Enterprising high flyers Brian and Maggie Jones are using their skills honed at the highest levels of business to preserve their historic family home in Peterborough.
The couple bought the Grade Two listed Alwalton Hall, in Church Street, Alwalton, which was once the home of Frank Perkins, the co-founder of iconic Peterborough engineering giant Perkins Engines, as a family home for their five children, four ponies and four cats, in 2004.
The purchase price for the nine-bedroom hall, set in five acres and complete with swimming pool, was £1.25 million.
But times have changed, their children have left the nest, and Brian (57) and Maggie (54) are left with a largely empty home plus hefty maintenance costs for the building, which traces its origins back to the 18th century.
And on Tuesday, after years of planning and hard work the couple opened a luxury beauty and wellness centre within their home which will employ 10 members of staff.
Brian, who was chief commercial officer for the British multi-national engineering company Smiths Group, said: “We loved the house the moment we saw it.
“But we had talked for years about alternative uses the building could be put to and that would allow us to be here and also to provide a really good offering for the community.”
He said: “We had tested the market to sell the house but it was dispiriting.
“While there are a few people who can afford to buy the house, there are fewer who can afford the annual maintenance as well.”
He said that the criteria for any business were that the venture was commercially sustainable for the property and allowed the couple to do something they enjoy - and both enjoyed working in the service sector. It also met a need in the area for a facility like a luxury spa centre.
But starting a new business requires total focus and plenty of hard work and Brain has put his other numerous business interests on hold while he and Maggie build up the beauty and wellness centre.
He said: “I think the idea is bulletproof. It is a resilient sector and one that is growing.”
Maggie said: “I like to see this as more of a sanctuary than a spa.
“People don’t really have the time anymore to take a proper break and to slow down and unwind.
“We are trying to position it as the place where people can come and just slow down and relax.
She added: “We’ll aim to make people feel amazing.”
The investment in the new business has been a “significant six figure sum.”
The changes to the family home start the moment you enter the front door.
The reception room, immediately to the left of the main door, used to be the den where youngsters would play computer games.
From there customers will be shown into spacious receptions rooms before choosing from one of the seven themed treatment rooms. Afterwards you can relax in a separate sitting room or even in the five acre gardens.
Lunch is included in the full day package, while for couples there is exclusive use of the exotic three room Cleopatra suite
The opening took place on Tuesday following a couple of soft runs, where guests were invited to act as customers while staff were put through their paces.
The spa centre’s employees include seven therapists, one manager, a chef and a product retailer.
Brian said: “Every single member of staff will be on a proper employment contract.
“There will not be any zero hours contracts or sub contractors.”
The venture has been welcomed by a leading member of a Peterborough organisation that aims to safeguard the city’s heritage and encourages good design.
Peter Lee, of Peterborough Civic Society, which said: “It is so much better than some owners of listed buildings who’ve had houses built in the grounds in a bid to pay for the maintenance of the historic building.
“To have a new use incorporated within the bulding seems like a very good idea to me.
“It is very welcome to see some ingenuity being applied to keep the character of this listed building.”