Durham Properties - Thorngate Mill, Barnard Castle

PUBLISHED: 19:44 28 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:25 20 February 2013

Durham Properties - Thorngate Mill,  Barnard Castle

Durham Properties - Thorngate Mill, Barnard Castle

Mill, bookshop, car factory and riverside home - this apartment in Barnard Castle has a fascinating past, as Helen Johnson reports

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The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of North East Life

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The idea of one day living in a modern motor factory would seem fanciful at best but the birthplace of a charming little car is now a delightful home.

The Black Prince was built in Thorngate Mill, Barnard Castle in the early 1920s. It had a wooden body, a motorcycle engine and looked like the sort of car that Toad of Toad Hall would have very much enjoyed.

It is not known how many models were manufactured, or how many survive, but one example is kept just a short drive away from its original home at Bowes Museum.

Thorngate Mill was built in the 1840s for Messrs JHS Pratt who ran a business weaving worsted woollen fabric, and the building has since been used a bookshop. In 2006 this former industrial site, by the banks of the Tees was transformed into a peaceful residential area.

Next door, a former woollen mill was used to make protective clothing for steelworkers until the 1980s, when it was converted into housing by the Teesdale Buildings Preservation Trust.

Thorngate Mill is a Grade II listed building, so many original features have been retained, including cast iron pillars on the ground floor, beautiful golden stone walls and original multi-light window frames.

Leanne Hunter lives in one of the apartments in Thorngate Mill. That was all part of the attraction, she said. Its been lovingly restored and theyve kept historic features such as beams, pulleys, and all the windows are the same.

The walls are thick, so its warm in winter and cool in summer. In summer, I can open the casement and sit in the sun on the window sill it used to be a loading bay. I really like the beams, too. But theyve also added a contemporary modern twist.

Modern comforts Leanne enjoys are two bathrooms and a well-planned kitchen with built-in appliances. The facilities are good for entertaining guests enjoy their own bathroom as well as a bedroom, the kitchen has plenty of work space for preparing food, and the living room is spacious.

The apartment also enables Leanne to follow her interests large, white painted walls are perfect for her art collection and the solid building allows her to play her piano without disturbing the neighbours. She also admits to a passion for hats and shoes, and these are stored in large built in cupboards in the guest room.

Her artistic talent shows in her clever decorating which predominantly
features neutral decor and furnishings, with little touches of colour here and there. Leanne, the project manager for a construction company, said: This was the show apartment after the building was converted, and Im the first person to have lived in it.

When I first saw it, it was ready to move in. It needed no work, and I like Barney: its nice having everything nearby. Its got everything you need, and lots of little quirky shops, with lots of household goods, gifts, and antiques.

Ive always visited Barney. I remember coming here as a child. We went up the river to High Force, then came into Barney for coffee and cake which is always an attraction.

Ive got lots of family and friends in Darlington, and when the weathers nice, they like to come here Ive taken lots of visitors to the Bowes Museum.

When the weathers fine, she can sit on the beach next to the mill: a pebbly area on the bank of the River Tees. The river is picturesque, the water splashing over rocks and lined with trees as it curves around the castle escarpment and, thanks to a footbridge right next to the mill, Leanne has access to both banks of the river.

But, after choosing her apartment because everything was done, she said: Now, Im looking for a challenge, something that needs doing up. But when I leave here, Ill miss the peace and quiet.

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