Sarah Beeny’s property search began in Berkshire
PUBLISHED: 14:56 14 October 2020
Credit: WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
It is no coincidence that the nation’s favourite property guru went to school in Wokingham
“I think that being born in such a great county must have been a great help,” said Sarah Beeny about her successful career. “It must have also helped that my dad was an architect, so I think I was introduced to different aspects of property and homes at quite an early age, although I don’t remember wanting a career in property until later.
“My upbringing was a little unusual. I have an elder brother, Diccon, with whom I get along well and I was fascinated by my dad’s work because he was also very clever at making furniture for dolls’ houses. My mum was just brilliant at being Mum. That doesn’t sound very different but we lived in two converted cottages on the edge of the Duke of Wellington’s famous estate, Stratfield Saye, which is on the Hampshire and Berkshire border. Some of the War Horse film was shot there and the Duke of Wellington’s own horse, Copenhagen, is buried there.
“We had a nine-acre plot with room to play and breathe and we also kept sheep and chickens plus a few ducks. It was ideal and, of course, we were just a short distance from Reading, which has always had everything you could wish for.”
Sadly, Sarah’s mother died when she was 10 and she went to the Luckley-Oakfield School in Wokingham, where she boarded during the week and went home at weekends.
“It was a girls’ school when I went there and a nice place to be, although I couldn’t say that my heart was in my school work,” Sarah said. “I did OK but unlike my friends I didn’t really want to go to university – I wanted to get out there and start something. I enjoyed drama classes in particular and my teacher suggested that I should maybe consider a career in theatre.
“It seemed worth a try so I studied drama at Queen Mary’s College, Basingstoke, which was not too far away, and I enjoyed being in productions. That was good but I didn’t go the next step into actual drama school.
“My father had remarried and he and my stepmum wondered if it might be good for me to get out and see some of the world before I settled into a career. I was only 17 but I liked the idea and off I went. It was fascinating to see different places and meet different people, but I felt quite alone a lot of the time and I also discovered that I was prone to seasickness. I was glad to get home really.”
When she arrived back, Sarah still didn’t have a career in mind, so she worked various jobs, from window cleaning to selling vacuum cleaners.
“I started my own sandwich round too - anything that would keep me going financially,” she said. “Then I started looking at property papers and things began to fall into place. I had met Graham, my husband, when I was 18 and we have been together ever since. He got on well with my brother, who then married his sister, Caroline. Together, Graham and I bought a property. We have been doing that ever since so instead of looking for a career, my career found me.”
Perhaps the drama training did help because Sarah met a friend of a friend at a party and was invited to screen test for a potential TV property show. The rest really is history, but it is ongoing history because Sarah has become not only a television personality but an expert who still finds properties to develop by their successful business.
“I love my work both on the screen and off it and I am so glad to have been born and bred in Berkshire, where there is such a variety of towns, villages and properties,” Sarah said. “Because of my dad’s career in architecture I find myself looking at properties analytically, whether it’s a row of terraced houses in one of our great towns or a stand-alone country hall. The county is quite diverse in its properties with something to please everyone. Berkshire is not a royal county for nothing.”
SARAH’S A BUSY MUM, TOO
Sarah and Graham not only have busy work lives, they also have four children – all boys! “I am completely outnumbered with five males in the house and quite a lot of the time it is total chaos,” she said. “We don’t have many fights because we all get on well but it is fair to say that there is rarely a dull moment. I stay relaxed about the whole thing and just get on with it otherwise I would be a nervous wreck. Sorting meals can be a bit traumatic but time outside and getting fresh air together is great. Boys need to run hard, sleep hard and have lots of good things to eat. We have our quiet times – usually collective reading. Being a mum is an amazing privilege and you can’t ever imagine how wonderful it is before you have children.”
THE DATING GAME
Sarah can say she has helped with affairs of both the home and the heart as another side of her life and family enterprise is their dating agency. “We started the dating website, My Single Friend, a few years ago,” she said. “A friend of mine was single and she was really up for being set up with people, which I helped with. Then I thought how great it would be to have a website where you played matchmaker for your friends. Describing yourself on a dating website can be excruciating but you don’t have to on our site - your friends do all the work for you.
“I cannot say that I have done this myself because I’ve been with Graham for my whole adult life but through friends I’m aware of the ups and downs of dating and wanted to do something to help. There have been a lot of successes too.”