Historic Swinton Park near Masham is renowned as one of Yorkshire’s finest hotels. Now the Grade II* listed, castellated mansion is set to star in the BBC Two series Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby.
The show features restaurant critic Giles Coren and international chef and MasterChef judge Monica Galetti, who look behind the scenes at some of the world’s most extraordinary hotels.
They work alongside staff to discover what it takes to deliver five star experiences in awe-inspiring locations. Venturing far beyond the lobby into places that the public don’t usually see, they uncover the meticulous level of detail needed to provide impeccable service. Giles and Monica also get to know the hotel employees and reveal some inspirational, poignant and heart-warming stories.
Swinton Park, which is part of the vast 20,000 acre Swinton Estate in the Yorkshire Dales, features in the second of three episodes to be screened later this month. The stately home sits at the centre of the Swinton estate and belongs to Mark and Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, Lord and Lady Masham.
The house was commissioned in 1695 by Sir Abstrupus Danby, an English wool merchant. His successors built the stable block and gatehouse and, during the 1760s, planted the parkland and created the chain of five lakes. Wealthy Bradford mill owner Samuel Cunliffe-Lister bought the estate in 1882 when he retired at the age of 68. He used his vast wealth to make the house even bigger and grander, while becoming the first Lord Masham.
But while the land has remained in the family ever since, the mansion was sold in 1980 by Mark’s uncle. It became a management training centre and later stood empty for four years before going on sale. Mark and Felicity made a successful bid to buy back the ancestral home in 2000, six years before Mark inherited the entire estate.
She says: “It was a chance to get it back and we knew that it would probably be the only chance. We also knew that Mark would have to come back to Yorkshire one day to run the Swinton estate so that is why we decided to buy it.”
Their previous property renovation experience extended to doing up a one-bedroom flat in Pimlico, but hard work and enthusiasm got them through everything from battling death watch beetle to reconfiguring and fitting out the now sumptuous interiors. “We got back from honeymoon in July 2000 and from then until February 2001 when we opened, we didn’t stop. We were very hands-on because we didn’t have a project manager or an architect. I’m not sure how we managed it to be honest, it’s all a bit of blur, ” recalls Felicity.
The property is now a 32-room hotel fired by an eco-friendly biomass boiler and it is furnished in English country house style featuring family furniture, antiques and portraits. While the hotel’s period charm is a major attraction, the contemporary country club and spa in the grounds is also a huge draw and is acknowledged as one of the North’s finest spas. It has a swimming pool, gym, sauna, heat rooms and wellness suites. The hotel has two restaurants fed by a four-acre kitchen garden and there is a cookery school onsite. The estate is also home to the Swinton Bivouac, a tree lodge and glamping retreat.
Felicity says: “We were thrilled to be included in this series of Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby, alongside some of the real grand dames of the hotel industry. We really enjoyed it and loved welcoming the film crew ‘back of house’ to meet our amazing staff and experience some of the unique activities available to our guests. We felt very blessed to be selected for the series, which has featured some of the best hotels in the world.”
The latest development at the property was the rebuilding of the historic Deer House in the grounds, which is now used for weddings and events. The next phase of work at the hotel is the refurbishment of the castle’s coach house, which will house 10 rooms and suites and the grounds
*Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby is on BBC Two at 9pm on Thursday, February 18. Visit www.swintonestate.com
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