline loomed and so Leeds-based Helen set to work.
Spending more time at the hall, which has live-in caretakers, was something she looked forward to.
Like Sarah Beeny before her, she has fallen in love with Rise and says: “It’s big but it feels really warm and friendly. A lot of the old girls who were here when it was a convent school have been to see it since we took over and one of them said ‘Rise Hall hugs you’ and that’s exactly what it does.”
Centuries-old history of Rise Hall
The land was bought on behalf of Hugh Bethell in 1646 and, recognising the beauty of the location, the Bethells built a manor house there in 1716. Remodelled and extended over the centuries, its Regency frontage and interiors were commissioned by Richard Bethell. In the Second World War, the property was requisitioned and officers in charge of searchlight batteries in the Holderness area were stationed there.
Then, after the war, Rise Hall was leased to an order of nuns who ran a fee-paying private girls school there. The nuns handed the keys back to the Bethell family in 1995 and the house lay empty and was slipping into dereliction when TV star Sarah and artist Graham bought it and broadcast its existence to the nation.
The Channel 4 series Beeny’s Restoration Nightmare showed the couple battle with rot, redoing the roof and recreating lost period features with the end goal of turning the hall into the luxury weddings and events venue it is today.
While a fortune had to be lavished on the property, they never regretted buying it and sold it after 18 years only because they wanted to pursue their dream of self-building.
Daniel and Helen knew exactly what they were buying as they had already spent almost a decade as advisers and event organisers at Rise.
Their first project as owners was upgrading the bridal suite, morning room, drawing room, ballroom, wi-fi and the water pressure.
Getting through the 31 bedrooms will take time but a good start has been made.
“Sarah took her half tester bed from the Victorian suite so we redid that. The walls were painted dark green and dark red and I thought about keeping those colours but then decided guests would probably prefer a lighter room, so I went for neutrals instead,” says Helen. “She took all the furniture from the Regents room so that was a fresh start too.”
Along with new decor, there was a focus on making sure the rooms “work properly”.
“By that I mean ensuring the bedside tables are high enough, the sockets are in the right place and there is a mirror where you can see to put make-up on.”
How social media has helped with renovation
Altogether, Helen managed to redo four bedroom suites during the last lockdown – Green, Regents, Victorian and Racksheath. She spent many evenings on Instagram and Pinterest looking for inspiration, while creating moodboards and bidding for antique furniture and furnishings on online auctions.
“I’d never used auctions before so it was a bit nerve-wracking but now it’s my new hobby. I found David Duggleby in Scarborough and Hartleys in Ilkley very good and you can still find some bargains there,” says Helen.
While most of the fabrics and furniture are high end, Helen managed to cut costs by sourcing some of the cushions from Dunelm and two of the mirrors from Homebase while painting some of the artwork herself.
The paint for the walls was an investment buy from the Paint and Paper Library and the aim is to limit the palette to seven colours that will be used throughout Rise Hall.
“That will help when we redecorate because at the moment we have 50 different colours of paint in the storeroom,” adds Helen.
Future projects include demolishing the 1980s refectory and turning two unused rooms downstairs into bedrooms.
Longer term, there is talk of using outbuildings as commercial units for small businesses, glamping pods and outdoor activities, all of which would contribute to Rise Hall’s £190,000-a-year running costs.
For more details on events, weddings and exclusive hire of the whole property for stays and afternoon teas, visit www.risehall.comSupport The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you'll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.