Looking at the condition of the outbuildings at Broughton Hall - Roger Tempest's ancestral home in the Yorkshire Dales - twenty-five years ago, it must have required an astonishing leap of faith to ever imagine them coming back to life again. But Roger had a vision for the estate and, gradually, he set about renovating the buildings, which included old stables, piggeries and a water-mill, and today they are admired widely as an object-lesson in the regeneration of a country estate.
Roger told us during his talk on March 30th that there are now fifty-three businesses based at Broughton, including the offices of Silver Cross prams, Weber barbeques, the Dalesman and Countryman magazines and several IT companies. Scores of people work in the business area close to the main house and, unlike most commuters, have a wonderful journey to work through some of England's finest scenery, close to the mysterious Pendle Hill.
Creating jobs at Broughton has injected money into the local rural economy, so helping pubs, restaurants and shops.
Roger's one-time company, Rural Solutions, has advised estates throughout the country on bringing back to life redundant buildings - a move which can generate far more income than agricultural operations.
To enhance the community feeling for those working at Broughton, Roger commisisoned a state-of-the-art space within the walled garden created by the leading architect, Sir Michael Hopkins. Called Utopia, it is an award-winning modernist design largely comprising wood and glass and was built by the estate's in-house team.
It consists of a cafe area, providing lunches and business dinners, or just a coffee and cake, and it is also used for training and promotional events.The original walled garden was re-designed and restored by Dan Pearson to be enjoyed as a peaceful retreat away from the rigours of the office and pressures of work. It opened to great acclaim, with its undulating land form, a series of yew hedges and dramatic planting.
Other income at Broughton comes from using the estate for weddings and musical events, attracting people throughout the region. It has also been used as a location for films, including Wuthering Heights, starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche, and producers also considered it as the prime location for Downton Abbey. An American TV company is about to start shooting a reality show at Broughton, featuring people who have never been out of the US before.
Roger said that income generated from letting the restored outbuildings has meant that that the main hall at Broughton, dating back centuries, has also been restored to its former glory and is now unrecognisable from the days when the roof leaked and the billiard-table was once covered with snow. Roger is the 31st generation of the Tempest family to live in the area in over 900 years and the legacy is clearly in safe hands.
Roger also detailed the remarkable transformation he's carried out at Aldourie Castle, on the shore of Loch Ness, after he bought the property a few years ago and restored it. The castle, with a 17th Century core, has been improved out of all recognition from a cold and damp building to unabashed luxury, with each of the thirteen bedrooms individually designed and filled with period antiques.
His vision was to create a place which wasn't a private club or a hotel - but a magnificent environment where those staying there could take over Aldourie and have the complete Highlands house experience. The transformation has been so impressive that Aldourie was given the highly prestigious Restorarion of the Year Award for 2011 - jointly organised by the Historic Houses Association and Sotheby's.
The Talks Team is extremely grateful to Roger for travelling all the way from the Dales to Wootton to give his effortlessly infomative and modest talk, which was received with great enthusiasm. A record 145 people attended the evening, generating proceeds of £914.
"I much enjoyed my first visit to a Wootton Talk. Roger was utterly inspirational in his approach to bringing back to life disused buildings on country estates and his achievements at Broughton Hall and Aldourie Castle have been magnificent.. His quiet charm and modesty show that you don't have to be aggressive and abrasive to achieve great things in development. You have created a rather magical event in the unlikely setting of the village hall "- Patrick Matthews, Banbury.