Home where Beryl used her head to launch busi­ness is up for sale

En­tre­pre­neur Beryl Ot­ley is sell­ing the coun­try home near York that spawned the Get Ahead Hats em­pire. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

HUN­DREDS of women will recog­nise th­ese pic­tures of Dut­ton Farm and they’ll no doubt raise smiles and happy bursts of nos­tal­gia.

Among the mem­o­ries will be wed­dings, chris­ten­ings, garden par­ties and the fun of find­ing the per­fect hat for the oc­ca­sion with the help of Beryl Ot­ley.

Beryl is an un­for­get­table force of na­ture with a great sense of fun and her fa­mous hat hire busi­ness was born and based at her farm­house, near Hes­say.

The prop­erty, now up for sale for £950,000, proved per­fect for the ven­ture. It is in a tran­quil set­ting just off the A59 near York, with a host of out­build­ings.

When the millinery burst out of the spare bed­room, one of the build­ings be­came the gallery for Get Ahead Hats, which was launched in 1986 af­ter Beryl strug­gled to find a hat to wear for her daugh­ter’s wed­ding. The idea was a huge hit and she de­cided to ex­pand through fran­chises aimed at farm­ers’ wives.

“It was the ideal op­por­tu­nity to con­trib­ute to the farm in­come, plus it was a bit of glam­our and a way of meet­ing peo­ple. As time has gone on, some of th­ese women have be­come the main bread­win­ner,” says Beryl.

Her found­ing bou­tique has moved to nearby Hall Farm and is now run by Sa­man­tha Abbey, but Beryl re­mains a con­sul­tant for the busi­ness, which has 18 out­lets and a head of­fice in Black­burn run by Sarah Rhodes.

One of the se­crets of the com­pany’s success, she says, is that cus­tomers en­joy go­ing out to the coun­try­side to shop.

“I knew our house would be per­fect,” she adds. “It is a lit­tle oa­sis and there’s plenty of park­ing.”

She and hus­band Barry bought the 18th cen­tury prop­erty in 1980. It was semi-derelict but it had po­ten­tial and plenty of space for them and their three chil­dren.

“This place had great chal­lenges and although some of the ren­o­va­tion work had been done it still needed an wful lot of work,” she says.

The four bed­room farm­house is stun­ning, with an in­te­rior that mixes clas­sic coun­try with con­tem­po­rary style.

“I threw my­self into ren­o­vat­ing the house and we used lo­cal com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Chapel Kitchens in Nun Monk­ton and Brind­leys. I’m not keen on old­fash­ioned things. I’m not a beam and nook and cranny per­son so it’s quite mod­ern. It’s all very well kept. Barry and I are big be­liev­ers in keep­ing things up to stan­dard both in busi­ness and at home. Once you start let­ting things slide that’s it and that’s one of the rea­sons we are down­siz­ing.

“We are get­ting older and we don’t want to find our­selves in a po­si­tion where the house is too big and too much for us and we’re pushed out. I’m think­ing ahead to a time when we might not be able to drive or get about,” says Beryl, a very sprightly 71.

Although it is a roomy four bed­room house, there is plan­ning per­mis­sion to ex­tend and dou­ble its size. Its eight acres have been trans­formed into a pad­docks and an Olympic size ma­nege along with south-fac­ing gar­dens and wood­land that re­flect Barry’s love of hor­ti­cul­ture and wildlife.

He has planted scores of trees and shrubs, re­stored the old or­chard and cre­ated a ha ha and ponds.

The old sta­ble that was con­verted into a show­room for the hats is still there and the site has per­mis­sion for com­mer­cial and re­tail trad­ing.

“This place has had hun­dreds of peo­ple through the doors look­ing for hats and they wore the car­pet out twice in the house be­fore we con­verted the sta­ble. I en­joyed ev­ery minute. I’ve met some lovely peo­ple,” says Beryl, whose en­er­getic, en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit was in­her­ited from her par­ents.

They grad­u­ated from a con­demned cot­tage to run­ning the vil­lage shop in Up­per Pop­ple­ton be­fore launch­ing a plant nurs­ery.

She fol­lowed in their foot­steps and, to­gether with her brother

HOME BASE: Beryl and her hus­band Barry have trans­formed this Hes­say farm­house into a beau­ti­ful fam­ily home. It also has per­mis­sion for use as com­mer­cial and re­tail premises.

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