Amanda Parker talks to Sarah Varley about her family’s love for their ancestral home and the passion for sustainability and community that runs through everything they do at Browsholme Hall
Browsholme Hall has been the ancestral home of the Parkers since Tudor times. Amanda Parker’s husband Robert unexpectedly inherited Browsholme in 1975 aged 20 from a distant cousin, only to find the hall in a state of great disrepair, the water supply poisonous, the electricity supply dangerous and no kitchen, bathrooms, sanitation or central heating. It was clear that Browsholme would not survive unless major restoration work was done, so Robert’s parents sold up and moved to Lancashire, devoting over 25 years to restoring Browsholme.
Robert and Amanda took over the running of the hall and estate in the 1990s. It is now completely restored, and lived in throughout by the family.
“Browsholme is first and foremost our beloved family home. We are very careful to retain the privacy of it as our home and not to over-commercialise it. All development is to the west of the hall,” Amanda tells me.
“Continuing the work Robert’s parents started, we have concentrated on developing Browsholme within the community and making it economically sound and sustainable. Two hundred years ago, the hall would have been a huge employer in the area, and we have tried to build that back up.”
“The house has been open to the public for the past 40 years but that doesn’t sustain Browsholme. Robert and I have always had outside jobs and we knew we always wanted to develop and diversify in harmony with the hall – we were never interested in converting it into housing or anything like that.”
“We decided to renovate the barns for functions and events including weddings, and we have been surprised and delighted at how successful this has been,” Amanda states.
The 17-century Tithe Barn has been transformed into a unique and hugely popular venue for weddings full of character and original features. The latest addition has been a stunning set of 10 luxury micro lodges in a woodland glade.
“We always invest a significant sum back into Browsholme each year and the micro-lodges fitted perfectly with the surroundings and provide fabulous accommodation in keeping with the venue catering for top-end weddings. They really are gorgeous and everyone who has stayed in them has been delighted,” says Amanda.
Sustainability is also extremely important to the Parker family: “All heating to the hall and the Tithe Barn is provided by ground source heat pump or wood chip biomass boiler, and we produce our own wood chip from our sustainable woodland,” explains Amanda.
Energy-saving lighting and automation are also used, along with water butts for gardening and cleaning.
Lancaster University is about to carry out a study of the flora and fauna at Browsholme, including developing an app which can be used by visitors when they see different wildlife: “This is an exciting prospect for engaging people in our sustainability work,” Amanda adds.
A feasibility study on hydro-electric power is also in the offing as Browsholme has a lake and three streams.
The estate covers 650 acres including farmland and forestry, as well as the lawn and water gardens, with a current focus on reinstating the Union Garden.
“In 1707 to celebrate the Act of the Union, a garden was planted in the shape of the Union Jack and we still have the original plans so different types of plants will make up each area of the flag. Opening the house up to the public is still at the core of what we do,” Amanda says. “There are over 20 local people working here as employees or volunteer guides and so Browsholme is back as a major contributor to the local economy, which is again a huge part of sustainability. We couldn’t have achieved all we have at Browsholme without the support of the community and our amazing staff, including the brilliant volunteers who guide visitors around the house and we have just won a Stars in Tourism Award from the Ribble Valley Tourism Association.”
Browsholme Hall is open to the public every Wednesday from 1st May and holds regular community events such as a Pizza Night coming up on Thursday 2nd May with entertainment from Furious Styles and a Garden Workshop on ‘Success with Mixed Borders’ on 14th May. Twice a year Browsholme is planning an organised dog walk with the first one on Spring Bank Holiday Monday 27th May.
Amanda concludes: “It should be great fun and a lovely way to bring the community together.”