Terry George and Michael Rothwell are kings of their own castle. Sharon Dale reports
Terry George was a DJ living in a small back-to-back council house in Leeds when he met his partner Michael Rothwell.
Michael, originally from Heywood, near Bury, was working in a warehouse stacking shelves, but the spark between them ignited big ambitions.
Now, 18 years later, they have a successful business empire and their very own castle, near Huddersfield.
The property was once stabling for shire horses and the castellated structures were added by a wealthy mill owner who wanted to create his own folly. "Apparently he lived in a big house on the hill and wanted to improve his view, which is why he created what is really a folly," explains Terry. The couple climbed the property ladder by buying, renovating and selling the back-to-back and trading up for a new house in Beeston Hill, Leeds, for 50,000. Four years later, they leapt a few rungs up to a large, derelict Victorian house in Morley.
"It cost 110,000 and what we didn't realise was that it came with a stables with an apartment over them. We made another apartment and the rent from the two flats helped pay the mortgage. We also rented out a room in the house. Even then, we had no carpets for ages and our furniture came from friends, but we slowly managed to do it up and we were there for nine years," says Michael.
Though Terry didn't want to leave that house, Michael was ready to move. "I'd set up viewings, but if I liked a house he didn't and vice versa. We couldn't agree on anything until we saw this place," says Michael.
The property is set in an idyllic valley with nine acres of land including a lake, woods and a deer park.
"Michael saw it in the Yorkshire Post and set up a viewing. It was autumn, the deer were drinking from the stream as we drove in and then I saw the house and thought it would be a dream come true to live somewhere like this," says Terry, a keen photographer.
They bought the grade two listed house for 781,000 four years ago and have spent another 400,000 doing it up to create a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house with a swimming pool. A combination of the recent property market boom and an exceptional modernisation, has brought the value to 2.5m.
Terry, 41, and Michael, 38, have managed to combine the original features with their love of contemporary interiors to create a stunning home. "It was very traditional inside and not to our taste. We wanted to change it and that meant living with builders in and out of the house for three years, but it has been worth it," says Michael.
The property is their first marital home. They were one of the first same sex couples to have an official gay wedding on the day civil partnerships were legally recognised in December last year. Their close supportive relationship has helped make their working partnership a huge success. They have a diversity of business interests, many of which are aimed at the pink pound. After buying the lease, then the freehold for a building in Leeds city centre, they created Bar Fibre on Lower Briggate and went on to open the Viaduct, Arch 54, and the nightclub Mission.
They also run a popular roving club night called Federation, which has run in Leeds and Manchester.
They own Bent, a national magazine for gay men, telephone and text services and a gay directory inquiries 118429. They also run the Mr Gay UK contest.
Michael's hobby is property developing, which was inspired by their first home. "He is amazing," says Terry, who admits that most of the credit for the castle's sensational makeover goes to his partner.
"He can visualise what a place could be like, whereas I can't." The radical makeover was to Michael's design. What was a games room became a swimming pool and gym. He replaced wooden sills with traditional stone, he arched the windows which had been squared off in the 1970s and he uncovered the old bell tower, which had been hidden inside a built-in wardrobe upstairs.
He also came up the idea of knocking a hole through the chimney breast to open the fireplace, allowing it to serve both the dining room and sitting room. A ground floor bay window was replaced with a sheet of glass to form a garden room with a view. "One of the problems with this house was that you were surrounded by great views downstairs, but you couldn't see any of them. It was crying out for light," says Michael.
Some of the beams and the stone were exposed and they juxtapose with perfectly plastered walls painted in Farrow and Ball colours and stainless steel skirting boards. Outside, the water wheel, which powered the original blacksmith's workshop, has also been brought back into use and plans have been made for it to provide electricity for the house. The lake has been restored and stocked with fish.
Keeping a keen eye on cost, Michael project-managed the renovation. He used joiners to create the panelling in the dining room, the built-in wardrobes in each bedroom and the stairs from Terry's room to the swimming pool.
Their friend, interior architect Ben Huckerby, helped them decorate and furnish the property. The overall effect is similar to the Malmaison hotel in Leeds, which is exactly what Michael and Terry wanted.
Flooring is wood, original stone flags and neutral wool carpets. Much of the lighting is low level, with spotlights inset into the floors. Furniture, art and accessories came from a variety of sources including West Park Interiors and the couple's travels to Morocco. "We work non-stop and that's helped pay for this house, but we know we're lucky to have it and we do try to share it. We have a big bonfire party once a year for charity and we invite everyone we know," says Michael.
Terry adds: "I never dreamed I could have a house like this, something that it is so beautiful and I certainly don't take it for granted. It still amazes me that our sofa here cost us more than our first house!"
Ben Huckerby Design 0113 244 5446 www.benhuckerbydesign.co.uk
West Park Interiors www.westparkinteriors.co.uk Swinegate, Leeds 0113 245 4522 and
West Park, Harrogate Tel: 01423 562632.