TV presenter and property developer Sarah Beeny and her husband Graham Swift, an artist, have come up with a novel way of transforming themselves into a Lord and Lady of the Manor. A few years ago, the charismatic couple and their four lively sons left London behind and moved to the South West of England, armed with an ambitious, life-changing plan.
Building a Manor House in the Stunning South West
The first stage of that plan involved buying an impressive 220 acres of land in beautiful Bruton, Somerset; a place described by Somerset Life magazine as ‘a magnet for the rich and famous’. Billionaire Koos Bekker, musical theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh and fashion designer Stella McCartney are among the members of elite society with properties in and around the area.
After becoming Somerset landowners, Sarah Beeny and her family crowned their estate with a traditional-meets-modern manor house, which they designed and built from scratch. Having presented numerous aspirational property programmes over the years, such as Britain’s Best Homes and How to Live Mortgage-Free, Beeny is comfortable in front of the TV cameras, so has been happy for Channel 4 to document the process by which her country residence has taken shape.
The first series of Sarah Beeny’s New Life in the Country focused on the construction of the manor house. The documentary recently returned to TV screens for its second series, which is all about interior design, as Beeny and her loved ones turn the imposing structure – essentially, an elegant yet empty shell – into the ideal home, one room at a time. It’s a daunting task: the manor house boasts a dining room, music room, five bedrooms, five bathrooms and more!
Reminiscent of England’s Aristocratic Estates
The property expert, who grew up in cottages on the Duke of Wellington’s Hampshire estate, and her husband are keen to pay tribute to the UK’s many wonderful period properties. Their manor house, with its grand entrance hall and bespoke carved staircase, is reminiscent of the National Trust’s historic English stately homes. As the documentary emphasises, ‘It may be a new build, but in terms of design, Sarah and Graham have always been determined to create a timeless, classical English country manor house.’
The property’s design does take into account some present-day environmental concerns, though. For example, the manor house is a carbon neutral building and makes use of recycled materials. What’s more, the eco-conscious family have overseen the planting of a staggering 22,000 trees elsewhere on their land.
The Entrance Hall Proves First Impressions Count
The first room Sarah Beeny and her husband decorated was, appropriately enough, the grand entrance hall. The chequered stone floor, decorative columns and ornate cornicing certainly give it the wow factor!
The grand entrance hall’s features were inspired by the magnificent Baroque architecture of the Great Hall at Crowcombe Court, an 18th century stately home also in Somerset. These days Crowcombe is a lavish wedding venue, but the Grade I listed building was originally home to Thomas Carew, an MP, and his family.
As the grand entrance hall neared completion, Sarah Beeny had a great idea for an amusing finishing touch. ‘Graham does quite fancy himself as the Lord of the Manor, so I thought having a bust of him would be really funny,’ she explained during the documentary. Naturally, the Lady of the Manor wanted one of herself too!
The busts exemplify the couple’s old-meets-new approach. Rather than being sculpted from marble, the artworks were made using cutting-edge 3D-scanning and printing techniques. The family dissolved into fits of giggles when they were unveiled then celebrated the grand entrance hall’s completion by playing table tennis there!
Their unique manor house will no doubt be the setting for fun and laughter for many years to come.
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While this isn’t the same as joining the aristocracy, you’ll receive a legal change of title, legal ownership of a small land parcel in the South West (to act as your ‘manor’) and supporting documentation.
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