Major refurb at ‘Downton Abbey’ style historic hotel earns new owner a place on design award shortlist

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Sarah Ramsbottom MD for family run business Elle R Leisure at Soughton Hall.

The co-owner of a ‘Downton Abbey’ style mansion house is in the running for a prestigious UK hotel interior design award.

Sarah Ramsbottom, from luxury wedding venue Soughton Hall Hotel, near Northop, Flintshire, has been named as a finalist in the Hotel Designs Brit List 2017 – run by the hotel industry news website Hotel Designs.

Sarah Ramsbottom MD for family run business Elle R Leisure at Soughton Hall.

Sarah leads the in-house interior design team at Elle R Leisure which she runs with her husband James. The couple’s family firm took over Soughton Hall Hotel just over a year ago and have since invested more than £200,000 transforming the interior of the former stately home.

Sarah has been nominated in the Designers category of the Brit List which is billed as ‘a celebration of the most influential and inspirational hoteliers and interior designers.’

Sarah said: “I am thrilled to have made the finals of this prestigious list. It came completely out of the blue and is really a recognition of the whole team’s dedication at Soughton Hall Hotel.

“When I looked down the shortlist of who else had been nominated, I felt extremely honoured to be in such prestigious company.

One of the newly refurbished bedrooms at Soughton Hall.

“We have worked hard to create a high quality interior at Soughton which respects and complements the personality and character of this great Hall and so it is terrific to feel this is being noticed both by our guests and the hotel industry.”

Other people nominated in the Designer category include Ariane Steinbeck, Managing Director of RPW Design whose projects include The Royal Suite at the five-star Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Also Dennis Irvine of Dennis Irvine Studio who has worked on super yachts and private island resorts in the Caribbean.

The shortlist is now being studied by a high-profile panel of judges including Dr Vanessa Brady OBE, President of the Society of British & International Design; Charles Leon, President-elect of the British Institute of Interior Design; Glyn Adams, Academic at the Edge Hotel School; Patrick Goff, Founder of Goff Associates and Daniel Fountain, Editor of Hotel Designs.

Sarah and her husband James will attend the glittering awards ceremony at the swanky Urban Coterie sky bar and restaurant in London’s Shoreditch on Wednesday July 12.

Sarah’s nomination comes just weeks after Soughton Hall Hotel was named as one of the UK’s top 10 hotels because of its stylish interior.

It was the only North Wales finalist in the Best Hotel Interiors category at the Laterooms.com Simply The Guest Awards 2017 which is run by the leading online accommodation website and is the UK’s only hotel awards based entirely on guest reviews.

Soughton Hall Hotel is a 14-bedroom mansion house which was built in 1714 by Edward Conway and remodelled by the famous Sir Charles Barry whose iconic work includes the Houses of Parliament and Highclere Castle – home to the aristocratic Crawley family in the smash hit ITV series Downton Abbey.

Soughton Hall.

Sir Charles was good friends with William John Bankes whose family took over the Grade II* listed Hall in 1815 and lived in the home until it was sold and turned into a hotel in the 1980s.

Sarah said: “We knew as soon as we bought this majestic building that we couldn’t just sweep through it without some considerable thought into how we could protect the historical feel of the Hall.

“We needed to achieve something which really refreshed the interior and made it feel up to date and modern but we couldn’t lose sight of the character of this former, cherished stately home of the Bankes family who lived here before it was turned into a hotel.

“We wanted to create a luxurious home from home feel so that our guests, especially the brides and grooms, could come here and feel like Lord and Lady of the Manor for their special day.

“We used a lot of fabrics from GP & J Baker who are holders of the Royal Warrant since 1982 and supply the Queen’s household.

“And I have spent a lot of time visiting local auction houses, such as Wingett’s of Wrexham, collecting items that I felt would look in keeping with the place.

“I actually managed to attend one sale where items were being sold which had once belonged to the Hall and it was great to ensure they came back here.

“One of my favourites was a big burr walnut chest which now takes pride of place on the first floor landing of Soughton Hall.”

Sarah and her husband James are no strangers to refurbing buildings with an important heritage.

Their Manchester-based firm Elle R Leisure is well known for its successful Dukes 92 and Albert’s Restaurants in the city. Dukes, which underwent a £1m renovation last year, is housed in an early Victorian former stable block on the canalside within the inner city conservation area of Castlefield. They also own a luxury Leeds former Victorian manor house specialising in weddings called Woodlands.

Sarah said: “We have a proven track record of buying and investing for the long term in some very important architectural buildings which we are committed to preserving in the most responsible way possible.

“Soughton Hall Hotel is the latest project for us and we are committed to preserving it for future generations to come.”

For more information about Soughton Hall Hotel call 01352 840811 or go to www.soughtonhallhotel.co.uk Facebook page is @soughtonhall and Twitter @SoughtonHall