Overseeing a multi-million-pound renovation of a Grade 2 listed hall, recruiting 40 members of staff, creating a new luxury brand and opening a boutique hotel with restaurant and spa may seem like a big task – but it’s all been part of the day job for Rachel Batson in the last 18 months.
What may be daunting for some, Rachel has instead taken it all in her stride, probably due in no short measure to the company she keeps. As one of four children, Rachel’s family boasts a variety of talents. Her father is a well-known entrepreneur, her eldest brother is a partner in one of the UK’s fastest growing financial technology firms. Her younger brother has a background in the armed forces, private security and now runs a country estate, and her younger sister is a partner in the firm that owns the Walwick Hall and Chesters Stables properties.
Her family’s business interests – holidays and property ownership in the US, Europe and the Caribbean – have meant she has experienced some of the best places to stay in the world, a privilege she intends to use to the advantage of guests visiting Walwick Hall. Rachel has brought that experience in the renovation of the Hall, which opened on October 29.
The hall together with Chesters Stables became part of the Chesters House estate in 2014, and the Harrison Partnership was formed to run the operation of the hotel as well as the 100 acres of land adjoining it.
From selecting and working with Doonan Architects and the local planners to organising 40 burly builders on a day to day basis, Rachel has totally immersed herself in the entire renovation project.
Of course, renovating the building was only the start, and once completed, she has worked with and benefitted from the guidance of Incognito Interiors to bring the hall back to its former glory, while add some modern spirit – which she has captured as the essence of this luxury Country House Hotel brand.
The hotel itself features ten luxurious, individually designed rooms, a mixture of suites and deluxe bedrooms, featuring large marble bathrooms with freestanding baths and sweeping views over the open countryside. There’s a Snug and a Drawing Room that will both invite guests spend some quality time relaxing in front of a roaring fire. Or, unusually for a property of this size, there’s an intimate spa by Elemis, pool, Jacuzzi and steam room all built into an architectural wonder in the hill.
Rachel hasn’t left the dining options to chance either. The Dining Room at Walwick Hall serves the very best British food in an atmosphere that is sophisticated yet relaxed and welcoming. Head chef, Steven Murray, will offer classic ingredients from the Northumbrian larder and allies this rigorous sourcing to the latest international gastronomic techniques. Guests and non-residents will be able to choose from breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
With the hotel now open for business, you’d forgive Rachel – who is also a married mother of three – for sitting back and enjoying some of the fruits of her labour. So, what are her plans for the rest of 2016?
“We’re starting Phase two in November to convert Chester’s Stables into luxury holiday lets – set to open in 2017.
“Perhaps,” she adds, “I’ll have a week off after that”.