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For two seasons of Ladies of London, we've practically had to pick our jaws up off the floor — not only after seeing the grand manor and lush English gardens that make up the Mapperton estate but also after reminding ourselves that Julie Montagu practically calls the place home. Now after 30 years of living at Mapperton, Julie's in-laws, the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, are passing on the management of the estate to her and her husband Luke Montagu, the Viscount Hinchingbrooke.
We saw Julie anticipate taking control of Mapperton's operations last season of Ladies of London, not only considering how she might revamp the centuries-old estate but also contemplating how she and her husband would be able to have the finances to maintain it. However, Julie is both excited and nervous about taking on the responsibility today. "Well, I'm not sure if I'll ever be ready for that, actually. But I'm gonna do my best," she recently told The Daily Dish.
Julie now travels from London to Mapperton every two weeks. Her main focus is on the gift shop, which is getting "a real overhaul" that includes a Mapperton line of jams, chutneys, biscuits, and fudge as well as other new souvenirs like tea towels, mugs, and canvas bags. "I'm really branding the gift shop everything Mapperton," Julie said.
But the souvenir shop isn't the only part of Mapperton, which experienced a record number of visitors in 2015, according to the estate's website, that may be getting a facelift in the future. "We want to convert one of the stable blocks into a space that can be used for events or for receptions or for weddings. Right now when people have weddings, they usually rent a marquee, a big tent, and heat the tent," she explained. "What we're looking at now is creating a big space that we can use for events and for wedding receptions and also I can use as a yoga studio, which in turn, would then give me the means to host yoga retreats down there. That's all in the pipeline."
Though Julie's career in the health and fitness space, which includes the recent release of her second book Eat Real Food: Simple Rules for Health, Happiness and Unstoppable Energy, has been keeping her busy, she doesn't anticipate dropping her yoga mat and picking up a tea cup as a lady of the manor anytime soon. In fact, she plans on using the business acumen she has built up over the years to run Mapperton. "I think that there are some people who when they marry into a family like I've married into, they can't wait to be the lady of the manor. For me, I look at Mapperton as more of a business. My husband and I are really looking at it more, right now, as a business and how to make it commercially viable," Julie told The Daily Dish. "I don't know if that much will change because I'm so used to running my kind of Julie Montagu business and now it's just taking on, really, another business and running it the best that I can alongside my husband."
And potential additions like the yoga studio show that Julie is set on bringing her own unique touch to Mapperton, even if it's not quite what you'd expect from a British aristocratic manor. "I'm definitely trying to add a little bit of my mark and a little bit of American into Mapperton, that's for sure. Or at least a little bit more of American energy," she said.
Whether or not people appreciate that American spirit added to this classic British estate, Julie said she thinks it'll be a positive change for Mapperton. "I think it will make it different, so I think people will be intrigued, and if they're intrigued, then they usually come and check it out. So I'm hoping to add a little bit of spice to it which will then be like, 'Oh wow. Wow. This American has come in here, and let's see what she's done,'" she said. "I think anytime change happens, it can be scary, but it can be good and people will want to find out."
As we saw on Ladies of London last season, backing away from a challenge isn't really Julie's style anyway. "I think I'm on the right path on what I am doing, and I think that will help Mapperton visitors to at least come and see what I'm doing," Julie said. "I think it will help overseas with Americans that are visiting England on holiday. Hopefully, they'll make the trip down to Mapperton to see what their homegrown, all-American girl has done with the English countryside."
Check out these brilliant pics from the ladies' stay at Mapperton, below.
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