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Friday, 21 November 2014

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Opera and weddings planned for historic Cumbrian hall

A beautiful but rundown historic building is one step closer to a fairytale transformation.

Kirklinton Hall photo
A computer-generated impression of how Kirklinton Hall would look

Christopher and Ilona Boyle bought Kirklinton Hall, near Longtown, last year.

They revealed their aim was to redevelop it for their son Henry, but in the meantime they wanted to open it up to the public more.

Initial clearing and stabilising was done to make the Grade II listed building safe and ready for work, but everything hinged on Carlisle City Council granting vital planning permission and listed building consent. Mr Boyle, whose family also owns the Mallsgate Hall estate near Roweltown, told The Cumberland News that he was “thrilled” to finally get the go ahead to press on with his proposals.

“The next step is to put together the team of craftspeople who can restore the building using traditional building techniques,” he said.

“We are very lucky in Cumbria to have some highly skilled craftspeople and we are also being assisted by heritage craft apprentices from HRH the Prince of Wales’ Prince’s Foundation.”

Mr Boyle explained that as well as stabilising the main building, much of the past year had been dedicated to getting the garden and grounds “under control”. “The restoration work to the building will begin in earnest next May, once the danger of frost has passed – we cannot do lime mortar work in winter,” he added

There are no fixed dates for completion – the nature of working with old buildings and traditional techniques means that things can change very quickly – but Mr Boyle said the works have been divided into “chunks”, to be completed individually or together, as required. He said: “We are also using the restoration as an education resource for the Prince’s Foundation, that will be available over a number of years.

“We’re not in any hurry: the important thing is to get the restoration right. The big challenge will be to incorporate modern insulation and heating into a 17th century shell – without it intruding on the sense of period.”

While the finished hall may seem a long way off, Mr Boyle has already opened it to the public over the summer, with plans for more regular openings from April.

The kitchen garden is already flourishing, with vegetables on sale at open days, while the hall and grounds also played host to events including Judy Popley’s Flower Power Plant Fair, a Fathers’ Day Picnic and open air theatre.

“They’re all planned for next year, along, we hope, with opera,” Mr Boyle said. “We have already had two inquiries about hosting weddings which will also be great fun.”

The family has also revealed that next year Maddy Prior will be bringing her Stepping Stones Folk Festival to Kirklinton Hall on June 13 and 14.

“Maddy approached us, knowing what a brilliant and unique venue for a folk festival the hall would make,” he said. “As well as the building and gardens, we have a five-acre field for festival-goers to camp in. Having said that, numbers are planned to be only around 400, so it’s hardly Glastonbury.”

Mr Boyle added: “Kirklinton Hall is such a glamorous building. It’s like some beautiful old lady who’s fallen on hard times but has kept her sense of style.

“It’s great to get her partying again.”

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