Author Hugh's home from the history books

The West Lodge, set within historic Belford Hall in Northumberland, has been more than a home to Hugh Cantlie.

The West Lodge, set within historic Belford Hall in Northumberland, has been more than a home to Hugh Cantlie.

The retired chartered surveyor bought the unusual property 20 years ago after co-ordinating the restoration of the Grade I Listed Palladian villa in the early 1980s. After becoming more and more involved in the project, he decided to invest in a slice of history of his very own.

Hugh said: "I really had no intention of living here. I was working as a surveyor for the Monument and Historic Buildings Trust in London and was asked if I'd give some advice on Belford Hall. It hadn't been occupied since it was used by the War Office during the Second World War and was basically a derelict building with a roof.

"After much deliberation about what to do with the hall, the most feasible alternative was to divide it into flats and houses. The team working for me were highly sceptical about whether anyone would actually buy the properties. So I decided to prove a point and bought one for myself."

Thanks to funding from English Heritage and Berwick Council and bridging loans from the Monument Trust, Hugh and his colleagues restored Belford Hall to its former glory. The hall, built between 1754 and 1756, was designed by architect James Paine. It was later bought by Newcastle merchant William Clark who commissioned John Dobson to re-model and add two new wings in 1810.

Hugh was the first to buy an apartment in Belford Hall, but didn't live there permanently until he retired to the region a decade ago. One of 16 apartments and houses, The West Lodge offers charming and unusual accommodation over two floors.

The property is ideal for a range of buyers from those looking for a weekend holiday retreat, to those wanting a peaceful home in which to retire. It is accessed via an entrance hall with dressed stone faced walls and recessed spot lights.

The impressive drawing room has high ceilings with cornicing, Georgian-style sash windows, floor-to-ceiling bookcase and contemporary spiral staircase leading to the first floor. There is also a galley-style kitchen.

Through a small "cubby hole" half way up the spiral staircase, Hugh has created a small library. This could also be used for storage.

The first floor has a double bedroom with sash windows to three sides and stunning views over the grounds and a bathroom. Residents have use of the beautiful parklands which surround the hall and communal areas inside - an impressive hallway, wine cellar and stunning reception room with a wealth of period features.

"Living here gives you a lot of security and protection," added Hugh. "I have great neighbours who close my front door when I've left it open and switch off my lights when I leave them on. It's the type of property you can simply lock up and leave. You don't have to worry about mowing the lawn and things like that as it's all done for you."

As well as its beautiful and historic setting, the hall is also in a great location according to Hugh.

"Those not from the area don't realise that we are only three miles from beach, 15 miles from the Cheviots, and 14 miles from the River Tweed.

"For those who like golf, Belford Golf Club is very near by. We are also very close to the village which has lots of good shops and amenities."

Hugh has written a number of books, including Ancestral Castles of Scotland, published in 1992, and more recently Breaks near the Motorways now in its sixth edition. As well as his successful writing career, he also has his own publishing company, Cheviot Books. With all this work, Hugh is in search of more space and is looking to buy a bigger property in Northumberland.

He said: "I'm actually looking to upsize which is quite unusual at my age. It's been a real pleasure to live here. It has a nice ambience, it's close to the village, and you're well protected within a lovely community. One feels proud to have been part of its heritage.

"I'll miss the place quite a bit, however I need more space for my writing."

The West Lodge, Belford Hall, is for sale through Smiths Gore at a guide price of £175,000, tel: (01289) 333030 .

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