Meet the owners of Thurland Castle in Tunstall


Meet the owners of Thurland Castle in Tunstall, a building that was victim to Cromwell's army and is considered one of the most historic properties in the country. Emma Mayoh reports

Thurland Castle is a Grade II listed building and is believed to be one of the most historic properties in the UK.

It was originally a medieval manor house but was later fortified by a circular moat.

Sir Thomas Tunstall founded the original stone castle and was granted licence to crenellate it.

The building was almost totally demolished during the conflicts of the Civil War.

A fire in 1879 resulted in a major reconstruction of the main building.

The castle was bought by Lancashire Homes in 1999 who developed it into luxury properties.

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The phrase an Englishman’s home is his castle has become a reality for many homebuyers as more grand houses, buildings and stately homes are converted into apartments. But there are few finer than Thurland Castle, a moated property that has been the home to some of Lancashire’s most important families. There are now a handful of people who are now lucky enough to call it home.

This fine building was originally a medieval manor house. However, it is believed there was a settlement here when a Norseman, Thor, came to the Lunesdale area staking his claim to Thor’s Land.

The manor house was later built. It did not become a castle until it came into the ownership of the Tunstalls, a family of worthy knights. Thurland was fortified with a circular moat and in 1402 Sir Thomas Tunstall - knighted at Agincourt - was granted a royal licence to crenellate the property.

The Tunstalls were succeeded by the Girlingtons but when Civil War broke out in 1645 the building became one of the last Royalist strongholds attacked by Oliver Cromwell’s troops. The building was under siege for several weeks, taken by the army and almost demolished.

It was in 1809 that the North family took on the restoration of the castle, with the help of Sir Jeffrey Wyatt, nephew to Windsor Castle architect James Wyatt, and George Webster. Most of this work, tragically, was destroyed by fire in 1876 but some restoration was done before industrial family, the Lees, made their own additions after they bought it in 1885.

They commissioned renowned architects Paley and Austin and the interiors were designed by Gillows.

They put in some of the castles fine features including stained glass, linen fold oak panelling and ornate plaster and stone work inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement and art critic, John Ruskin, who was a regular visitor to the castle.

Some of these can be seen in The Thurland Wing, owned by Tony and Margaret Hutchinson, who also have a home in Grindleton. Examples of that fine stained glass, featuring several family crests, as well as a large Carrara marble fireplace are a key part of the main lounge. There is also a magnificent Rococo chandelier and mirror, installed by a previous resident who had connections with the film industry in America. She got them from MGM Studios. This part of the castle also retains the lordship title.

Tony, 73, said: ‘This used to be a ballroom. It would have been a place used for entertaining and parties and it is a lovely space. We redecorated and refurbished the house again when we moved in.

‘We’d looked at a lot of the apartments in the castle over the years but it was this one that we wanted. We want to be able to enjoy the castle a lot more now.’

It was the job of former resident, Maria Partington, to market the property when it was converted into 12 properties in 2000 by Lancashire Homes. She discovered many things about its history while the renovations were being done and is just as passionate about the property as she was when she first saw it.

Maria helped Gail and David Bury, who live in The Viking Wing, find their ideal home. The couple, both originally from Darwen, were living in Camberley, Surrey, and intended to relocate to the Lake District. But it took just one look around the then dilapidated and unloved building before the conversion and they knew this has to be their home.

Some original features can still be found in their part of the castle, including the staircase and mullioned windows. One of their bedrooms was also once the castle chapel and the couple have sympathetically decorated it to be in keeping with its former use. They have also furnished their home with antiques that look at home in such a grand building.

Gail, 68, said: ‘We always thought this would be a stop over and we would eventually continue on to the Lakes but we just couldn’t bear to leave.

The work hadn’t been done when we bought it. Our kitchen was a gun room and there were steps to the lower levels. One of the reception rooms was a scullery. This part of the castle was definitely the domestic quarters.

‘We just love the history of it all. There would have been Cromwell’s army camped out all around the castle. The Roundheads and the Cavaliers fought it out. Although the castle was eventually taken, there was a big battle for it. There have even been cannonballs found in the moat when it’s been drained. We also have lovely views of Ingleborough. It’s an incredible place and a lovely house to live in.’

Lady Anne Mantell has lived in the Bronte House for ten years. This house is located in what were once renowned stallion stables run by the famous Belfast horse trainers, the Musgrave’s. The property is named after Charlotte Bronte, who used to study in nearby Leck and often passed through the castle grounds on her way to church. It has been a peaceful haven for the 77-year-old.

She said: ‘This is a place that has really stood the test of time. It’s been here forever and still looks absolutely marvellous. This place gives me a lovely tranquil feeling.

‘I’ve lived in London and Hong Kong and to come back here, to my north Lancashire roots was a wonderful feeling. I have spotted kingfishers in the trees above the moat and I can watch them all day. I am very lucky to have called Thurland home, it’s a very special place.’

Several parts of Thurland Castle are now on the market. The Cromwell Wing is for sale for £1.2 million; the Viking Wing for £1 million; Bronte House for £675,000 and Thurland Cottage for £450,000. For more information contact Savills on 01904 617820 or Davis & Bowring on 01524 274413.

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