Plans to revamp Kielder Castle lodged with Northumberland County Council

Plans to overhaul a Northumberland castle and bring it ‘back into public prominence’ have been lodged with the county council.

Monday, 25th November 2019, 5:15 pm
Updated Saturday, 30th November 2019, 8:29 pm
Kielder Castle. Google Streetview.

The Forestry Commission has applied for permission to refurbish the grade II-listed Kielder Castle, which is located within Kielder Forest, on the edge of Kielder Village and at the head of the River North Tyne valley.

The scheme would include refurbishment of the existing café, the creation of an improved art gallery space, the development of a cycle hub, new holiday and staff accommodation plus the demolition and rebuilding of the east wing courtyard extension.

A design, access and heritage statement, which accompanies the planning application, explains that the castle is currently only partially occupied; the ground floor of the east and south wings are used as a visitor centre, exhibition space and café/kitchen.

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The first floor is also partially occupied, but limited to the east wing and for staff use only. The west wing is largely unused at ground-floor level and is mostly derelict, with the exception of some storage space. The first, second, and third floors are derelict and uninhabitable.

The document adds: ‘The building does not appear in immediate structural peril, however, the decades of under-use and general neglect are clearly evident. The building will require prompt attention to ensure the continued structural stability.’

It states that the existing east wing courtyard extension is a late addition, with the architecture being ‘of minimal quality’ and the potential of the building ‘restricted due to poor public access and visual legibility, impractical internal layout and very poor condition’.

The extension and interior alterations proposed ‘seek to address all these areas of concern, to create a building of great public interest and safeguard the castle both structurally and in terms of continued use, for many years’.

The heritage section of the statement concludes: ‘Kielder Castle is a valuable asset which must be brought back into public prominence.

‘Renovation works are required to safeguard the future of the listed asset by providing a viable use for building, this will ensure that the building does not fall into unsalvageable dilapidation.’

The history of the castle, which was completed in 1775, is also set out in the application.

It says that sometime in the mid-19th century, the castle was radically rebuilt, with the exact date being uncertain, but it having been completed by 1867. The 4th Duke of Northumberland, who carried out wide-ranging alterations to Alnwick, is the most likely candidate, it notes.

In 1932, it underwent a second, even more radical change when the Duke’s Kielder estate was sold to the Forestry Commission.

Following the construction of Kielder Village in the years following 1945, a social club was established in the castle, but otherwise, for many years, the building was little used.

This situation changed in the 1980s and 1990s, when, ‘reflecting the gradual shift in the Forestry Commission’s role and in response to the dramatic change brought to Kielder by the construction of the lake, the castle was converted into a visitor centre to cater for the increasing numbers of walkers, cyclists, birdwatchers, sailors and art lovers who made the long journey up to the headwaters of the North Tyne’.