AN aristocrat has announced plans to transform part of his North East estate into a wedding and entertainment venue.
Renovation work is being carried out by Lord Durham on the grade II-listed Lambton Castle, near Bournmoor, County Durham, to turn it into a venue for upmarket civil weddings, classical concerts and parties.
Biddick Hall, an impressive grade I-listed country house that was home to the Lord’s mother, Lady Lambton, until her death in February 2003, will also stage small weddings, celebrations, weekend breaks, a monthly supper club and it will also host the bridal party for weddings in the nearby castle.
The estate is also home to a small chapel which will be available for religious wedding ceremonies. Estate chiefs have been in touch with the Bishop of Durham to have it re-consecrated.
They are also looking into licensing a walled garden and a pavilion for a variety of entertainment as well as a large field by the river where they hope to hold proms in the park-style events and large concerts.
Edward Lambton, the 7th Earl of Durham, hopes transformation of the 1,400-acre private estate will generate income which will go towards the vast upkeep of the historic properties and land.
Estates manager Bob Duff said: “The estate has always been owned by different generations of the same family. The area of Washington used to belong to them before it was compulsory purchased from the family to build the new town.
“The Lord of Durham’s mother lived in Biddick Hall until her death a few years go. After that the home was just used by the family periodically.
“Lord Durham got in touch with me about a year ago about the progression of the estate. Estates such as this get more expensive to run and difficult to keep. The family has an estate in Northumberland and a home in Italy.
“The plans were his idea and he employed me to oversee the development.”
Lambton Estate has already set up a number of events. These include a music night on April 15 featuring tenor George Bartle, soprano Susan Parkes and pianist Warren Mailley-Smith and Universal Horror on April 16, a film night hosted by Oscar-winning film maker Kevin Brownlow. On May 8 Lord Durham will open the estate to the public when they stage the Lambton Run, a 5k and 10k race, in aid of Willow Burn Hospice in Lanchester, County Durham and The Rainbow Trust.
North East chef Anthony Brown is also holding monthly supper clubs and cookery classes.
Lord Durham inherited the Lambton estate after the death of his father, a one-time Tory MP for Berwick, in 2006.
The current Lord married for the third time earlier this year, wedding 29-year-old model Marina Hanbury at a register office in London.
Lions Lived in grounds of castle
LAMBTON Castle, the family’s ancestral seat, is steeped in history
In 1800 the first Lord of Durham commissioned the building of the structure which was built around the existing Harraton Hall, an 18th Century mansion.
The Lord – also known as “Radical Jack” and a son-in-law of Earl Grey – wanted the property to be in the style of a Norman Castle.
The family lived in the property but there was a problem with subsidence, ironically caused by the mineworking in the area on which the family fortune was built. It was rebuilt in the 1860.
In 1930 the family moved out of the property following further issues with subsidence and it fell into disrepair.
In 1972, Lambton Lion Park opened on the estate. It closed in the early 1980s due to lack of funds and problems with escaping animals.
Mr Duff said: “The county council took it over as a teacher training centre for a while then in the seventies the estate was ran as a safari park.
“There are wonderful stories about baboons on the A1 and hippopotamus in Chester-le-Street.
“People still talk about the safari park now with the giraffe house and the bear pit.
“A lot of people came to the estate back then and they still think of it like that today.”
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