Country House Rescue


As seen through the eyes of a Surveyor

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If you need help and advice with regard to building surveys, structural surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, specific defects reports, dilapidations or any other property matters please free phone
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Country House Rescue is a Channel 4 property television programme as Surveyors we enjoy watching which first came to our screens back in December 2008 and has been a successful documentary style programme ever since. The programme has a running time of forty six minutes interspersed with television advertisements as it is aired on the commercial Channel 4 channel produced by Betty TV Ltd.

Ruth Watson each week visits a large country house giving advice and direction to the owners helping them to find ways to enable them to keep the property for future generations. Great Britain has a wealth of large country mansions many of which have had to sell off the land which once was part of the estate and a money generating source of income in order to maintain the large houses. Without the source of income owners of these large houses find themselves with costly expenses to maintain them and Ruth helps to find new ways of generating income to support the property for years to come.




Presenter Ruth Watson

Ruth Watson is not just a presenter on Country House Rescue but really is the anchor to the television programme as she brings a wealth of knowledge in property development and her business acumen to help the struggling owners of various large country mansions across the length and breadth of Great Britain .

Ruth and her husband back in 1983 purchased Hintlesham Hall, which is close to Ipswich, in Suffolk, the stunning 16th century palatial country house which they restored and is a successful hotel, restaurant and wedding venue with cookery classes held regularly, a health club and golf club set in beautiful parkland and gardens.

During the many years we have been Surveyors we have carried out many structural building surveys in Ipswich and the surrounding villages for both residential and commercial properties.

After the success of Hintlesham Hall their next acquisition and project was the Fox and Goose Inn in Fressingham, not far from Diss in Suffolk , which the couple turned into one of the first gastropubs with Ruth working in the kitchen initially to ensure the food served was to a high standard with attention to quality. As Surveyors we find the Fox and Goose Inn building fascinating as it was once the Tudor Guildhall and is a delightful property housing the Watson's gastropub venture.

Up for another challenge Orford in Suffolk was then the subject of the Watson's next business venture with the Crown and Castle Hotel on the stunning Suffolk coast being restored to become a modern country house hotel.

We often carry out structural building surveys on hotels, pubs and restaurants as well as dilapidations and specific defect reports.

Ruth first became involved with television when she was asked to take part in Channel 5's The Hotel Inspector where, in a similar style to Country House Rescue, she gave advice to hotel owners who were struggling to transform their businesses into successful hotels.

With her great knowledge of the hotel sector and talent as a food writer penning three cookery books and being Food Editor of the Daily Mail's Weekend Magazine and Contributing Food Editor of Sainsbury's Magazine Ruth is the perfect host to the Country House Rescue series. Ruth is straight talking and frank with the owners of the various historic country houses featured in the television series immediately understanding the difficulties the owners are facing and with her wealth of experience gives expert advice as to how to create a revenue stream to help restore and maintain the properties for future generations.

We too as Surveyors find that straight talking is what most of our clients require as they are commissioning us to give a frank report on either a residential or commercial property.

Ruth Watson has presented three series of Country House Rescue and has announced, via her website, that she will not be continuing with the series in the future which will enable her to concentrate on other projects.



Programme format

Ruth Watson introduces the viewer to the Country House in need of rescuing and its owners each week giving an outline of the history of the property and introducing the viewer to the owner. Ruth is given a tour of the property whereby she can assess the extent of the work required to restore the house and to see where there are elements that can be used in a business venture to secure the income required to not only restore the property but to hopefully generate revenue streams for future up keep to enable future generations to enjoy the often historic buildings.

As Surveyors when first visiting a property to conduct a full structural building survey we likewise take a tour of the property to see which areas are in need of work and are suffering from issues to include in our report.

Ruth gets to know the properties current owners learning about their family and whether the next generation is prepared to help and develop a scheme to maintain the property for years to come. Often during the series the older generation finds it hard to let go to new modern approaches from the younger members of the family and indeed the younger members who will eventually inherit the property find it hard to be allowed to take the rains.

Ruth has round the table style honest, hard hitting, frank conversations with family members spelling out the work that needs to be done and presenting her business ideas to generate income for future upkeep and current renovation work. Ruth has a very direct approach which for some is hard to swallow but in time most see that she has sound business acumen and often the house owners have little time and next to no money so this advice and help is greatly appreciated in order to turn their property and life around.

In our residential building surveys we, as Surveyors, outline the issues that properties have and include sketches and photographs of the property so that the future purchaser has a report of the property and any issues.

When looking at a route to assist the owner with a new venture Ruth visits another property that has been in a similar situation needing an income to sustain the building for years to come. Whilst showing the viewer what a success has been made of a venture in another large country house Ruth gathers momentum with her vision for the Country House Rescue project the programme is featuring and then recounts her findings to the owner in an effort to make them understand that others have been successful when they have been in a similar situation in the past.

Ruth revisits the property to see if her suggestions have been put into action and to see progress on work on the property that needs to be completed. Not always has work progressed quickly but with families and differences of opinions sometimes it takes time for the new ideas to come to fruition.

As Surveyors carrying out structural building surveys we are not usually asked to revisit a property we have surveyed but sometimes find that over the years as people buy and sell we revisit some that we have surveyed in the past where it is interesting to see how the property has changed.

Often in the series a final visit is then featured whereby the viewer can see progress has been made with the new business model and there are strong indications that the renovation work has taken shape, if not always completed.

The final titles show what has been accomplished and further developments it then gives a brief look at the next episode to wet the viewer's appetite to watch next week.

The format for series two revisits some of the country houses featured in series one to give an update on how the owners have progressed with turning things around in order to keep their homes for the future. Separate shows are titled Country House Rescue Revisited which follows the pattern of showing what has happened since Ruth first visited the house.

As Surveyors we are sometimes asked to revisit properties we have previously surveyed as the owners have decided to move again this time carrying out a report for the new prospective owners.



The titles for Country House Rescue are simple graphics with a clean simple font for the logo and flowing vegetation on a green background.


The property

Each property shown on the series Country House Rescue is shown with stunning aerial shots sweeping around the large house and gardens giving a bird's eye view of the house. Interior footage shows the viewer around the property with emphasis on areas that need attention and areas that can be used for generating an income.



Asking property experts' advice

During the series Ruth asks other property experts to give a view on the property being featured, which could be a local estate agent giving an idea of rental income if the property has space to let out, events managers giving an estimate of revenue that can be generated during the event season, property owners of similar properties regarding their successful ventures etc..



Classical, uplifting, dramatic with a striking beat.


Programme example

Country House Rescue - Kelly House, Series 2, Episode 5.

This episode features Kelly House which has been in the Kelly family for thirty one generations but after years of neglect the once outstanding building is almost derelict and if they cannot find a way to turn the property around they will have to sell.

Kelly is a delightful Devon village and an area as Surveyors we are frequently asked to visit to carry out residential and commercial building surveys.

This is the worst case Ruth has ever had to help with and indeed we have seen over all our years of surveying; the building is literally falling down with the sky visible as the roof is in such a bad state. Kelly House is a Grade I listed mansion in the far west of Devon , with the estate and village named after Kelly family. Generations have lived in Kelly House for nearly a thousand years with the current owners Warin the 31 st Squire of Kelly who is sixty seven who took over when his mother died and his wife Elizabeth. The couple live next door in a converted stable block and recount how English Heritage commented on a visit to the house that they needed to win lottery! so much is needed to bring the house back to its former glory.

In the past Warin's ancestors owned much of the land surrounding the house which would have supported the estate and employed most of the local community. Land has been sold off over the years and with two heirs dying within a year of each other incurring two lots of inheritance tax and a third tax bill with the death of Warin's mother the house is in need of a large injection of cash to help with its restoration.

Ruth is moved to tears when talking to Elizabeth in the converted stable block where she lives with Warin which has no windows with a promise for years that they would be installed she had even tried her hand cementing in an effort to progress matters!

Giving up her life in Yorkshire their daughter Sophie and her husband Chris have moved into the house camping out with a view to renovating and moving into a flat to the rear of the house.

The family are in dire straits; the property is dilapidated and in a sad state of decline with vertical cracking, dry rot and areas where the roof has completing come away exposing the property to the elements. In our structural building surveys we note all the issues with properties such as damp getting in and illustrate where possible with sketches to help to explain the condition.

Ruth is on hand to give focus and direction at a- round the table - meeting she explains patching and mending the house is in vain if a strategy is not put in place and understand they are at crisis point with very little money if this does not work they will be forced to sell the property something they desperately do not wish to do as they do not wish to be the last Kellys at Kelly House.

Sophie and Chris understand much is needed to be done but with only the suggestion of team building events and weddings in a property that is falling down Ruth realises that this is going to be a task to open their eyes to reality and finding a way to sustaining an income stream for the future.

The Georgian manor house attached to an earlier Tudor building and medieval hall used to employ most of the community, Ruth talks to locals villagers who all have an interest in what is behind the gates and she sees that the spirit of helping to preserve their village is strong in their hearts.

The viewer is given an insight into the occupants lifestyle Warin who is a semi retired architect has several hobbies which take his time away from the issues with the property and Sophie and Chris wishing to renovate and live in the flat rather than rent it out is not the best way of sustaining the house at present.


Call in an expert

The local English Heritage official visits to give his expert opinion the house has been on the English Heritage At Risk Register indicating it is in a very serious state of decay with the stable block in an even worse condition still!



If you require help with a property issue we are happy to carry out specific defect reports which will enable you to understand better the property issues that have developed such as dampness.


Woodchester Mansion

Ruth visits Woodchester Mansion in Gloucestershire which started to be constructed in the mid 19 th and was never completed which has on site masonry and traditional building training allowing craftsmen to learn their trade as well as keeping this extraordinary building alive for the future. A business model Ruth feels would fit well at Kelly House.


Another round the table meeting with Ruth and the Kelly's

Research gathered Ruth meets with the Kelly's again this time spelling out that the property has had years of darning and patching which is not the way to continue as it is on the brink of collapse. A major restoration programme is what is required with apprenticeships to craftsmen to carry out work on the house whilst learning their skills with Chris getting involved learning new skills which will help in restoring the house.

Ruth expresses her wish to renew links with the village and organise an open house where they can see the property and hopefully be inspired to sign up to a couple of hours a week to volunteer to help with its restoration.

An income stream is vital and although unhappy Chris and Sophie must continue to camp in the main house renovating the flat and annex to enable these areas to be rented out to receive a regular income. In addition to this Ruth recommends that Sophie looks to find a job to help fund the work on the house.


Expert opinion

With a view to letting out the flat a local holiday letting agent is called in who can see that the project is far from complete but if finished to a good standard envisages that a weekly income of £600 could be achievable. Chris and Sophie are not so happy with this figure feeling a higher figure would be more appropriate.

As Surveyors we are also Valuers and are happy to carry out valuations although not for mortgage purposes.


The Princes Foundation for Built Environment

The Princes Foundation for the Built Environment are contacted and a programme is developed whereby apprentices work on the house learning their craft in an environment of a living property rather than in a classroom their tutor is on hand to instruct and is a perfect solution to getting much needed work carried out in a professional manner.



Building Surveyor students

Plymouth Building Surveying students are invited to Kelly House again a way of getting help with the students delighted to see beetles and dry rot in reality rather than in a text book or PowerPoint!


Locals visit Kelly House

Ruth returns in time for the open house afternoon where they have tea and a talk to explain the plans for the house and to encourage locals to become Friends of Kelly House. Other locals are enthused to become volunteers to help with the restoration and the afternoon proves successful despite of the wet and gloomy weather.

Sophie and Chris now both have jobs with regular income and although there is so much still to be achieved they have all taken the first steps to a brighter future at Kelly House. The Kelly's and some of the locals as well as the apprentices have an incentive and energy to get on with the job in hand with much hard work ahead but a certainly much more focused approach to renovation and sustaining the future of Kelly House.


In summary

Ruth Watson is a perfect host and her straight talking; no nonsense style gets right to the heart of the issues the property owners are up against with a positive approach to finding a solution for the future. The programme on Kelly House was a fabulous insight into a substantial country house in need of an enormous amount of renovation with Ruth at the helm to find ways of reaching the goals required to keep the property in the family for future generations. The television programme has delightful sweeping photography and is informative not only regarding the property being featured but giving an insight into others who have had similar issues and have come up with solutions to preserve historic country houses for the future.




Reference to other interesting articles on property television programmes

and property issues are:-


Cowboy Builders

Help! My House is Falling Down

Property Ladder and Property Snakes and Ladders



Independent Surveyor's Advice

If you truly do want an independent expert opinion from a Surveyor with regard to building surveys, structural surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, specific defects report, dilapidations or any other property matters please contact
0800 298 5424 for a Surveyor to give you a call back.


Independent commercial property surveyors

If you have a commercial property, be it leasehold or freehold, then you may wish to look at our Dilapidations Website at and for Disputes go to our Disputes Help site .


We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).

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