When Sarah Beeny recently waved goodbye to Rise Hall, near Hull, after 18 years, she left a vital legacy for its new owners.Not only had she and her husband, Graham Swift, renovated and revived the gargantuan Grade II*-listed historic building, they gave it the oxygen of publicity.The Channel 4 TV series that followed the highs and lows of Sarah Beeny’s “restoration nightmare” showcased the property’s abundant charms and its idyllic rural location in the East Riding, near Hull.What was a sad, largely forgotten and decaying country pile became a property star.
Rise Hall. Picture by Peter Hugo
Its fame has been a great help to Daniel and Helen Gill who got the keys to the 97-room mansion three months ago. Read more:>They and their award-winning Leeds-based company Dine, which specialises in catering and event management, are now building on Sarah and Graham’s bid to make the property pay. An income is vital, not least because Rise Hall costs £190,000 a year to run and maintain and that doesn’t include unexpected repair bills. The Gills, who have been involved as advisers and event organisers at Rise Hall since 2010, plan to expand and enhance the offering beyond weddings. Their ownership also comes with the fringe benefit of being able to stay at the house with their two sons, Felix, 14, and Leo, 11, and their family and friends.
Daniel and Helen Gill, the new owners of Rise Hall
While buying it was a business decision, they clearly love the period property, which has a relaxed and friendly feel, unlike some enormous historic houses, which feel uncomfortably grand and where you can imagine things going bump in the night.“It’s amazing and the boys love it. Who wouldn’t? Plus, this is such a lovely part of the world. You’re close to Beverley, Hull and the sea,” says Helen.
Daniel and Helen with their some Felix and Leo in one of the sitting room at Rise Hall. Pic: James Hardisty
She and Daniel have plenty of experience in giving interesting and historic buildings a new purpose. They look after The Mansion in Roundhay Park and Howsham Hall, where they organise events, private parties and stays, though this is the first time they have bought such a property.It is a bold and expensive move. “We call this our ‘big baby’. It was a big deal for us to buy it but Dine is 21 this year and we wanted to take the business to another level,” says Daniel.
They are already building on the wedding and events business at Rise Hall and have started serving afternoon teas. The whole place is also available for exclusive hire for everything from board meetings to stays for the super-rich who have plenty of space to land a helicopter. They are also looking at installing glamping pods and offering outdoor activities.“We have 30 acres of land and we’re less than half an hour from Hull, so outdoor activities would work well. We’re thinking of clay pigeon shooting and soap box building, among other things. They would also provide something fun for wedding parties to do,” says Daniel.
Rise Hall is perfect for weddings. Pic: James Hardisty
The other major plan is to find an investor to convert the hall’s outbuildings into commercial units. The Gills believe that businesses such as a microbrewery and a florist would work well.Along with giving the Georgian property vibrancy and new purpose, all of the above would generate employment, which would be welcomed by local people, who are happy to see Rise Hall brought back to life.The mansion was built between 1815 and 1820 for Richard Bethell.During the Second World War it served as headquarters for the operation of searchlight batteries in the local area and from 1946 until 1989 it was used as a fee-paying convent school.
What was the convent school gym has been converted into a room for wedding parties and events
The school added a large extension for a gymnasium and dining room and, while this would never have been passed by a modern-day planning authority, the nuns’ architectural contribution has been a blessing. The property wouldn’t have been commercially viable as a wedding and events venue without the enormous space. It seats 240 people and is self-contained so poses no risk to the period features of the historic house.A decade after the nuns’ departure, Sarah and Graham bought Rise Hall for £435,000.
The couple, who recently moved to Somerset to self-build a home, soon realised it was a money pit riddled with rot, woodworm and mould. While they and their five sons enjoyed the hall and grounds, a small fortune was required to fix the problems, which included an acre of leaking roof and 149 rotting windows. They have never added up the cost of restoration and prefer to think of it as the price to pay for 18 years of happy memories.
The library is a popular place for relaxing. Pic: Peter Hugo
The Gills have wasted no time in continuing the good work, beginning with improving the wi-fi at a cost of £20,000, installing a new water supply to improve the pressure and buying a glitzy chandelier for the entrance hall.
The entrance hall with new chandelier. Pic: James Hardisty
They have also given the morning room, where wedding ceremonies take place, a makeover and have redecorated and furnished the bridal suite, which was Sarah and Graham’s bedroom.“It was very Regency in dark red, gold and deep blues so we have toned that down a bit while still keeping it opulent,” says Helen, who sourced the bedroom chairs, lamps and tables from Wayfair and the cushions from Zara Home.
The bridal suite was once Sarah Beeny's bedroom. Picture: Peter Hugo
A further £350,000 is set aside to upgrade 30 bedrooms with fresh decor, bedside radios with usb chargers and espresso machines on the shopping list. Furnishing Rise Hall has not been a mammoth task as Sarah and Graham left much of their furniture, though they plan to slowly retrieve some of it when they get settled in their new home.
The bridal suite bath room with the twin baths installed for Sarah Beeny and her husband, Graham. Picture: Peter Hugo
“That has been really helpful because the scale of this place is unbelievable. It’s massive but it has a lovely homely feel to it,” says Helen Gill, who adds that she and Daniel have had a sleepover in every single bedroom to test how they work for guests.Paying rigorous attention to detail is a skill that Daniel learned from his father, Michael Gill, the renowned restaurateur who ran Pool Court, the first Michelin- starred restaurant in Leeds.“It’s the little things that really annoy people and we want to make sure that everything guests need is there,” says Daniel, who admits that taking ownership of Rise Hall was “a bit daunting”.“It’s a big task but we know what we are doing. We have fitted out and run historic places like this before so we know what does and doesn’t work.“It’s just that this is on a much bigger scale and we own it, which is also very exciting.”For more details on hiring Rise Hall visit www.risehall.com