Berwick Council in row over plans at Homildon Hill

AN historic building on the site of an ancient bloody battle could fall into rack and ruin if plans to redevelop it are blocked.

Gordon Wilson, Battle of Homildon Hill, signal box

AN historic building on the site of an ancient bloody battle could fall into rack and ruin if plans to redevelop it are blocked.

Gordon Wilson, owner of Glendale Engineering and Glendale Properties at Wooler in Northumberland, has applied for planning permission to convert and extend an old railway signal box he owns at nearby Bendor into a house.

The box is a surviving part of the Alnwick to Cornhill railway line and was one of 21 identical structures built along the route in 1881.

The box, which lies on land where the Battle of Homildon Hill was fought in 1402, is now in a state of disrepair with windows broken. Berwick Borough Council is recommending the application is refused on Tuesday night.

Last night, Mr Wilson, whose company has 52 employees, expressed his disappointment at the recommendation: If it is not developed, I have no intention of spending any money on it, he said.

It can go to rack and ruin as far as I am concerned. I am prepared to do a proper job on it or nothing at all. If I do not get that house, I am not going to cry my eyes out but I am not going to do anything with it.

Mr Wilson, 52, who is the chairman of Wooler Golf Club and who has lived in Wooler and nearby Milfield all his life, bought the signal box along with associated buildings and 17 acres of land at auction last year. He intended to return the buildings to a former use as a repair and agricultural businesses.

Having restored some of the other buildings, Mr Wilson wants the box to be converted into a three-bedroom home to allow an employee of the new business to live on site.

He has worked with agent Dobson Designs to come up with a proposal which is not the cheapest as it maintains aspects of the signal box, notably the retention of the style of some windows.

And he points to the fact that other boxes along the line have been converted to homes. Mr Wilson will receive funding for the development if he gets planning permission.

Yet the county archaeologist has advised planning officers that the scheme be refused, on the basis that it does not reflect the form or scale of the signal box, is not in keeping with the architectural style uniting the original buildings of the Alnwick to Cornhill railway and will disrupt the relationship between the box and its surroundings.

Mr Wilson has the backing of Wooler county and borough councillor Anthony Murray.

He requested the application be brought to the planning committee rather than be determined through delegated powers, as it would have been with only one letter of objection. Coun Murray said: It is important that features reminding us in the future of the Wooler to Kelso railway should be retained and this signal box is a very prominent feature.

If development is not allowed to take place I suggest that it is likely that we lose this feature.

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The 1402 battle

THE Battle of Homildon Hill, or Humbleton Hill as it is also known, was fought on the field on which the Bendor Signal Box sits on September 14, 1402.

A Scottish army returning from a pillaging expedition in Northumberland suffered complete defeat at the hands of the English, under commanders the Earl of Northumberland, Harry Hotspur Percy and the Earl of Dunbar and March.

The Scots, led by Archibald, Earl of Douglas, had invaded in part to avenge the killing and capture of prominent Scottish nobles in the battle of Nesbit Moor.

The battle was famously recounted in Shakespeare's Henry IV.

Although Humbleton Hill is the modern name of the site, over the centuries it has been variously referred to as Homildon, Hameldun, Holmedon, and Homilheugh.

The box was built as part of the Alnwick to Cornhill Railway line, which opened in 1887.

Between Wooler and Cornhill there were stations at Akeld, Kirknewton and Mindrum and goods sidings at Kilham.

The quality of all the station buildings, and all the structures along the line including the signal box, is often said to be remarkable.

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