A major transformation of one of Alnwick’s most iconic buildings is complete, turning it into an improved community facility and wedding venue.
The Northumberland Hall, in the centre of the town, has been renovated and upgraded, following a £328,000 investment from Northumberland County Council.
Work has included full internal refurbishment of the hall including decoration, lighting and new curtains.
Acoustic glass has been installed to limit outside noise, a new kitchen has been fitted and the toilets have been refurbished.
The existing flooring, fireplaces, mirrors and chandeliers have all been retained.
In recent years, the Northumberland Hall has been an under-utilised space, but it is hoped that the transformation will encourage more people and groups to use it for a variety of activities and events.
Coun Liz Simpson, Northumberland County Council’s lead member for the accommodation review, said: “The Northumberland Hall is a very grand building but its interior was looking tired and dated.
“We hope that now it has had a makeover in keeping with its heritage, that this will encourage more people to use it for a range of different events.
“We hope in particular that it will serve as a beautiful but low-cost wedding venue for the town.”
The hall was built in 1826 by the third Duke of Northumberland and is a grade I-listed building.
Throughout the scheme there has been close consultation with the council’s conservation officer to ensure the correct materials have been used for the windows, stone repairs and chimneys.
The refurbishment scheme started in March and while the work to the interior finished at the end of June, an inspection of the chimneys found they were in poor condition. A decision was taken to replace these while the scaffolding was still in place.
Builders have been working against the clock to get the job complete and scaffolding down in time for the Alnwick International Music Festival, which starts on Saturday.
The work on the iconic hall has formed part of the county council’s major review of 89 buildings and assets in the county’s nine main towns.
Across the county, the council has identified opportunities to generate more than £27million in capital income, contribute significantly to economic growth and regeneration and make annual savings in its running costs of £3.4million by ensuring all its properties are fit for the 21st century and by selling buildings that are surplus to requirements.
Coun Simpson added: “We want to reduce costs, support regeneration and radically improve access to our services.
“We have been disposing of assets that are no longer required, and investing in those that are. We believe the refurbished Northumberland Hall will be a great boost for the town, bringing in new investment and attracting more people into Alnwick.”
The refurbishment has been welcomed by local councillors. Alnwick county and town councillor Gordon Castle said: “The hall is one of the town’s iconic buildings but it has been under-used for a number of years.
“It was badly in need of a refurbishment so I’m very pleased the council has decided to invest in the building and that this work is now complete.
“I am sure the public will appreciate this new-look community facility and I look forward to it being used to its full potential in the future. Congratulations to the county council for a good job.”
Fellow Alnwick county councillor Heather Cairns added: “Clearly renovating a grade I-listed building is a costly business and I hope that the hall will be well used in the future and the council can recoup the finances that have been spent on it.
“The council has sold a number of assets in the town including Thornbrae and the former council chamber on Clayport Street so I am pleased to see that money is being reinvested back in the town.”
Alnwick Town Champion, Dave Campbell, said: “We hope the Northumberland Hall will be used by all ages, and for a variety of uses.
“The kitchen that has been installed is a commercial one which means that there are improved facilities for catering, and of course there is a lift to it which will be invaluable for the elderly, those with disabilities and for mothers with pushchairs. ”
The venue is now open for business. If you are interested in booking the hall for a community or private function, or for your special day, contact the county council on 01665 602870 to discuss rates and availability.