Businesswoman, television personality and star of BBCTV’s Dragons’ Den, Hilary Devey is a national treasure. Here, the entrepreneur takes time out from her busy schedule to tell us why she has decided to put her home in Rangemore, near Burton-on-Trent up for sale.
LOCATED just outside of the East Staffordshire town of Burton-upon-Trent, the Grade II listed King Edward VII wing of Rangemore Hall was once an exclusive holiday home to Queen Victoria's eldest son. Today, it is on the market for £1.95 million after being owned by Dragons’ Den star Hilary Devey for six years.
"This wing of the Hall was originally built in 1902 for King Edward and his entourage when the King came to visit Lord Bass," explains Martin Field from Hilary's team. "The original house goes back for 100 years before that time."
Walking around the property, its regal history comes as little surprise. With its own ballroom, three reception rooms, seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, a study and a self-contained flat (not to mention a leisure complex and stunning views spread over ten acres of sprawling land), it is a building which undoubtedly possesses the 'wow' factor.
As we enter through the original front door, my eyes meet with an ornate-framed black and white photograph entitled The Royal Party. Taken in 1907, the photograph features King Edward VII and his wife Queen Alexandra with a host of other noble names. Also in the photograph, however, is someone whose presence at Rangemore is central to the more scandalous aspects of its history. The long-term mistress of the King, society hostess Alice Keppel, sits innocently in front of Queen Alexandra. A secret staircase, tucked away on the ground floor of the Hall, tells the story of King Edward's and Mrs. Keppel's relationship at Rangemore.
"It was through this very secret passageway that the King would go upstairs to visit Alice," says Martin with a knowing smile. "It leads up to a self-contained flat, which was rather handy for secret liaisons."
Today, the flat is home to Hilary's son Mevlit. However, there is still a royal connection with the property through Hilary's passionate charity work with the Carers Trust (formerly the Princess Royal Trust for Carers). Several charity balls have been held in the ballroom recently, with a guest list which included none other than the Princess Royal herself, Princess Anne.
It is easy to see what a perfect setting the ballroom was, and still is, to welcome royal guests. Decorated in shades of rich red and luscious gold, giant crystal chandeliers hang from the ballroom's hand-painted ceiling, looking down onto the lavish furniture below. The drawing room is equally as impressive, with a giant tapestry hanging on the wall and picturesque autumnal views of the rolling grounds visible out of the tall windows. Once again, chandeliers loom from the beautiful high ceiling.
"Hilary's got a particular penchant for crystal chandeliers," explains Martin. "In fact, she chose all of the decor and furniture for the property.
Even though each room is decorated in a different way, there is a definite theme running throughout the rooms."
Exemplifying Martin's words, each of the rooms certainly possess that 'wow' factor. Even the kitchen, with its beautiful aga, has a toweringly high ceiling flecked with gold and a beautiful dining area looking out onto the lawns.
"That dining table takes at least four people to lift it!" says Martin.
On closer inspection, this is unsurprising, seeing as the table is made of almost solid marble.
However, despite its obvious grandeur, Hilary's home doesn't feel cold and overpowering. In contrast, it is warm and inviting, with a friendly and cosy atmosphere. In the main hallway, an African Grey parrot spends his time happily squawking in his lavish cage. Pictures of Mevlit and of Hilary's beloved dogs are placed upon the shelves in most rooms throughout the house.
A dog lead, decorated with silver paw prints, lies waiting to be used by the front door.
The King's study is one room in particular which has a real warm and friendly feel to it. With soft golden lighting, it is now a small sittingroom with comfy-looking cream sofas decorated with colourful cushions.
Golden angel figurines and buddha ornaments reside around the room.
"This is where Hilary spends most of her time when she's here," says Martin.
The entrance to the King's safe lies in the left-hand corner of the study, with its secure door at least a foot thick. Once used to store the King's beloved precious jewels, it is now filled to the top with an impressive — and no doubt just as beloved — collection of wines and spirits. Ironically, the King's other hideaway area (his secret staircase leading to his secret mistress), lies just outside the entrance to the study.
One of the few modern additions to the property is the leisure complex on the ground floor. Built in a Romanesque style, the heated swimming pool seems a little small compared with the rest of the house. That is, however, until Martin explains to us the innovative feature whereby a current is produced to mimic swimming as though you are against the tide. Tropical plants decorate the pool area, as well as a faux fur sofa and a dog basket complete with toys.
As we progress upstairs, it comes as no surprise that each bedroom features its own en-suite as big as most people's main bathrooms. The King's bathroom is particularly impressive with its original bath, where the only clue to the modern world is the range of cosmetics dotted around the bath's edge.
Walking across the upstairs hallway past beautiful stain-glass windows towards Hilary's bedroom, we hear a strange and somewhat unnerving noise echoing throughout the hallway.
"Don't worry, that's just the parrot," explains Martin, after seeing our somewhat concerned expressions. "You can hear it throughout most of the house."
Once we realise that the noise is not the groans of some Edwardian ghost wanting to make its presence known to us, the parrot's happy squawks actually add a certain charm and character to the atmosphere of the home.
Upon reaching Hilary's own bedroom, what stands out most as you step through the doorway is the bright azure blue running throughout its decor, with its colourful soft furnishings and ornaments.
A lavish dressing table lies in the corner of the room, decorated with a luxurious amount of lotions and potions. An en-suite bigger than most people's main bedrooms can be accessed from the back of the bedroom, as well as a dressing room where all the clothing, handbags and shoes are stored in a perfectly colour co-ordinated fashion. The make-up room, which lies to the side of the dressing room, boasts enough beauty products to keep a chemist in stock for weeks. These, once again, are also perfectly organised.
Adorned with more golden angel and buddha ornaments, a mother's day card placed neatly in the centre of the dressing table as well as somewhat comedic 'shopaholic' money box for spare change placed on the window ledge,
Hilary's personality shines through in this room more so than in any other in the house.
All in all, visiting Hilary's home is certainly a memorable experience. With its royal and somewhat scandalous past, awe-inspiring rooms, beautiful grounds, and a modern charm which is unique to Hilary, the King Edward VII wing of Rangemore Hall feels like a very special place.
"You'd never want to leave once you'd settled here," smiles Martin. "In act, you wouldn't have to there's so many rooms all around the house that you can see outside for miles any way out of each window!"
Practical and beautiful — the perfect place to have been home to a Dragon and a King.
Hi Hilary, thank you for inviting us to your home — it really is very beautiful.
Why was it that you chose to buy the King Edward VII wing of Rangemore Hall? What was the one deciding factor that made you buy the property and were you influenced by the history of the property?
I found the history of the property interesting, but what swung it for me was the proximity to my company, Pall-Ex, which has its headquarters in Coalville. The property is also close to the A38 which makes the motorway network accessible.
The rooms are beautifully furnished and decorated, how would you describe your taste in decor?
I have a distinct and some might consider flamboyant interior design ethic, but this proved perfectly in keeping with the size and style of the house. There are some flourishes that are all of my own making, but these were incorporated with a consideration for the historical features of the building.
Were the soft furnishings bought locally?
A mixture – a lot of shopping in Burton and Derby but often pieces sourced from all over the world.
Obviously the King's safe has a fascinating history as it is believed he stored important documents and jewels in it. We noticed, however, that you store your wine and spirits in there! Are they your most important assets?!
Certainly not! I entertain often, so I need somewhere large and secure to store the bottles. As I am not currently holding any top secret documents concerning affairs of state, this seemed an appropriate use of this quirky space!
We loved the kitchen, with the aga as well as the up to date features and cookbooks. Do you do much cooking in there?
When I can, but not as much as I would have liked!
We noticed that there were a lot of angel and buddha ornaments in many of the rooms, are these something which you collect?
Yes. These are my little pieces of tranquillity, and sometimes, when chasing deadlines, they remind me to take a deep breath and keep perspective.
We are told you have held charity dinners at the property, can you tell us more about the charity and the work it does?
Rangemore has been a wonderful place to entertain, and it has had a new generation of royal visitors in the form of Princess Anne, who has attended charity functions held on behalf of the Carers Trust. Carers Trust works to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems. It’s an issue that is particularly close to my heart.
We noticed that your shoes in the dressing room were all perfectly colour co-ordinated, would you say that you are a very organised person?
Your observation is correct. Always judge a person by how they keep their home: my wardrobe is as meticulously planned as my investments.
We loved all the rooms, but which is your personal favourite and why?
My Bedroom is my Oasis for Peace
You have other houses all over the world, how does this one compare? Which is your favourite of your properties?
They are all very different, and it is hard to pick a favourite. Rangemore has proved a very happy home for me.
Why is it that you are selling the property?
It is time for a change. With a house as grand as Rangemore, the owner is only ever a temporary custodian, and I like to think that I have done a good job of maintaining it, but also stamping my own personality on the place. My work being increasingly London based and I cannot give the property the attention it deserves.
Rangemore is on the market for £1.95m with Fisher German. Telephone 01530 412821 for more details.