Surprise at closure of Longhirst Hall

RESIDENTS in a Northumberland village are coming to terms with the sudden closure of a nearby hotel and business venue.

Staff at Longhirst Hall were told on the morning of Friday, February 28 that they were losing their jobs because the Glasgow-based tenant management company which runs that part of the site, Hotel Lease (Number 3) Ltd, had ceased trading.

This also meant that dozens of couples have been left in the lurch as they had weddings booked at the venue for the coming weeks and months.

The hall was designed by famous architect John Dobson and built in the 1820s. It was once a school and a community home for children and in recent years, part of the building was used by Northumbria University and the former Castle Morpeth Council.

Longhirst Parish Council clerk Ian Thompson, who has lived in the village all his life, said: “It was a big shock when we heard about the closure.

“In November, I was at a hearing as the parish council had objected to an application by Longhirst Hall to increase its licensing hours. The company that took it on was determined to get the increase, so I’m surprised that it has gone bust just a few months later.

“A lot of money was spent in the early 1990s to bring the hall and its grounds back into use. Before it was leased out, the staff were very good at including the village in what it was doing and I was invited to give talks about the site’s history and architecture.

“We hope that we’re not going to get a long spell of inactivity at Longhirst Hall as that would not be good for the village.”

The council’s chairman, Bob Jackson, said the closure was very sad news, particularly as it was the biggest employer in Longhirst.

“We hope that a hotel operator will take on Longhirst Hall, but we have no idea about what’s going to happen so it’s a case of wait and see,” he added.

The hotel and business conferencing properties were leased from owner Felton Property & Investments, which has not gone bust.

Northumberland Tourism staff have moved to alternative premises after having to leave their unit next to the hall, but it is business as usual for the Decoro spa and residents at Micklewood Park elsewhere on the site.

A spokeswoman for developers Dere Street Homes said: “Micklewood Park, private housing in the grounds of Longhirst Hall, is not affected by the current closure.

“Micklewood Park residents will continue to have rights to use the access road and grounds of the hotel.

“In addition, the golf and cricket, hockey and tennis clubs are in separate private ownership and those facilities are also unaffected.”

Northumberland County Council is working to support those affected by the closure and couples who were due to get married at Longhirst Hall this year have already been contacted by a registrar and given advice about finding an alternative venue.

Those who made a booking at the venue for whatever reason can discuss their concerns and find out more about their rights by calling the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 040506.