Viz comic founder Chris Donald jokes he’s been lord of his own manor for the past 17 years.
Home to the cartoonist and his family since 1997, Breamish House has provided an idyllic environment in which he and wife Dolores have raised their three children. The former hunting lodge has been at the heart of Powburn Village in Alnwick since it was built around 1850. Hosting a number of charity events within its grounds, Chris has ensured it remains so.
Summing up his time at Breamish House, the 54-year-old said: “It’s been a life of luxury. We’ve been lords of the manor, that’s what we’ve been. In a jokey way of course. We’ve opened the garden up to the public to raise money for charity. We had a duck race in the stream. It’s a very community-minded little village.”
Having outgrown their former home in Wooler, the couple decided to look for a bigger property closer to Newcastle.
“It’s the longest I’ve lived in any house in my life. We were looking for something bigger, but not necessarily as big as this. It was the fact that it was closer to Newcastle as I was commuting every day.”
Built as a lodge for the West Percy Hunt, the country house has a wealth of period features including shuttered windows and cast iron fireplaces. The property had also operated as a small hotel prior to Chris buying it.
Chris said: “We had to turn it back into a house. We put a few of the original doors back in. Funny enough when they took them out they had kept them in the shed. There’s a few quirky features including a smoking room – forsmoking meat in. There’s also lots of dog kennels. If somebody had 30 dogs it would be perfect.”
Accommodation includes a reception hall, magnificent drawing room, garden room, games room, dining room and breakfasting kitchen. The west wing, formerly the servants’ quarters, include an office, shower room, utility, and a number of storage rooms. On the first floor there are a further six bedrooms.
Chris said: “I probably spend most of my time in what used to be the dining room. It’s such a lovely big room we decided to make it into a games room. I’d collected posters for a long time but never really put them anywhere. I just started whacking them on the walls and the whole wall is covered now. There’s a jukebox in there too.”
Breamish House is very much a family home, according to Chris. “It’s been perfect for bringing kids up. The first school is half a mile up the back road and the bus used to stop at the garden gate. The kids have always had lots of friends here. You’re not isolated at all.”
Despite being born and bred in Jesmond, this area of Northumberland has always played a part in Chris’ family life. He said: “When we were little, my dad used to bring us up to Ingram Valley for picnics almost every weekend in the summer. That’s only half a mile from here, so I can go walking up there which is quite nice. It’s an area I’ve always been fond of.”
The grounds of the property, which extend to around 10 acres, are as impressive as the house itself.
“There’s a fantastic array of mature trees and a stream that meanders through the garden with a little foot bridge. It’s all very quaint. The top quality tree house that I built should be a big selling point. It’s suspended between three different trees. I have an A-level in woodwork so I know what I’m doing,” he joked.
According to Chris, the house will appeal to those looking for a big family house, with scope for development. “It’s ideal for somebody who wants a house and maybe some holiday lets. There’s certainly room for development.”
Chris still retains a business interest in Viz, but doesn’t work on it day to day. As well as freelance drawing, he is currently working on his second book.
“It’s about train spotting. It’s very difficult to write as train spotting isn’t a very interesting subject. It’s about obsessions. Let’s put it that way,” he said.
Now that their children have almost flown the nest, the couple are looking to downsize and move closer to Newcastle. Their son Dale, 24, is a helicopter pilot in Aberdeen, daughter Jamie, 22, is an art student in Glasgow, while their youngest son Joseph is currently doing his A-levels.
Chris said: “I’ll miss the gardens and the sweeping tree lined driveway. It’s a lovely house to arrive at. It’s always a bit sad when you leave a house and I’ve never lived in a house this long before. But you’ve got to move on I suppose.”
- Breamish House, Powburn, Alnwick, is for sale through Strutt & Parker at offers in excess of £750,000, tel: 01670 516123.