A thousand years of history come together at Otterburn Castle, a spectacular Northumberland castle that has come to the market.
The launch of Otterburn Castle — a splendid, Grade II-listed historic landmark sitting in 32 acres within the Northumberland National Park at the heart of the Redesdale Valley — will send a little shiver of excitement through the property market. This beautiful place — for sale at £3m — is no mere castellated country house: Otterburn has been a castle since the days of William the Conqueror, and though it’s seen many changes since then, it retains all sorts of original character.
The days of arrows shot from battlements and boiling oil poured over the walls are long gone, however — at least we hope they are, since Otterburn is presently run as a country house hotel and that would be no way to greet your guests.
Last used as a home before the Second World War, Otterburn Castle was converted into a hotel in the 1940s, yet retains many of its historic features. There is oak wall panelling, intricate plasterwork and stone-mullioned windows, the property has 18 bedrooms (all en suite), together with several large reception rooms and a catering-standard kitchen. Otterburn would suit someone with a taste for entertaining: the garden room can accommodate 120 guests comfortably.
The castle was actually put on the market back in 2017 at £1.4m, but no sale went through that time. Today, with the property market having risen substantially, its reappearance is at more than double that price point, yet as Oliver Custance Baker, head of Strutt & Parker’s country department, points out, this is a unique opportunity.
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‘Homes with rich histories like Otterburn open up the market to international interest, and castles even more so,’ says Oliver.
‘The stories that are part of these houses are an integral part of what makes them so special, together with their location and architecture. Here, it’s a piece of Northumberland — and British — history for sale.’
The first record of Otterburn was in 1076 when Robert D’Umphraville – William’s cousin – was given the land in appreciation of his services. What exactly was built on the land and when is more of a mystery, but a 1308 survey confirms the existence of a pele tower which was thought to be around 60 years old at the time.
That structure is even mentioned in the chronicles: Froissart refers to it in his account of the battle of Otterburn in 1388, when the English army suffered a bloody defeat at the hands of the Scottish, led by the Earl of Douglas who tried to take the tower.
Life at Otterburn continued. Used as a hunting lodge during the 15th century, it passed to the Hall family in the reign of Henry VIII — for reasons that remain unclear. John Hall is noted as a Sequester under Cromwell (meaning he confiscated enemy property) and became Commissioner for Enclosure in 1552. His most infamous successor was ‘Mad Jack Ha’, who features in William Harrison Ainsworth’s novel Preston Fight for his part in the 1715 Jacobite rising. A cat with not quite nine lives, ‘Mad Jack’ was finally convicted for his ‘crimes’ after five reprieves and hanged at Tyburn in July 1716.
The present building was built on the foundations of the original pele tower, and using some of the original stones, in 1830, and extended in 1904 by F.W. Rich. During both those periods of work, the historic fittings and other details were retained where possible, and in many cases remain in fantastic condition. These include stone-mullioned windows, dramatic carved staircase and intricate plasterwork.
Today’s Grade II-listed castellated tower, incorporating a Tudor-arched entry, was built in the 1830s by Thomas James on the foundations of the original structure, using some of the original stones. It was then extended in 1904 by F. W. Rich for the owner, one Howard Pease, a wealthy businessman from the Middlesbrough area; his widow sold the property in 1931, and it was converted into a hotel relatively soon after.
Today, the castle-turned country hotel has a bridal suite which boasts and inglenook fireplace with five painted panels depicting scenes from the Battle of Otterburn – and it could either continue as a business, or else be returned to use as a home… one with endless bedrooms, a bar, ballroom and a grand entrance hall with a sweeping staircase and panelled walls.
The castle is just as grand outside as it is in: set in 32 acres of land that include formal gardens, woodland and a river with a water wheel which was once used to pump water to the castle. There are even fishing rights included, with trout and salmon swimming in these waters.
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