Interview: Roger Tempest
At Scarfe’s Bar I find Roger Tempest enjoying breakfast. His paisley orals and owing locks suggest an aristocratic dandy combined with a hippy – he perhaps embodies a bit of both. He is the New Age revolutionary who has dragged his ancestral Yorkshire estate, Broughton Hall, creaking and crumbling into the 21st century, transforming old buildings into thriving hubs for local businesses and more recently creating Broughton Sanctuary, one of Britain’s most talked about wellness retreat centres.
Roger, his brother and three sisters grew up at Broughton Hall, a beautiful Palladian Grade I-listed pile, so leaking and run-down that it was not unusual for there to be snow on the billiard table. It was depicted in all its chaotic glory by Roger’s sister Annie in Tottering By Gently, her long-running cartoon in Country Life.
In 1988 Roger moved to London to work in newspapers but quickly returned home to help when his father became ill with cancer. ‘I looked around to see what could be done,’ Roger begins. ‘Dad had converted part of a derelict courtyard into an office. It was empty when I arrived, but the idea of normal companies operating in the countryside was very interesting.’
Roger found a client for the office and, spurred on by desperate finances, set about reimagining his decaying home. ‘Everything had gone into decline after the First World War, when my grandfather was seriously injured at the Somme. My parents lived frugally and my mother, a devout Catholic, worked with Mother Teresa.’ Roger set up Rural Solutions to regenerate the countryside, primarily through creating rural business parks. ‘It hit the sweet spot and people kept asking how we did it. At one point we had 200 employees and we sold it well in 2005,’ he says. Today 52 companies, comprising 700 people, operate from Broughton’s stable blocks, old mills and barns.
Ten years ago, Roger met his partner, Paris, 25 years his junior, at a photography exhibition. ‘I was always interested in spirituality, but Paris was definitely a catalyst for change,’ he says. They began planting 350,000 trees and abandoning all shooting and industrial agriculture to allow nature to recover.
Following the death of Roger’s father in 2017, Broughton was put to ever more multiple uses and has been a location for numerous films and TV series. Alongside, Paris and Roger were creating a wellness sanctuary, which now comprises 20 retreat houses, 130 beds, an addiction clinic and a state-of- the-art wellness centre called Avalon. ‘I’ve never been a county set guy but Paris got me involved in nature and wellness, and now Broughton hosts 50 retreats a year. Every week we can see up to 50 or 60 people here changing their lives.
‘Then I started meeting wise practitioners like Peter Levine, who developed Somatic Experiencing to deal with trauma, the addiction specialist Tommy Rosen, and thought leader Andrew Harvey, Oxford’s youngest don, who talks about the decline of civilisation and our human condition. People are feeling very unsteady and very few young people believe the world is in a good place. I asked myself what I could do to help instigate change. I’m very coal-face and practical and want to be of service. My mother, always a St Francis fan, taught that in giving we receive so I’ve always understood that the greatest thing about privilege is responsibility. As Mother Teresa said, God gave us the gift of life and what we become is our gift to God.
‘With the Sanctuary we’re trying to rise above the chaos and increasingly extreme polarisations and bleak either-or choices we face. We’re aiming to create a di erent sense of freedom and personal responsibilities. ink of us as a turbo-charged ashram crossed with a kibbutz – with a bit of Claridge’s meets Soho Farmhouse and Daylesford.
‘In a beautiful, safe, comfortable setting we can deal with contemporary problems, ranging from addiction, grief and menopause to trauma, rape and domestic abuse. We represent the area where science meets consciousness and we’re currently putting together a book of 36 visions for the future, all by contemporary, well-known thinkers but writing anonymously so they’re free to speak out without fear of reprisal in our stifling woke culture. By gathering people who are focusing on how to change this failing world order we can release ourselves, rewild our spirits and reignite a much-needed enlightenment.’
To call Roger future-facing and ambitious is to underestimate his determination to halt the downward global trajectory into conflict, chaos and environmental catastrophe. ‘Our systems are broken, but by seeking out and bringing these true visionaries to Broughton, we’re filling that empty leaderless space.’
Roger and Paris have an adored four-year-old daughter, Aya. ‘After 30 generations of primogeniture, Aya will be the next custodian of this ancient institution,’ says Roger. ‘It’s taken centuries for Broughton to find its true purpose but I believe we can help put humanity back on track.’