Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Another ex-hotel, Skinburness, Cumbria

My post about Lochanhead House sparked a lot of interest so I thought I'd tell you about another former hotel on the market. Because sometimes you want more than a cottage in a wood. Or a haven from the walking dead.
Skinburness Hotel, around ten miles from Silloth in the Cumbrian coastal village of Skinburness, doesn't have any internal photos. Nor even a description of the inside of the building, number of rooms, bathrooms etc - the usual stuff you might expect.
That, plus various notes on the agent's website make me wonder whether this is just a fairly expensive plot of land for sale. Which is a bit weird because the hotel is the middle of the village, as Streetview helpfully shows.

It was a hotel up until 2006. And a pretty handsome one at that - the original building dates from 1878. There are some pictures and videos taken by urban explorers in 2011 on derelictplaces.co.uk and in this 28DaysLater video, shot earlier this year:

Back in 2010, a company called Northstar Capital Projects, part of basket of businesses linked to Darlington football club owner George Houghton, won planning permission to demolish the hotel and build a 64-bed nursing care home in its place.
In 2006, villagers had campaigned to save the hotel, but by 2008 they broadly backed demolition plans, with the planning officer noting:
The hotel is long past the time when it can be renovated and most residents look forward to seeing the building replaced...The building is in a declining state of repair, although remaining structurally substantial.
SAVE Britain’s Heritage objected, saying that the hotel is a significant example of the work of architect Charles Ferguson and "capable of economic repair".
However, nothing happened and planning permission lapsed. And Northstar shut up shop.
At least four sets of owners have gone bankrupt, according this excellent piece on sometimesinteresting.com, looking at the hotel's history, with gorgeous pix by Guy Carpenter of Gullwing.

So, you have a former hotel, standing on around one-and-a-half acres in the middle of a pretty Cumbrian village that is unlikely to be viable as a hotel, or a care home, and would need the council's OK to become anything else.
It's gorgeous on the outside, a bit of a dog's breakfast on the inside, some rooms not too bad structurally, others very water-damaged. 
But definitely not the worst we've seen on 'Wreck'...
On the plus side, it is BIG. It's been on the market a year and even at £250k the price is likely to be negotiable. 

On the market through Edwin Thompson. Details here and here.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Pair of Caithness cottages to renovate

Caroline sent me this yummy pair of Highlands cottages. Caroline is in mid do-up herself, having bought a wreck I featured a year or so ago. More on that later.
Gate Cottage, in the hamlet of Noss a couple of miles form Wick in Caithness, is actually two cottages and comes with around half an acre of land.
The description isn't that clear on the current layout - the supplied floor plan looks like it may be aspirational rather than the reality, and the agent's info concentrates on the location of the cottages rather than the breakdown of rooms.

Having said that, there does appear to be a bathroom and a kitchen and the details suggest there are services available or connectable.

It's in a pretty and fairly remote location, surrounded by farms and fields and with distant sea views.
On the market via eMoov, with a guide price of £70k. More here and here.

I mentioned Caroline's project. She's renovating the cottage below, at Armadale in Caithness. This is how it looked when I saw it back in November 2015:

Caroline and her husband David have been busy! Here a just a few pictures from her excellent renovation project blog:

And this, should you need any incentive to go wreck hunting in the Highlands, is Armadale Bay and "Caroline's" beach:

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Lochanhead House, Dumfries - update

I had a couple of emails after my post about the semi-derelict Lochanhead House (here) which warranted an update. My spider sense tells me there's a bigger, sadder story here.
Helen wrote to say that she and her husband have tried to view the property several times in the five years it's been on the market:
The owner of Lochanhead is an elderly lady who has given directions that only a cash buyer can view the house - we have tried to go and view several times...but excuses have been made as to why we couldn't, with the last being refused as we are not cash buyers. We were hoping to go and survey what work needed done but that hasn't been possible. 
She notes that five years ago, when the property went onto the market, the building still had all its windows and roof so dereliction has been "quite quick".
Jane made a similar comment in her email, pointing out that ion 2011 the listing on Rightmove showed a rather lovely interior; "I can't imagine what has happened to it in the last five years."
The original listing has gone from Rightmove but the 'ghost' pictures are still there. Here's a couple:

I did a bit more digging.
In 2014, Lochanhead's owner applied to demolish the manse and build two houses in its place. Permission was refused, with the note on the decision pointing out that demolition of the house "should be a last resort":
It's loss cannot be re-provided. Lochanhead House is a prominent local building, highly visible from the A711 road and well known locally...No evidence has been provided that this significant and traditional building cannot be restored. It would be a grave and regrettable loss to the area for a building of this nature to be demolished. 
Food for thought given the estate agent's suggestion that any buyer should consider demolition and rebuilding.
Let's go a bit further back.
Lochanhead House ran as a hotel from at least the mid 1980s to 2000. I found a file online posted by a chap to a local history site. He was writing (in 2011) about his life in rural Auchengray. It included this snippet about his daughter, Anne:
Anne worked in the Lochanhead House Hotel, Lochfoot for a few years then in 1989 she  took over the lease and with the help of Betty ran it as a hotel, bar and guest house for 9 years.
Betty used to love chatting to all the guests and regulars and both she and Anne did all the cooking and baking themselves.
They employed quite a few local young people for waiting duties and were always busy doing meals at the weekend... The bar would get quite busy at the weekend with the regulars coming in to play pool or darts or just for a pint.
They let out five bedrooms which were mainly taken by travelling salesmen.
Anne and Betty used to have a barbeque every summer and on their last day before leaving in July 1998 had the final one and all the regulars came along.  It must have been a sad day for Anne and Betty as they had made a lot of friends over the years. 
Here's Betty (left) and Anne receiving flowers from the regulars on their last day at Lochanhead:

So, up until 1998, Lochanhead had been leased out as hotel. A year later, work began (apparently without permission) to change its use from a hotel to a dwelling house and the house was sold in 2002. 
The new owner, Mrs C., lived in the house for four years and, at the time of a site visit in 2013, Lochanhead had already suffered considerable damage from "poor quality alterations and repairs"; storm damage; vandalism, and theft.
The elderly lady owner has been trying to sell the house since 2008 and, in an appeal last year, sounded in a bit of state - unable to live in the dilapidated house; unable to sell it; unable to get a grant to repair it, and living in temporary accommodation or with relatives.
So. We have a house that was run as a small hotel and pub until 1999 - the owners of which moved to new bungalow in the grounds in the 1980s (presumably when Betty and Anne took over the lease).
The hotel was sold to a Mrs C in 2002, who seems to have been under the impression that she'd be able to build two more houses on the land. She moved out after four years - couldn't find out why or where to - and first put it on the market in 2008. 
By 2011, it was still pretty spiffing looking, albeit looking rather more hotel than house. 
Thereafter it began to fall apart - presumably helped by being unoccupied and vulnerable (reasons to support the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership) and by Mrs C becoming older and frailer. 
By 2013, parts of the roof had collapsed and the house was "barely habitable".
In 2014, Mrs C applied for planning permission to demolish Lochanhead and replace it - initially with five houses and then with two. 
Neighbours objected (including the new occupants of the hotel owners' bungalow) and the application was refused last year. An appeal was lodged and may or may not be ongoing.
In the meantime, the house is back on the market as a £150k wreck. 

Lochanhead House is on the market through GGM&W. Details here.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Three Glos. cottages to renovate

I was trying to think of a bit of the UK I haven't been to for a while - metaphorically speaking. Then realised I had a whole bunch of properties on my 'to-do' list in somewhere called Gloucestershire. (Sorry, came over all Northern then).
The four-bedroom cottage, above and below, is about half-a-mile outside the village of Lydbrook, on the edge of the Wye Valley.
It comes with an acre-and-a-half of stepped land and woodland (some of it rather precarious-looking) and isn't exactly the prettiest building in the world.

The streetview was a bit offputting too - looks like parking could be at the bottom of that hill:

Having said all that, it's in a quiet, rural location in a pretty area. And (rebuilt) this could be a fabulous room with a view:

On the market through Steve Gooch at £295k. Details here and here.
Rather less remote is this cottage in the village of Hartpury. It's a terrace, and we all know I don't generally 'do' terraced, but I thought there was something quite sweet about this one. Maybe it was this line-up of garden folk awaiting a new owner:

Three bedrooms upstairs but the bathroom - rather "wet room" (yuk) is downstairs.
Also on the market with Steve Gooch, at £265k. Details here and here.
Finally, the property below, just outside Mitcheldean, was originally two cottages. Which may explains the three sitting rooms and myriad lean-tos.

Upstairs are four bedrooms (bathroom is downstairs). It comes with a fair bit of land - gardens, paddocks, orchard, all in a rather better state than the house's rooms:

On the market through Bidmead Cook with a guide price of £200k. Details here and here.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Two derelict and lovely Scottish mansions

A lovely email from Frances at the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, prompted me to have a look at Scotland today. And here are two handsome but left-to-rot Scottish manses.
The downside is that the agents have only supplied external photos (which really annoys me...), but given the holes in roofs and broken windows we can make a decent guess at what might be inside.
Above and below is a five bed house at Lochanhead, five miles from Dumfries, sent to me by reader Wendy. Three reception rooms, games room, bar, halls and kitchen downstairs, five bedrooms (four en-suite) on the first floor and four attic rooms above - this was definitely once a party house!
Large gardens (though how much land isn't clear). And a lovely, airy hole in the roof:

The agent, GGM&W, describes the 19th Century house as "derelict and in need of total renovation" and suggests that the buyer may choose to demolish the (unlisted) building and start again. Which might make it, at offers over £150k a rather pricey bit of land. And a waste of a lovely building.
Details here and here.
I mentioned the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership at the start of this email. The work they do, in monitoring and advising on empty homes, is important and part of a network of organisations and websites that I use and that are doing a brilliant job in helping to track and record beautiful buildings left to fall down.
Asknish House, at Lochgair (below) is good example. It had been on my radar for a while but I was put off using it because of the scale of the project and - again - the lack of internal photos. However, an email from reader James prompted me to look at it again.

According to the listing on the (also fabulous) Buildings At Risk register, B-Listed Asknish seems to have been empty since 2007 at least, having last been used in the 1990s as a holiday let.
External inspections in 2009 and 2012 suggested the building was neither secure nor watertight (more here).
Pictures taken in 1990 show what was then a handsome 18th century Georgian country mansion with a stunning interior:

Photos on urban explorer websites 28DaysLater and DerelictPlaces (both massively useful and important) show recent damage and this 2012 report by DerelictPlaces member 'SeaOfLove' is wonderful - stunning photos, some of which I've used below:

Quite often for me, a photo on an agent's site is only the start of the process. I'll get lost down a rabbit hole of information, trying to discover more of the story behind the building. It's the fun bit.
Anyway, back to Asknish House. Strutt & Parker are selling Asknish House with 49 acres of land as Lot 1, and a further 56 acres of farmland as Lot 2.
The Grade-B listed house has 8 bedrooms and dozens of other rooms over three floors. This plan is from 2009 (I suspect the agent hasn't been inside to produce a current floor plan):

The location is quite stunning, including half-a-mile of frontage onto Loch Gair.

On the market at offers over £250k through Strutt & Parker, details here and here.