There’s nothing middle of the road about Middleton Hall. It’s a majestic, Grade II listed Victorian mansion set in 30 acres and located north of Alnwick, Northumberland. Over three years June and Brian Morton have carefully brought this stunning 25 bedroom house back to its former mid 19th century glory and made it into a very special and exclusive wedding venue and holiday retreat. An important part of the renovation in terms of giving the place an authentic feel and heating the high-ceilinged reception rooms includes installing reproduction cast iron radiators from Trade Radiators.¯¨
The story begins…
The Mortons bought Middleton Hall in September 2008 after selling their highly successful building services company. For 25 years the business had provided big name clients like Marks & Spencer, Barclays Bank, Boots the Chemist, pub chains and police authorities, with round the clock buildings’ maintenance. This background was to be immensely useful when it came to transforming their new home.
The Hall had been converted into apartments in 1965 after a spell as a military convalescence home and though it looked fine from the outside, inside the pair inherited all the common problems of an elderly historic building: dry and wet rot, worm infestation, leaking roofs, blown plaster and years of poor upkeep.
“But we just fell in love with it,” says June Morton. “We wanted to turn it back into the wonderful Victorian home it once was when the Leather family built it.”
Husband Brian continues, “Plus of course, it gave me a project as I’m not ready to retire yet! But we quickly realised that the North Wing was ample for our family, so we decided to turn the main Hall into a de-luxe self-catering holiday and wedding venue.”
During the work they uncovered finely carved marble fireplaces from France, Italy and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire; restored original parquet floors, fretwork and dado panelling; and employed an expert craftsman to recreate a missing 6’ x 8’ panel in one of the plaster ceilings downstairs that was covered in fruits and foliage. “It was a major job but now no one would spot the difference,” comments June.
Getting the details right
When it came heating the palatial ground floor reception rooms and doing it sympathetically they had a double challenge. They were recommended to Trade Radiators by a Newcastle architect. Having checked the site, Brain was impressed and gave them a call: “The website had the perfect period-style, cast iron column radiators that we wanted together with a great range of colours, and the prices were far better than other suppliers. Plus the staff were so helpful and knowledgeable.
“The after-sales service was excellent too. We had a problem with a couple sets of valves so I called Trade Radiators and within 10 minutes the manufacturer was on the line, and the new parts were delivered two days later. We really appreciated the fact that there was no fuss, but they just sorted out the problem quickly,” comments Brian.
June had a good experience with the company too: “Everyone was so friendly and took a real interest in our project. They were able to give advice on things like the heat output calculation, the position of the radiators, their size and picking the best colour to fit the decor. It really gave me confidence in our decision to buy, even though we’d never actually met them or seen the products.
“And now they are installed they fit in so well. They give the rooms an air of authenticity as well as being a very effective heat source, because cast iron retains the warmth a lot longer.”
The lap of luxury
The house took three years to renovate (though work still proceeds on converting The Folly into guest accommodation and restoring the walled kitchen garden) and now it is maintained by a team of six. In sharp contrast to the staff of 60 who looked after the Leathers in the 19th century.
The project has been a multi-million pound investment as the Mortons were determined to not only restore the property but also upgrade the interior with top-of-the-range facilities like wi-fi, luxury bathrooms, a hi-tech kitchen and an effective heating system to keep the rooms cosy even when the wind howls and the snow covers the parkland in thick drifts.
The result is a beautifully restored historic property with luxury 5-star accommodation and parkland that is hired out on an exclusive basis for wedding weekends, or people can rent smaller properties in the grounds for holidays.
Finally, some advice from Brian Morton: “Whether you are renovating a mansion or a small terraced cottage it is important to get the period details right and to find the best products and craftsmen within your budget.
“The internet is a brilliant research tool, but don’t forget to ask others for recommendations or visit specialist forums online. Don’t just shop on price and do talk to your proposed supplier. The best will offer added value like Trade Radiators did, with their product insight and helpful after sales service – the keen pricing was an added bonus. Well done TradeRadiators!”
Featured Radiator: Edwardian 660 high, finished in the metallic Old Pewter
Article by Benjamin Clarke