Millionaire solicitor Jeff Winn last night revealed bold plans to convert his slice of the historic La Sagesse school into a family home.
The founder of Byker-based Winn Solicitors paid more than £3.6m to take control of Jesmond Towers after former Newcastle United owner Freddy Shepherd agreed a £10m sale of the site.
Now Mr Winn – who drives an Aston Martin and this year became the first personal injuries solicitor in history to take home a pay packet of £10m – says he intends to revamp the Towers into a family home.
The 47-year-old, who is originally from Morpeth, Northumberland, but now lives in Osborne Villas, Jesmond, with his entrepreneur partner, Danielle Dunn, 33, said: “We’re very excited about moving in. I love life in the city, we are always partying and going to restaurants, and we were facing the prospect of moving into the countryside.
“When this came on the market I thought this was the best of both worlds. It’s got so much history. When it was a school it was left to decay a little, but I love the idea of bringing it back to life.”
Mr Winn secured the historic towers of La Sagesse as part of a joint purchase with David Wilson Homes, who intend to push ahead with £20m plans to transform the school and grounds into 48 homes and apartments.
Father-of-three Mr Winn intends to begin a massive restoration programme which will see an initial five bedrooms installed in one wing of the building.
Ms Dunn, who runs the Danielle Dunn Creative Agency (DDCA) in Shieldfield, Byker, said: “People keep saying, ‘Surely you’re not going to live in it as a house?’. Nobody can believe that we are going to move in, but it’s a bit like Downton Abbey although without the mother-in-law.”
Mr Shepherd bought the £3,000-a-term Roman Catholic private school in 2009, just six months after it shut down due to cash problems and falling pupil numbers.
Following a three-year planning battle, his plans for luxury homes were approved earlier this year.
But Mr Winn has opted not to convert the Towers into a 10-apartment complex as planned but use it as a home for the couple and their three children, Nina, 15, Josh, 12, and Imogen, five. He said: “I’ve bought the Towers, it’s not through the business, it’s for myself personally.
“I want to sympathetically restore it into a house. There were plans for an apartment, but that would have been quite difficult with it being Grade II listed.”
The couple said part of the appeal was the fact it once was home to Tyneside shipbuilder Charles Mitchell.