It was a restoration nightmare that turned into a dream home. Now Sarah Beeny reveals why she is selling up. Sharon Dale reports.
Sarah Beeny is saying goodbye to Rise Hall, near Hull, after 18 years that have brought a lot of joy and not nearly as much pain as portrayed on the 2010 TV series that chartered her “restoration nightmare”.
“It wasn’t as bad as it appeared on TV. It’s been an amazing journey and it took a lot of energy but we love the house and we are leaving with a lot of magical memories,” says Sarah, who has just sold the gargantuan Grade II* listed property to Dan and Helen Gill of Dine, which specialises in events and weddings.
The property developer and TV personality bought the 97-room house, near Hull, in a wildly romantic gesture.
Her husband, artist Graham Swift, fell in love with the decaying mansion and despite her better judgement, she agreed they should have it.
“It was his dream really. Graham has dreams and I make them happen,” she said.
Her head screamed “no” but £435,000 later they had the keys to the mansion that had been empty for a decade and was riddled with rot, woodworm and mould.
While they and their five sons enjoyed the rural property with its vast interior and its 30 acres of grounds, a small fortune was required to fix its problems, which included an acre of leaking roof and 149 rotting windows. They have never added up the cost
Since the TV series on Rise Hall, Sarah and Graham have continued to work on the house, which was built between 1815 and 1820 for Richard Bethell. In the 1940s, it became a fee-paying convent school before slipping into dereliction.
Sarah and Graham used it as a family home and as a wedding venue but are selling as they recently moved from their main base in London to Somerset to be closer to elderly relatives.
The couple are also pouring all their energy into building a new house there.
“Somerset is a long way from Rise, even further than London was, and we have the new project so we thought the time was right to sell,” says Sarah.
She and Graham believe that Dan Gill and his wife, Helen, are the perfect couple to take over as they have been involved as advisers and as event organisers at Rise Hall since 2010.
The Gills have a history of giving interesting, historic piles new use.
They look after the The Mansion in Roundhay Park and Howsham Hall, though this is the first time they have bought such a property.
“Dine is 21-years-old and we thought it was time to take it to another level,” says Dan.
He has wasted no time in making a start, beginning with improving the wi-fi, installing an enormous chandelier in the entrance and redecorating the bridal suite.
He will build on the wedding and events business at Rise Hall and is thinking of doing afternoon teas and maybe glamping as he co-owns a marquee company.
If he can find funding and gain permission, he would like to convert some of the outbuildings into small commercial units.
“A micro brewery and a florist would work well here as it would complement what we do,” says Dan,47, who adds that the hall costs £190,000 a year to run and maintain.
As for Sarah Beeny and her husband, Graham, they are happy to leave the property “in very good hands” and are proud of the part they played in rescuing Rise Hall.
She says: “Someone wanted to turn it into flats and if they had this house would’ve been lost.
“We are very proud of what we have done here and of the jobs we have created. Directly creating employment is proper regeneration.”