A historic tower that once kept Border Reivers at bay could be turned into an events venue.
A plan to breath new life into Corbridge pele tower in Northumberland, led by businessman Shaun Cutler, has been welcomed by a parish councillor, who hopes to see the 700-year-old structure come back into regular use.
Mr Cutler, 41, from Old Swarland near Morpeth, wants to transform the fortress into a space for wedding parties and family celebrations, as well as corporate and community functions, and bought the site from the Duke of Northumberland before Christmas.
Corbridge Parish Council’s vice-chairman, Phil Kenny, said: “We are just glad to see it used. It’s been empty for as long as I can remember. It’s only been used very occasionally for showing things like local art exhibitions.
“It’s an historic feature but not a focal point of the village. It’s at the side of the church but I think most people who come into Corbridge don’t even notice it.
“It’s nice to see plans for it and we hope that it’s a successful venture.
The tower next to St Andrew’s Church was built in 1319 and first appears on a list of buildings drawn up by King Henry V in 1415.
It served as a fortified house of the vicar of Corbridge during the 14th and 15th centuries, and is sometimes referred to as the Vicar’s Pele. It was restored with a gabled roof in 1910 by the seventh Duke of Northumberland, however, it has never had a water supply or heating.
Mr Cutler founded Raytec security lighting business in Ashington in 2005 and still works there part-time after selling the business last year.
His wife Jane, 39, worked in the department of cytogenetics at Newcastle’s Centre for Life, before having the couple’s two children Harrison, nine, and daughter Hannah, five. The couple will work on the project together and spent time in discussions with Northumberland County Council’s planning department and English Heritage on the building’s potential before deciding to go ahead and buy it.
They are yet to submit a planning application, but Mr Cutler said he will work with the two organisations as well as the parish council to ensure any proposals have the backing of the community. One of the decisions to be made will be whether to reinstate the building’s third storey, as well as introducing plumbing, scaling back ivy and sorting out rotting window frames.
However a fire-place and 700-year-old toilet will remain untouched.
Mr Kenny, of Milkwell Lane, Corbridge, said: “It was used in the Border Reiver days for people to hide in during attacks.”
The Duke’s Northumberland Estates advertised the property for £150,000.