When architect Francis Shaw decided to fulfil a boyhood ambition of living in a castle, he chose to do it the hard way.
He and his wife, Karen, rescued a moss-covered ruin on the Buildings at Risk register. The bold, budget-busting restoration of Hellifield Peel Castle, near Skipton, was full of drama, derring do and hands-on graft. Filmed for TV’s Grand Designs, the property remains one of Kevin McCloud’s favourites.
Now there’s a chance to own the fully modernised scheduled ancient monument. After 12 years at Hellifield Peel, Karen and Francis have put their eco-friendly castle on the market with Carter Jonas for £1.65m. The couple, their two daughters, Morgen and Harriet, and their dog Daisy are leaving to move closer to Karen’s parents in Devon and to embark on another self-build odyssey.
Their legacy to Yorkshire is a beautiful castellated home that is testament to Francis’s love of history and his exceptional eye for detail and design. Peel Castle is also world famous thanks to international broadcasts that beam repeats of Grand Designs everywhere from Europe, Australia and America to Iran, Taiwan and South Africa.
Fans from across the globe have visited the property after Francis and Karen turned part of the building into a grand B&B, although they are selling it as a family home.
“We have met some wonderful people over the years and we love the house. It is a dream home but it’s time to move on,” says Karen.
The remarkable self-build story began when the Shaws bought the property in 2004. It came with an impressive history. Hall House, dating from around 720AD, was discovered during the archaeological dig prior to the restoration. The Peel tower dates from 1305 and was built by one of the last Templar Knights, Sir John Harcourt. For most of its life the property was owned by the Hamerton family, during which time it was Georgianised. After being requisitioned as a prisoner of war camp, it was bought by furniture maker Harry Lund in the 1940s. He took the wood he wanted and then staged a dilapidation sale. The castle lay in ruins for over 50 years.
Francis, who co-founded Shaw Jagger Architects in Harrogate, came up with a plan to turn the ruin into a home. He also installed a ground source heat pump, which means the castle is fuel efficient and is not reliant on oil. It took two years to make the building habitable, during which time there were structural and financial crises.
The couple budgeted £6,000 for archaeological research, which spiralled to £20,000. Then, three months into the project, the central wall collapsed. It was a major financial setback and added six months on to the build time, but it allowed them to rethink their original plans. “It was going to be a standard roof with some roof lights in, so I could convert the attic myself over time,” says Francis.
After clambering up the scaffold and realising what a phenomenal view there was from the top, the Shaws decided to design a loft apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows and a roof terrace. It added another £100,000 to the cost.
“We went for broke,” says Francis, who insisted on the best materials and craftsmen, which has produced a spectacular family home with reception rooms, a dining room, dining kitchen, study, six bedrooms, eight bathrooms and that penthouse apartment.
The stress was erased by the satisfaction of achieving their goal. The Latin motto carved above the fireplace translates as “I spurn adversity” and is most apt.
“The layout was designed to suit us and it has worked wonderfully, especially the big family kitchen with the Aga. That’s where we spend a lot of our time,” says Karen.
Unlike most castles, the Peel is filled with light and its interiors are a mix of period and contemporary features and furnishings. Francis designed everything, from the fireplace, featuring the Harcourt’s coat of arms to the staircase and four-poster beds. “We like buying from makers and artists because what you’re getting is someone’s heart and soul and you are also helping to keep old traditions alive,” he says.
There are also fabulous flights of fancy, including the bespoke sandblasted granite bath, designed by Francis and oriented to give the bather a view of Malham. The walls are decorated with tapestries and traditional and modern art, and the furniture is a mix of antique, vintage and design classics.
“Francis loves buying furniture but he doesn’t have a sentimental attachment to it. It’s the excitement of buying at auction that he loves most,” says Karen.
He is now busy looking for a plot so he can build his next “Grand Design” a Roman villa built using traditional Roman construction techniques.
“That’s his next dream. He wants to build a villa and he wants it to have its own vineyard as well,” says Karen. “I am happy to go along with it. He’s an architect and buildings are his passion.”
* Peel castle is hidden away in an idyllic part of Hellifield, a village between Settle and Skipton. The 7,297 sq ft property has a reception hall, cloakroom, drawing room, dining room, sitting room, study, living kitchen, utility room, laundry room and boiler room. It also has six double bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom. The penthouse/loft apartment has a bedroom, bathroom, open-plan living space and a roof terrace. Outside, there is a large parking area, gardens and grounds extending to two acres.
The price is £1.65m. For details contact Carter Jonas, tel: 01423 523423, www.carterjonas.co.uk; www.peelcastle.co.uk