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Breathing new life into historic building in heart of Morpeth

The trio at 94 Newgate Street in Morpeth.
The trio at 94 Newgate Street in Morpeth.

A trio of Northumberland businessmen have teamed up to redevelop a prominent listed building with a varied history in the heart of Morpeth.

A revised bid to convert into apartments the grade II-listed 94 Newgate Street was approved by councillors in April.

Peter Smith, Gary Herron and Michael Black, of Northumberland Homes Ltd, at 94 Newgate Street in Morpeth.

Peter Smith, Gary Herron and Michael Black, of Northumberland Homes Ltd, at 94 Newgate Street in Morpeth.

Commonly known as Wansbeck House, today’s building is a composite of 18th, 19th and 20th-century elements with its first use being as a private home, including for the notable Crawhall family, before it became a girls’ school and, most recently, council offices.

The planning permission includes four bungalows elsewhere on the site and it was this element that was the focus of objections from neighbours.

However, the costs of converting the listed building, which is largely supported, are counter-balanced by the other properties on the site, the developers say.

The Old Registry, a nod to one of its most recent uses, is the first development of Northumberland Homes Ltd, the catalyst for which was this building becoming available.

Having recently wrapped up the purchase of the site from the county council, the company – headed up by Gary Herron, Michael Black and Peter Smith, who live in Morpeth, Bedlington and Stannington respectively – is keen to make a success of its first project.

“The wealth of history on the site and the potential to bring it back into use in its very original purpose 270 years ago is what attracted us,” Gary said.

“We are local guys, we saw an opportunity for an interesting project for our business, but to keep it local because we hope we will be able to show people over the next 12 months that we will bring forward a much more sensitive scheme than some national developers might have delivered.”

There will be two one-bedroom flats, nine two-bedroom apartments and a three-bedroom duplex in the main building, with a four-bedroom and a three-bedroom dormer bungalow next to Orchard Mews and another two bungalows near the entrance from Cottingwood Lane.

This currently unnamed road, which is set to be called Northumberland Gardens, will be the only vehicular access to the site, but there will be a pedestrian entrance from Newgate Street, through the existing gates.

Work has started on the main building, which will be the most time-consuming, with the aim of completing all of the properties by next summer/autumn.

“We genuinely do, within economic constraints, want to do this well,” Gary said. “Yes, so we can sell them, but it will be nice to have this building restored to, or even above, its former glory because we are going to be here for the rest of our days.”

A previous application, with larger, dormer bungalows at the Cottingwood Lane entrance, was narrowly refused in January, against officer advice, and an appeal has been submitted against this refusal.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service