Country House Rescue
About the Show
Simon Davis advises the owners of British stately homes on how to diversify and raise revenue, and so secure the future of their unique properties for generations to come
Series 3 Summary
Ruth Watson is back for a third series of Country House Rescue, taking on some of Britain's biggest country houses and most historic families.
Britain's historic buildings are central to our sense of identity, but they are in crisis. The recession has left stately home owners facing a predicament not seen since the mass demolitions of the 1960s. Can Ruth find new ways of keeping these cash hungry buildings running, relevant and standing?
From the Scudamores of Kentchurch to the Maxwells of Monreith; Ruth brings her no-nonsense business savvy to bear on centuries of family history and tradition.
Ruth visits Wyresdale Hall in Lancashire, home to the Whewell family.
The Hall belongs to James Whewell senior and his wife Sally, who have spent decades restoring the estate back to its former glory. Next in line is their son, Jim, who currently lives in London and runs a successful arts and music festival.
At some point, his parents would like him to take over the estate, but for that to succeed they need to turn it from a money pit into a viable business. The only trouble is, James junior and senior don't see eye to eye: the father is a traditionalist, the son a reformer. Can Ruth Watson help bring this family together and reverse their fortunes?
Ruth visits a sprawling stately pile in Devon, home to notorious eco-activist Hector Christie.
Tapeley Park, on the North Devon coast, has been in the Christie family for 300 odd years. Until recently Hector was running Tapeley as a quasi-commune, but he has decided it's time to regain some control - so he kicked out the hippies and called on Ruth Watson to help turn the crumbling mansion's destiny around.
The fabulous gardens are open to the public but the business is losing money. Hector's loyal staff believe that his pre-occupation with protesting against supermarket and GM crops means he's not fully focused on things. This is borne out when Hector is arrested in Germany dressed as a genetically-modified potato.
Ruth quickly realises that some of Hector's idiosyncrasies could also be his greatest strengths. Hector and his alternative friends have created one of the country's finest permaculture gardens, which could appeal to a younger audience if they were properly marketed. And Hector's reluctance to open the curtains or heat the house means he has inadvertently preserved one of the best collections of William Morris furniture in existence.
Ruth suggests that the charming but eccentric Hector should capitalise on both the gardens and the Morris collection but first he needs to persuade the locals that his hippy days are over.
Ruth visits Monreith House in Scotland, home to eccentric bachelor Sir Michael Maxwell.
Monreith House is an imposing Georgian Mansion built in 1799 near Port William in south west Scotland. It is home to Sir Michael Maxwell, the last in line to one of Scotland's oldest families, who can be traced back to 1481, and whose power and riches have contributed to the architectural heritage in the area.
Sir Michael inherited Monreith in the early 1980s from his uncle. But his uncle took the view that it would be cheaper for the grand property to fall down rather than to pay to have it demolished, and left Sir Michael with a house in disrepair.
Sir Michael may have fixed the roof and used his skills as a surveyor to save the house from ruin, but his attempts at renting out holiday homes to pay the bills have been disastrous.
Ruth's attempts to get Sir Michael to invest in making Monreith's accommodation first class don't really go to plan and result in grand rooms jam packed with stored furniture and cheap fixtures and fittings. The only success she does have is in encouraging Sir Michael to make more of his amazing family history to entertain new guests.
Ruth finds Sir Michael's inability to do things to a high standard infuriating, but is ultimately charmed by him and believes the answer to Monreith's problems may lie in a much needed feminine touch. Has Ruth taken on the challenge to find Sir Michael a wife as well as trying to keep Monreith standing?
Ruth visits Trereife House in Penzance, Cornwall. It's a crumbling manor that is making a loss - with the bank close to forcing a sale.
Tim Le Grice inherited Trereife House and its huge debts in 1986, and has spent the past 25 years trying to turn around the fortunes of the family home. But Trereife is a house in peril, falling apart at the seams. And while holding down a full time job as a solicitor, Tim has been working 15 hours a day trying new business ventures to give them a much needed cash injection. The house is making a loss.
Tim and his wife Liz's two children, student trainee Peter and literary agent Georgina, are keen to take over the running of their beloved home to stop Tim from putting his health at stake, but their father is reluctant to let go and doesn't want to pass the burden of the home on to the children.
Ruth steps in and soon discovers that part of the problem is Tim's misguided business ideas - a failed zoo, a gypsy caravan theme park, a restaurant and a dairy farm. Ignoring his family's pleas for rationality, Tim has ploughed on with his ill-advised projects bringing them to the brink of bankruptcy.
With Trereife's potential for becoming a B & B, and space outdoors for Mongolian dome tents, Ruth is concerned that neither Tim nor Liz have the time or the energy to take on the work load. Twenty-five-year old Georgina is the possible solution, but she is torn between her love of the house and her love of her career in London.
Ruth asks Georgina to organise a literary and poetry event, as well as inviting guests to stay in their two refurbished bedrooms and a newly erected geo-tent in the garden, with Tim under strict instructions to stay away.
With the event a success and only a slight mishap with the overnight guests - involving Tim locking them out in the rain - it appears Georgina has proved her worth.
But will Tim relinquish control and give his keen daughter a chance?
Ruth Watson visits the ailing Kentchurch Court in Herefordshire, home to the Scudamore family for over a a thousand years.
Kentchurch Court is one of the most historically important houses Ruth has ever worked with. The place has been handed down through the Scudamore family since 1058.
When Jan Lucas-Scudamore first married into the family she imagined a life of luxury, but with annual running costs totaling £120,000 Kentchurch is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain.
It was originally her estranged husband's home, and her son, 26-year old Joss, who is set to inherit the home, is away travelling rather than claiming his rightful seat. But Jan claims that Kentchurch is her love and passion and she has a ten year plan to hand over the house in a good state to Joss before moving on to a new life.
Ruth is impressed by the tight ship Jan runs, and by the beautiful and historic house and gardens, and believes that the solution to the financial shortfall is to open them up to the public.
However, Jan is less than keen on opening the house, her family home, to strangers. Can Ruth persuade her that this is the way forward?
Sheila O'Neill and her daughters plan new money-making schemes, including a UFO academy, at their Georgian home.
Garston Manor is a Grade II listed Georgian house on the outskirts of Watford, built in 1812. Headmistress Sheila O'Neill bought the house as a wreck for £500,000 from the local council with dreams of turning the decrepit building into a school. Thirteen years later and the Montessori school is just about breaking even. But attempts at diversifying into a wedding and conference venue have failed.
Sheila and her children, four daughters in their 30s and 40s, all live in self-contained flats on the upper floors of the house, with three of them even teaching in the school. Ruth is quick to see that the house is institutionalised and unloved. The gardens are uncared for and the family is at an impasse. Ruth needs to persuade Sheila to relinquish control and pass some responsibility onto her eccentric and free spirited daughters.
Ruth gives the three girls individual responsibilities.
Roisin clears the woodland that accompanies the house and create a magical treasure hunt for guests.
Catrine builds on her interest in the supernatural to launch a UFO academy
And Leodine takes over responsibility of the overall look of the house, from the internal decorations to the disheveled terrace and gardens.
Ruth returns to find Garston on a roll - with a new terrace laid, the treasure hunt a roaring success, and the UFO academy attracting many visitors.
But can the family turn these successes into actual bookings that make money?
Ruth has more than just a crumbling home to contend with this time as she finds herself playing family peacemaker too.
Hill Place in Swanmore, Hampshire is a Grade II listed Georgian villa. Built in 1791, it has been home to Will and Rebecca Dobson since inheriting it from Will's grandmother. With a long list of expensive and urgent repairs needed, as well as additional yearly running costs of £50,000, the pair have no choice but to make Hill Place work as a commercial business.
The couple have given up their home and their jobs to put their all into making the house a success. But, in the background, Will's mother and her siblings are critical of the changes planned for what was once their parents' home.
Ruth invites Aunt Priscilla to Hill Place to discuss some of the family's misgivings. It's clear to see that their grievances run deep.
Ruth encourages Will and Rebecca to relocate and leave the whole of Hill Place open for money-making ideas. She also uges them to host special weekends for upmarket brides. Soon after Rebecca invites seven ladies to trial her `domestic goddess weekend' - which proves a huge success. But the real test is what the four sisters think of it.
Ruth visits Pen-y-Lan, a 17-century mansion in Wales.
Pen-y-Lan was built in 1690 by the founder of Lloyds bank and was bought by the Holloway family in 1849. The house has been passed down the generations. Emma Holloway grew up in the house and has, in turn, brought up her four children there. To Emma Pen-y-Lan is her life. But the house is also a noose around her neck - with £300,000 of debt. The house is in a shabby state and without the income to do it up the future looks bleak.
Ruth suggests Emma looks into two new business ventures - a pop up restaurant to complement her sociability and cooking skills and horse riding holidays to compliment her equestrian interest.
On Ruth's return very little has happened. Ruth sits the family down for a head to head where she confronts Emma and her children that enough is not being done. And then Emma suggests her own idea - residential art classes.
The art day goes to plan and, as Ruth had hoped, Emma offers good food and good service. But with plans of only doing this for six weeks a year will it be enough to save their home?
Ruth Watson revisits Abbey Dore Court to see how Charis Ward and her granddaughter Clare's catering holiday business is faring.
Charis Ward bought Abbey Dore Court in 1967 for £12,000. In 2000, Charis decided to leave Abbey Dore to live in a more manageable property and the house fell into disrepair. Charis' s 26-year-old granddaughter Clare is determined to bring her formerly happy home back to life.
Clare asked Ruth Watson to help, but Ruth's idea for a B&B was rejected by the family in favour of turning the house into a self-catering holiday business. Ruth cautioned them against the decision, but Charis was determined.
Now Ruth revisits Abbey Dore Court to find the house completely transformed and business thriving.
Ruth revisits Heath House to see how the owners are getting on with their plan to make money using the house as a venue for weddings and events.
John Phillip's family have lived on the estate of Heath House since the 16th century, and the house has stood since 1840. John and wife Flavia took over the property on his mother's death, but they were finding the property, along with over 480 acres of land, a financial and physical drain.
The Philips believed the only way out was to sell Heath House, but eldest son Ben was desperate to keep it in the family. Ruth tried to persuade the Philips to give Ben a chance to run the house commercially, but with his dad looking over his shoulder, Ben had to prove his worth.
Ruth's advice was to resurrect their ailing weddings business and soon enough Ben started to take bookings for weddings and corporate events. With Ruth's help, Ben eventually persuaded his father to take the house off the market altogether, giving him the opportunity he desperately wanted to turn the property into a going concern.
Since Ruth's visit, Ben has left his job in London and moved to Heath House full time to concentrate on running the house as a business. But will John and Flavia be relieved to see Ben thrive in his new role at the helm of the business?
Ruth Watson revisits Cornelia Bayley at Plas Teg, a Grade I listed Jacobean mansion that has remained virtually unchanged since it was built in 1610.
For most of the 20th century Plas Teg lay forgotten and derelict - with no roof, a stream running through it, pigeons flying around, and trees growing through its centre.
In 1986, Cornelia Bayley fell in love with the building and purchased it for £75,000. Giving up her more glamorous life in Notting Hill, Cornelia devoted herself to restoring the property.
But Cornelia was struggling to pay the bills. Initially Ruth suggested she turn the atmospheric house into a location manager's dream, by offering out space for film and photo shoots.
On Ruth's return, she arrives to find a well attended tour of the house in progress, hosted by the organisation the Friends of Plas Teg, who have been working extremely hard to support the house - although they report that Cornelia is still nervous about letting people into the house.
Ruth realises Cornelia is still working as hard as ever and resigns herself to the fact that some things will never change.
Ruth Watson revisits the Rogers family at Riverhill House in Kent to see if Ed and Sarah have made a success of their plans to make the estate pay for itself.
Four generations of the Rogers family live at Riverhill House in Kent, including 87-year-old great grandmother Evelyn Rogers, who has lived in the grounds since the end of World War II.
But over the past 60 years Evelyn has seen the once magnificent estate fall into disrepair.
Evelyn's grandson Ed and his wife Sarah also live in the grounds with their children. Sarah has the ideas and the enthusiasm to turn things around, but as the newest member of the family it's been a struggle for her to implement change.
Ed and Sarah have plenty of news to share with Ruth when she revisits them, including the addition of a new baby. As well as this, their newly extended seven-month season has seen them swamped with an astonishing 10,000 visitors, and the new car park in the site Ruth suggested is full with visitors' cars.
Ed and Sarah show Ruth new features including the Himalayan Hideout, the maze, and the lookout point.
Ed's mother Jane runs the newly-renovated and extended café complete with a large menu and Riverhill souvenirs, and their first year's turnover is an impressive £100 000.
With such a rapid expansion, Ruth is keen to find out if all of this has distracted away from Riverhill's status as a family home, or, instead, has saved it for the future.
The show returns to Hill Place, a Grade II listed Georgian villa in Hampshire to see if her money making ideas have worked out for Will Dobson and family.
It's a year since Ruth Watson visited Hill Place near Swanmore in Hampshire. Will Dobson inherited the mansion in 2009 and, with his wife Rebecca, planned a radical overhaul of this grand family home to turn it into an up-market wedding venue. But along the way they had to contend with expensive repairs and the disapproval of Will's mother and aunts, who viewed the changes with displeasure.
Ruth encouraged the couple to relocate to the lodge to let them rent out the whole of Hill Place for money making schemes. Now 12 months later the show goes back to find out if the idea been a success and if the peace deal that Ruth brokered with the aunts has held.
Country House Rescue synopsis
Simon Davis advises the owners of British stately homes on how to diversify and raise revenue, and so secure the future of their unique properties for generations to comeEpisode Guide >