Brancepeth Castle in County Durham has a remarkable history that spans more than 800 years. It began as a military fortress and has, more recently, been used as a war hospital, a regimental headquarters and a research centre for a glass company.
One of just 388 Grade I listed buildings in the North East of England, the castle has been on the Heritage at Risk register since 2010. It consists of a series of towers and fortified buildings arranged around a large open courtyard.
In 1978, Mrs Margaret Dobson decided to buy the castle, save it, and make it her family home. Today, it's still under the care and custodianship of the Dobson family.
Over the past four decades, the Dobson family have worked to tackle the leaking roofs and crumbling stone walling caused by ageing building fabric, construction defects and past neglect. Despite that investment, much work remains to be done to bring the entire building back to good health.
In September 2017, Historic England gave a grant of £400,000 for emergency roofing works and stonework repairs. Now complete, those works have ensured the continued use and well-being of a number of rooms that are available for weddings, functions and public events.
As part of the project, members of the public were able to ‘have a go’ at repairing medieval stone rubble walling, stone carving and creating traditional roof details in lead sheeting. Heritage skills ‘taster’ days are part of Historic England’s campaign to raise awareness of the importance of traditional craft skills in sustaining our built heritage.
As well as being a treasured family home, the castle also houses a small community of businesses and other residents. The recent support has enabled the family to plan for the future of the castle, including growing the site’s business potential and public access to help fund future work, and finding new ways for people to engage with the site’s heritage.