Rise and shine -Sarah Beeny's latest TV renovation project is her own property in East Yorkshire
PUBLISHED: 11:55 22 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:53 20 February 2013
Sarah Beeny's latest TV project is the renovation of her own East Yorkshire home - the magnificent but at risk Rise Hall in East Yorkshire. Tony Greenway talks to her
Sarah Beeny, husky-voiced entrepreneur and TV property queen, is about to get a taste of her own medicine. This month, viewers will see her renovate another house on TV, which is something shes done on many occasions. But this time, in a ha!-not-so-easy-is-it? twist, its her own property: the magnificent stately pile of Rise Hall near Hull.
Actually, the amiable and chatty Sarah knows all about the perils of property renovation. Shes an expert in her field and her TV series, Property Ladder, is top-rated. But she admits its the first time shes had the camera focussed totally on her. Perhaps this is why the series has ended up being called (in typically understated Channel 4 fashion) Beenys Restoration Nightmare.
Its quite difficult being the subject of a show, she says, and very strange. Its quite a big deal because its my home; and because my husband and the kids are on camera too.
Yet I figured it gave us such an amazing opportunity to talk about all sorts of building issues that we havent been able to cover in the past, that we may as well just go for it.
It turns out theres another good reason to give the stately Rise Hall a makeover. Were trying to save a building which is at risk and which is a significant part of our heritage, says Sarah. We wanted to see if we could make it pay for itself because its too big to be just a home. It needs more purpose than that.
Rise Hall, which Sarah bought 10 years ago, is a Grade II listed property built by the Bethnell family in the early 1800s, comprising 40,000 sq ft and 97 rooms. Used as school from 1946-1989, it had stood semi-derelict for years and dry rot had taken hold at the back of the building. Then Sarah discovered that the whole structure was slipping backwards. We thought, OK: the only way to stop the slide is for it to be used more. We werent using it enough.
Rise Hall couldnt be turned into flats the cost of converting it didnt stack up says Sarah and the location meant it couldnt be recreated as a hotel, either. Its too far east, says Sarah, no-one wants a hotel that far out. So what do you do with a big old building?
Its one of the most important buildings in the area in terms of its history and architecture, but why would someone start spending money on it? It begs the question: what do you do if you find a dinosaur in the woods. Kill it? No, you cant do that. Its a one-off.
The answer was to turn it into a wedding venue (not a bad idea, because Sarah also owns a dating website www.mysinglefriend.com). Crucially, this means Sarah could keep Rise Hall as a home and, even though she also has a family house in London, stay for part of the time in Yorkshire. I love Yorkshire, and Hull especially. It really annoys me that Hull gets a bad press.
Its a fantastic place with wonderful people.
Sarah and her family artist Graham Swift and their four boys have been living in the front section of the house for ages. But if Rise Hall was so big and rambling, what had attracted them to it in the first place?
Wed looked at lots of at risk buildings because it was a passion of ours, says Sarah. If you were into birds, youd probably end up owning a rare bird but were into buildings. Its a mission of ours, I suppose. An organisation might take a house like this and spend 10m on refurbishing it. Well, we wanted to know if we could do it without spending that kind of money. Could we achieve a renovation with basic good building practice?
It was a labour of love.
On TVs property ladder, Sarah is famous for telling people off when they go over budget on their do-up-and-flog-it renovations. Did she live by her own strict rules and keep within her price range?
No, I didnt at all! But to be honest, you wouldnt buy Rise Hall as a clever business proposition or a good deal.
On Property Ladder, people buy a house because its good business. Rise Hall was something that wed wanted to do a bit of a dream. So all the things Id suggest you do on a normal site, you couldnt do here. Also, working in London meant that Sarah had to project manage the renovation from hundreds of miles away, which added to her stress levels. Luckily, Sarah employed the most amazing Yorkshire builders, Garry Willert and Nick Muirhead of SH Developments, to run the site at the back of the house; and she used a number of Yorkshire suppliers, including Stelrad Radiators from Hull (we filmed in their factory which was fascinating) and Discount Carpets, also from Hull. Its a little independent shop run by a guy called Joe. Theyre a fantastic carpet supplier with lots of stock and, I have to say, they deserve a flippin medal. As far as materials go, Id love to say we built an entire extension out of York stone but we didnt.
When she and Graham moved to Yorkshire it was relatively undiscovered as a property hotspot but now, says Sarah, the secret is well and truly out. Its a lot more discovered now. In a way, it would be a shame if Yorkshire didnt stay the same.
Investment is exciting because it brings opportunity, jobs, creativity and think-tanks to an area. But as people discover how wonderful Yorkshire is and it really is a magic place
I cant help but think: is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Rise and shine
Sarah Beenys latest TV project is the renovation of her own East Yorkshire home the magnificent but at risk Rise Hall in East Yorkshire. Tony Greenway talks to her