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It was built for the Peel family and once used as offices. But the Irlam family have dedicated years to restoring Colshaw Hall to its former grandeur. Words BY EMMA MAYOH<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON
When David Irlam delivered milk to Colshaw Hall as a young boy, he never imagined it would one day be his home. The 52-year-old, who used to help out with his parents milk delivery and market gardening business, used to make regular visits to the doorstep of this grand property in Over Peover.
At the time he was living in a home in the village that cost his parents, Ken and Jean, just 1 a week to rent. But David, along with his brothers Michael, Andrew and Stewart, went on to develop the family business into haulage company James Irlam & Sons Ltd before selling the company to Stobart Group in 2008. Today, David is lucky enough to call this magnificent building home.
He said: I would come here on dark, cold mornings; it was always a bit spooky. But, I suppose as a kid, you just knew there were wealthy people here so you didnt go too near them.
I would never have believed we would be living here. We are very lucky. We loved this place for the history. We have lived in Over Peover all of our lives and wanted to stay in the community.
Grade II-listed Colshaw Hall was built in 1903 for textile magnates, the Peel family. It is a Tudor-style manor house that was designed by renowned Cheshire architect John Douglas who was also responsible for building projects for Prime Minister William Gladstone and soap giant William Lever.
The building, which has been owned by only four families during its history, has been an important part of the local community. At one time it was used as an auxiliary hospital during the First World War. It was also severely damaged by fire.
David said: A big part of Colshaw Hall was pulled down. There are one or two people in the village who said they worked on the rebuild and it created quite a lot of jobs in its day.
There was a very special feeling about this house. Original features like the mullioned windows, those things that have been here for a lifetime, definitely added to that. Theres the old garden too which we have kept. It all made this house very appealing for us.
It was in 2001 that David, his wife Heather and their children Georgina and James moved into the property. At the time it was offices being used by former golfing star turned sports manager Chubby Chandler. Planning permission had been granted for a 32-bedroom hotel and nine holes of a golf course had already been constructed.
David said: Were not golfers so we put all of the land back out to pasture and we farm the land. Its something we would rather do.
We knew when we bought the house it was a massive project and it probably took a good five years to renovate. But we were keen to put Colshaw Hall back into a family home. We spent a lot of time and effort doing this but it has been worth it. We think it is a very special place.
The Irlam family have now returned this important Cheshire building to its former grandeur. Davids wife, Heather, researched trends and interiors that would have been around at the time it was built. The original floors were saved having spent years hiding under carpets.
Unfortunately, the original fireplaces had been ripped out in the past but the new ones have been chosen to reflect what could have once been in the house. They also restored the stable blocks and the halls original staircases.
Around the house are many equestrian paintings and pictures a hint to Davids passion for polo and his former position as chairman of Cheshire Polo Club. Treasured family portraits also sit alongside sumptuous furnishings that are perfectly in keeping with the style of the property.
Colshaw Hall has also become the heart of the Irlam family estate. Several members of the family own properties adjoining this one and Davids brother, Michael, lives on a farm on the same site.
David said: Since we have been here we have bought a lot of land and my brothers have some too. We have 500 acres between us. My eldest daughter, Lucy, and her husband, Ed Shaw, look after 2,000 cows on three or four different farms and Ed helps me run the land at Colshaw too.
The hall has become the heart of the Irlam estate. We are a close family and it is lovely for us to be so near each other and for our houses to be connected.
David and Heather, who have also opened up the hall for local charities to use, are now moving out of Colshaw Hall to another property in the village. But rather than sell the estate, they are paving the way for the next generation to establish the next family business.
David said: We felt the house was getting too big just for Heather and myself. We had to choose whether to sell it or have a business where it could earn its own income. We have lived in the area all of our lives, we didnt want to let it go. It is such a special building.
There are happy memories for us here. Im keen we keep the house as special as it is now. Its not the sort of place you can let go. I feel we are doing that and that is our role as the owners.
We have a responsibility to keep it looking as it does. Colshaw Hall is back to how it should be, how it would once have been.
Daughter Georgina, 18, is the new manager of the Colshaw Hall Country Estate, a luxury wedding venue. The familys old swimming pool has been converted into a function room and the hall will be available for wedding parties to use as accommodation. Son James, 23, is operating his own business, IM Elite Fitness, in another part of the estate.
David continued: We really want to make the Colshaw Hall Country Estate a success. I want the people who come and stay here to get as much pleasure as we have had out of Colshaw Hall. It has been a real success story for us.
I feel very lucky and privileged that we ended up where we are in life. We now want our children to continue into the next family business.