Blencowe Families' Association Newsletter Vol. 22 No. 1 February 2007

London Couple Throw Life Line to our Ancestral Home

The good news being we may one day get to stay in it! The following abbreviated report by Deborah Kuiper appeared in the Cumberland News on November 24, 2006.

A CRUMBLING Cumbrian tower house could be restored to its former glory if a husband and wife team get permission to renovate it.

Blencow Hall which started out as a medieval manor house and was extended during the 16th and 17th century has fallen into disrepair. The Tudor fortified towers are both derelict, and one of them has recently been used as a stable. Now the historic building could be saved from ruin if new owners, Charles and Christine Rowley, get the go a-ahead to turn it into a luxurious 11-bedroom dwelling.

Experts agree the key to the lasting conservation of the property is to secure a suitable and viable future use, and the couple hope to restore the property and then rent it out for family parties and gatherings.

Ten years ago Charles and Christine bought Melmerby Hall; a Grade II listed manor house in the foothills of the North Pennines, the former home of his grandparents, Dr and Mrs Alan Shelton-Agar. Every inch of the three-storey house has been lovingly restored while still retaining its character as a family home.

The Melmerby Hall venture has been so popular that they started looking for a second When they saw Blencow Hall, they knew immediately it was what they had been looking for.

Christine Rowley immediately fell in love with the house when she saw it for the first time on Christmas Eve 2005. She said: “When you walk around that vast south tower and see the fireplace and the door just hanging there it's stupendous. There was a high element of romance in the purchase.” They made an offer for the property on New Year's Eve, exchanged contracts at the end of January and completed in April. Since then they have commissioned extensive structural and conservation reports.

The south wall of the west wing leans out by almost half a metre in places so they have been advised to cap the spring and turn it into a well. An 18th century buttress, believed to have been built to support the wall would also be removed and the south tower underpinned and tied to the west wing. The staircase would be repaired and the roof, floors and most windows and doors replaced.

inside Blencow Tower
Remains of the North Tower staircase

The large gap in the wall would not be filled in because it may have been caused by parliamentary forces in the 17th century and is considered to be a historical feature. Instead a Juliet balcony would be built inside the framework.

Blencow Hall South Tower
The rent which will have a Juliet balcony

Christine said, “Guests can get up in the morning, open the french doors and look over the hills. On the top floor it will be spectacular. That enormous rent is going to give you the most fabulous view.”

“We are not changing a single original feature. Really we are doing very little in either tower. Given the structure we can't fit old to new. We have to fit new to old.”

Blencow Hall is a grade one listed building and the couple have spent several months and tens of thousands of pounds on historical searches. They have even had ‘underground x-rays’ to make sure they preserve the integrity of the building.

Christine said: “We are hopeful that it will go through and we can try and bring the building back. It's going to cost a lot of money to do it. It will run into hundreds of thousands of pounds but it will be worth doing. We have to do it because we are now the owners. If we don't at some point it will just fall down. One wall is progressively moving, it is not sustainable as it is.”

The consultation period ran until the end of November and a decision was expected by Christmas.

Thank you to Julian Blencowe who sent Jack the paper cutting — maybe Julian will keep us informed of any progress. The full article can be found by Googling “dream of turning ruins into luxury”.


Blencowe Families' Association   Vol. 22 No. 1 February 2007
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updated: 15 April 2007