London couple living guesthouse dream with first Cumbria venture

By Tom Little on 6 October 2017

Peter Jaques and Amanda Walker are living the dream after leaving London life behind and opening a stunning, tranquil guest house in Cumbria.

The couple are the proud owners of Brownber Hall, a guest house located between Tebay and Kirkby Stephen, just inside the Yorkshire Dales.

Peter studied art, before working as a management consultant in London, and Amanda still works as a barrister for at least one day a week.

The business is thriving since hospitality novices Peter and Amanda took over in 2016, with the support of The Cumberland.

Click here to watch how Peter & Amanda started their new venture.

The guesthouse is serene, relaxed, and full of character with intriguing and interesting touches added throughout by its current owners, who are clearly enjoying the new chapter in their life.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, with some initial difficulties dealing with an uncooperative bank before The Cumberland stepped in, but it was well worth it for outdoor activity lovers Peter and Amanda.

Peter, said: “We were living in London for ten years together then we looked for something else different. One of the things we love is climbing, hiking, cycling, being in the hills, and this is a great spot for it.

“We were driving up every other weekend from London and having to go back on Sundays.

“The house has a big terrace that overlooks the Howgill Fells, that was one of the things that sold it to us. When the light floods in it is beautiful.

“You are bang in-between the Yorkshire dales and the lake district so it is perfect.”

Peter’s artistic influence is evidenced throughout the premises, which is tastefully embellished with various original pieces of artwork.

Amanda has also enjoyed putting a unique stamp on the house which has gone down well with guests from around the world.

Her architect sister invented the contemporary cast iron clothes rails, which were then manufactured by a local blacksmith – using local produce and expertise.

As with many old guest houses and older properties there were a couple of unusual aspects to the property and its purchase. A niggle over ownership of the road that leads to Brownber Hall put an inflexible bank off, before The Cumberland stepped in to keep the dream alive.

The Cumberland is agile and flexible enough to be able to look into this sort of query properly, and make an informed decision, as Peter explained.

“When we were buying the guest house we had a few issues – it is an old building on a long road on an old estate split in the 1950s so conveyancing was basic when it was initially done.

“There was a few complications and our original bank got quite spooked and pulled out which left us in a sticky situation.

“They were just things that are quite normal for a property of this age and The Cumberland were able to work through them relatively easily. They were things that lots of guest houses in Cumbria would have. “

Grant Seaton, Senior Business Lending Manager at The Cumberland, made sure the purchase went as smoothly as possible for the new business pair.

He said: “For Peter and Amanda, like lots of our guesthouse customers, this was a first foray into the industry, and they came to us after disappointing treatment from another lender. This is where our hospitality industry expertise really came in handy.

“Being located next to one of the biggest tourism hotspots in the world gives us the opportunity to keep our finger on the pulse, with both local and national clients.

“Some of the things the bank didn’t want to deal with are quite common for this type of property which The Cumberland understands. We treat every case individually and look into any unusual aspects and work through them.

Peter praised The Cumberland’s personal touch, which helped bring their dream to life.

“You are working with a person rather than just calling up a call centre and being lost as a number. Our meeting was over coffee, it was pleasant, it was a chat and it was practical because we were able to get a lot done. It was much more of a human experience rather than a big machine.”

Brownber Hall was built in 1860 as the centre of the Brownber Estate, falling into disrepair in the 1930s before changing hands a number of times.

Before the current owners took over, it was already operating as a bed & breakfast, but needed a little TLC to restore it to its former glory.
Now guests from around the world as well as ‘staycationers’ and both Lake District and Yorkshire Dales enthusiasts form a regular stream of happy customers.

Amanda added: “A lot of people stumble across this area by chance but when they discover it they love to come back.

“One of our favourite things is the clothes rails in the rooms. We wanted to put them in instead of big bulky wardrobes so my sister who is an architect came up with this design and we approached the local blacksmith who created it for us.

“The plans going ahead are to keep on as we are and increase what we do with food and beverage, our biggest plan long term is to think about the evening meals side of it.”

To find out more about Brownber Hall, or to book a stay, click here or call 01539 623208.

For more information on The Cumberland’s specialist mortgages for guesthouses, B&Bs and small hotels, call 0800 032 3030 or click here.