As Estate Administrator at Sutton Park, Maggie Morris is the glue that holds so much of the estate together. From organising private hire of the house to making sure renovations are done to the highest standards, Maggie’s job description is certainly varied. We spoke with Maggie to learn more about what it’s like supporting Sutton Park and the special perspective she has from knowing the very ins and outs of the estate.
What did you do before you came to Sutton Park?
My background is with international and national organisations. As an undergraduate, I worked for the United Nations in Geneva, first as a student, then they tracked me down in York five years later and invited me back for a six-month contract. I cheekily add on my CV that I was ‘headhunted by the UN’! After graduating, I spent 18 years working for a group of national museums spearheaded by the Science Museum in London, the last nine years of which was running their Board of Trustees. It was a very busy job – appearing like a swan, gliding on the surface, but paddling furiously below. After they made the role redundant, I became self-employed, helping a range of entrepreneurs and business owners with their organisations.
My work and family arrangements allow me the time and energy to make a difference in several voluntary roles. I’m the Chairman and Principal of a sail training organisation in York which takes up a lot of my time. In recent years, I’ve also volunteered with international disaster relief, marine preservation, and for the last 15 years, the agricultural show which is held right here at Sutton Park each summer.
What made you want to work here?
Working at Sutton Park was a very personal decision. After being made redundant, I spent a lot of time in Sutton-on-the-Forest, where Sutton Park is located. Several years ago, I owned a cottage across the road from the Walled Garden, yet I had never been inside the house. Through my involvement with Huby & Sutton Show, I was told about a vacancy for an Estate Administrator, and I thought it would be a wonderful challenge. I was very keen to get involved and perhaps bring something new to this beautiful estate.
What was your impression when you started here?
Sutton Park always seemed a very peaceful and uplifting place, and I continue to feel that way, but what struck me when I started is just how much is going on here. Whether it’s private hire with tours to be arranged, filming, or family and friends visiting, the house just comes alive when it’s in use. There are so many people from across the world who have a fascination with Sutton Park, whether for the beautiful architecture, the gardens and the collections, or the family and its history.
What does your average week look like?
Each time I make the journey from my home in York to Sutton Park, I wonder what the challenges will be when I arrive, and how my lovely colleagues and I will tackle these to deliver the best service we can.
A big part of my role involves arranging private hire and booking tours. I enjoy liaising with our team of wonderful House Guides – we are truly fortunate to have such a knowledgeable and flexible group of brilliant communicators who make this element of my job very much more straightforward.
Sutton Park is an historic house, and the ongoing maintenance of not only the main house, but also the tenant properties, gives me a lot to do. We set ourselves very high standards, and I consider it important that our renovations are of the best quality possible.
Not many people know – some would consider it one of Yorkshire’s best kept secrets- that we have a sizeable caravan park here in the grounds. Guests sometimes have the whole site to themselves! It’s part of my role to manage those bookings and to ensure that visitors are well looked after. As we enhance our accommodation offering, I expect this will become an even bigger element of my role.
Also, I occasionally play my part in the team looking after the house, and from time to time that involves housekeeping tasks. For example, when we receive film crews or official visitors such as the Patrons of the Tate last year, I act as ‘front of house’, helping to ensure a warm welcome and a comfortable stay for our guests.
It’s a varied role really, and I help with most things that need doing!
Which part of the house do you enjoy the most and why?
It’s all beautiful inside and out – it’s difficult to choose! The whole of the ground floor is very impressive, with its glorious plasterwork and the wide variety of fine furniture and art. From time to time, I like to walk through the house as if I were a visitor, looking for special details and imagining the impression they give.
Sutton Park has a very relaxing, homely atmosphere, and I find that most in the kitchen, especially when the Aga is on and the dogs are home.
What interesting or surprising discovery have you learned about the estate?
Many people know that Sutton Park has an Ice House, but I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn how big it is – the dome that can be seen at ground level is really just the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended). It’s incredibly deep, at 18ft. It’s no longer in use but between the mid-18th century and early 1900s, it would have been an essential part of the house, providing ice for the kitchen throughout the summer months. Nationally, I believe it’s regarded as one of the best examples of an intact Ice House.
How do you see Sutton Park evolving?
As you may have learned in the interview with Robert Sheffield, the family is very keen to expand our accommodation offering, and that’s very exciting. We’d certainly love to see wedding receptions back here when Government guidelines allow – they are such happy occasions and really show Sutton Park in its best light.
How would you describe Sutton Park in three words?
For me, the three words are simply ‘location, location, location’. Sutton Park has a spectacular setting in the village, right opposite such a beautiful church, surrounded by some lovely houses. The village itself is a beauty, and is nestled in some of the most gorgeous countryside you will find. Yet we are so close to York and the A19, it’s easy for our visitors to travel here. We are very lucky to have such a great location.
If you are interested in hiring Sutton Park for your event, wedding or private tour, please don’t hesitate to contact Maggie to discuss your requirements. For opening times, prices and travel information to visit Sutton Park’s house and gardens, take a look at our visitor information.