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Duke of Northumberland plans to bulldoze Grade-II listed school and build £7.9m hotel

Residents fear a £7.9million boutique hotel overlooking a castle used in the Harry Potter films will attract ‘rowdy hen and stag parties.’

The Duke of Northumberland has been given the green light to build the four-storey boutique hotel and spa overlooking Alnwick Castle.

The historic sprawling estate, now the second-largest privately inhabited castle after Windsor, bears musket pockmarks made by Oliver Cromwell’s army. 

It also marks the spot where Daniel Radcliffe and his fellow Hogwarts pupils had their first flying lesson in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, and has been used as the backdrop for Blackadder, Robin Hood, Elizabeth, Mary Queen Of Scots, Transformers and Downton Abbey.

Millionaire aristocrat Ralph Percy, the 12th Duke, is now set to open the 47 room hotel boasting a restaurant, bar, fitness centre and meeting rooms.

The hotel will be funded Northumberland Estates – the business arm of the Percy family – and will replace the Grade II listed, 18th century Duchess’s Community High School.

But locals claim the hotel will attract parties, with, ‘hoards of young lads and lasses marauding over Alnwick turning our lovely sedate town into a rowdy party city.’

The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, Ralph and Jane Percy, pictured at their home, Alnwick Castle

The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, Ralph and Jane Percy, pictured at their home, Alnwick Castle

The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, Ralph and Jane Percy, pictured at their home, Alnwick Castle

The Duke of Northumberland has been given the green light to build the four-storey boutique hotel and spa overlooking Alnwick Castle

The Duke of Northumberland has been given the green light to build the four-storey boutique hotel and spa overlooking Alnwick Castle

The Duke of Northumberland has been given the green light to build the four-storey boutique hotel and spa overlooking Alnwick Castle 

The hotel will replace the Grade II listed, 18th century Duchess’s Community High School (pictured)

The hotel will replace the Grade II listed, 18th century Duchess’s Community High School (pictured)

The hotel will replace the Grade II listed, 18th century Duchess’s Community High School (pictured)

Plans for the development showing the proposed east elevation of the building

Plans for the development showing the proposed east elevation of the building

Plans for the development showing the proposed east elevation of the building

'On my whistle': Daniel Radcliffe and his fellow Hogwarts pupils had their first flying lesson at Aldwick Castle in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone

'On my whistle': Daniel Radcliffe and his fellow Hogwarts pupils had their first flying lesson at Aldwick Castle in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone

‘On my whistle’: Daniel Radcliffe and his fellow Hogwarts pupils had their first flying lesson at Aldwick Castle in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone 

Hung, drawn and quartered: The history of the Percy family

By Jane Fryer for the Daily Mail 

The Percy family, which also owns 10,000 acres of land and several properties including Albury Estate in Surrey and Warkworth and Prudhoe Castles in Northumberland, has played a succession of prominent roles in British history. 

Over the past thousand years, the Barons, Earls and Dukes of Northumberland have rebelled against monarchs, battled relentlessly with Scots and shuttled in and out of the Tower of London on various charges of treason.

Some have been shot, others hung, drawn and quartered, and a few had their heads displayed on spikes in cities around the country after a disastrous uprising against Henry IV in 1403.

Time and again, Percys have popped up throughout history. 

The great Sir Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, who led endless rebellions against Henry IV of England and was slain at the Battle of Shrewsbury, was immortalised in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I.

The 6th Earl was secretly engaged to Anne Boleyn before she became Henry VIII’s second wife, the 7th was beheaded, the 8th was shot dead in the Tower and the 9th was thought to be involved in the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot and was incarcerated for 16 years.

Ralph was an accidental duke himself, plugging a difficult gap in the Percy family history. He was a second son, a passionate tennis player, a trained surveyor and was once known as the best shot in England.

He was happily married to Jane, a stockbroker’s daughter from Edinburgh, whom he’d met at a party when she was 16, and lived happily in a pretty Georgian farmhouse on the family estate with their four children and dogs.

Meanwhile, his brother Harry (Henry), the 11th Duke and the Queen’s godson, lived a racier — and ultimately tragic — London life of parties, girlfriends (he dated Naomi Campbell’s mother Valerie, American actress Barbara Carrera and model Jackie St Clair) and ambitions in the film world. 

In 1995, Harry died of an accidental amphetamine overdose and Ralph, who had been working on the Northumberland estate for two years, inherited the lot: title, Alnwick, Syon House in London, vast swathes of land in the north and south of the country, plus a £350 million fortune.

He, Jane, the kids and their dogs moved into the castle keep, and that was the end of their old life.

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Alnwick Castle offers ‘broomstick lessons’ for wizarding fans and is home to the Duke of Northumberland Ralph Percy, 62, and his wife Duchess Jane, 60. 

Residents voiced concerns the ‘intrusive’ hotel would look ‘like an ugly modern prison’ and bring the medieval town to a standstill with traffic jams in the busy summer months.

Alnwick Town Council gave the plans the green light, despite saying: ‘The building is too large for this site on the historic northern entrance to Alnwick. 

‘One storey less would be far less intrusive.’

There is also anger over the increased pressure on parking in the area.

Steve Bowler, who lives next to the proposed hotel, said: ‘I am concerned about the parking arrangements in this area of town if another building is converted into a hotel.

‘It is already difficult to park in this area of town for over eight months of the year. 

‘The conversion of this building will only make this situation much worse. I hold residents parking but often can’t park here.

‘This is because you can park here for free for four hours a day and it is rarely monitored.

‘It seems unfair that living in Alnwick I have to pay to park on the street where I pay council tax whereas as a visitor can park for free.’

Locals have also criticised the proposed appearance of the hotel, which will include a swimming pool, spa and gym, and employ up to 50 staff.

Caroline Adams, 50, said: ‘I’ve seen the plans for the hotel and to me it’ll look more like an ugly modern prison block.

‘I’m all for investing in the town but it’s got to be right. 

‘The castle is the jewel in the crown of Northumberland, we mustn’t spoil it.’

Meanwhile some residents in the town, which has a population of just over 8,000, fear the hotel may attract hen and stag parties.

One resident said: ‘I know I sound like a Nimby and it’s hard to think about the pubs being open at the moment but sooner or later we’ll be back to normal and this hotel, I’m afraid, will attract parties.

‘The last thing we need is hoards of young lads and lasses marauding over Alnwick turning our lovely sedate town into a rowdy party city.’

Plans to convert the buildings and add an extension on the land to the rear, were submitted to the council planners by Northumberland Estates in May last year. 

With planning now granted, construction work could begin this Spring. 

The walled garden to the rear of the hotel will be converted into parking for up to 51 cars plus cycle storage. 

Northumberland Estates already has an operator lined up, with the team from the Alnwick boutique hotel, The Cookie Jar looking to take the running of the hotel on once complete.

Plans for the hotel were approved by the North Northumberland Local Area Council by a 6-2 majority last Thursday. 

A view of the proposed development (left) and Alnwick Castle (right)

A view of the proposed development (left) and Alnwick Castle (right)

A view of the proposed development (left) and Alnwick Castle (right)

The Christmas special of TV drama Downton Abbey was filmed in the library of Alnwick Castle

The Christmas special of TV drama Downton Abbey was filmed in the library of Alnwick Castle

The Christmas special of TV drama Downton Abbey was filmed in the library of Alnwick Castle

Prince Charles on a visit to The Alnwick Garden, accompanied by the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland

Alnwick castle shot to worldwide fame after being featured in the Harry Potter movies

Alnwick castle shot to worldwide fame after being featured in the Harry Potter movies

Alnwick castle shot to worldwide fame after being featured in the Harry Potter movies

Ancestors of the Percy family have appeared in the Domesday Book, featured in the works of Shakespeare, led the 1569 uprising against Elizabeth I, signed the Magna Carta, fought in the American War of Independence and been jailed over the Gunpowder Plot. 

Over the centuries, Alnwick has had so many incarnations, changing with every new monarch. 

During the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the Percys abandoned Alnwick as the north was considered too dangerous. 

By the 18th century they were back, and the place was abuzz. 

There was a staff of more than 200 maids, cooks, valets, butlers, grooms, ten priests and, at one point, even a resident executioner.  

Guy Munden, development planner at Northumberland Estates, said: ‘This is a great project for Alnwick, one which will bring tourists directly into the town centre and, at the same time, breathe new life into this historic site.

‘The Bailiffgate buildings have been empty since the Duchess’s High School left for their new premises back in 2016.

‘This project seeks to create the extra visitor accommodation the area has been shown to need as well as bringing new jobs to the town.

‘With more visitors looking to come to Northumberland even in the winter months, the hotel should bring a welcome boost to the town’s tourism trade.

‘Ideally located just a short walk from both the Castle and the town centre, visitors will be able to take advantage of all Alnwick’s many amenities from shops and cafés to pubs, museums and other tourist attractions such as Barter Books.

‘The hotel is also a huge construction project, and we are keen to involve as many local business and tradesmen as possible during the building phase, hopefully providing a much-needed boost to employment in the area at this very difficult time.’

The library at Alnwick castle, the Duke of Northumberland Ralph Percy's home

The library at Alnwick castle, the Duke of Northumberland Ralph Percy's home

The library at Alnwick castle, the Duke of Northumberland Ralph Percy’s home

From Robin Hood and Capability Brown to Harry Potter: The life, art and history of Alnwick Castle 

Alnwick Castle, a 150-room, heavily crenellated, many-towered magnificence perched on a rocky outcrop above the River Aln in Northumberland, is the second-largest privately inhabited castle after Windsor — and it bears the scars of centuries.

There are musket pockmarks, made by Oliver Cromwell’s army, in the yellow sandstone.

In the main entrance, a maroon board offers Broomstick Training sessions on the very spot where Daniel Radcliffe had his first flying lesson in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone.

Ralph Percy, the 12th Duke, with the help of his energetic Duchess, Jane, transformed Alnwick into one of Britain’s most visited attractions.

The castle is exquisite — an assault of gilded ceilings, gold leaf, polished floors, gleaming swords and exquisite views over the Capability Brown-designed parkland.

There is an art collection, described as one of the finest outside the Royal Collection, which includes works by Turner, Titian, Canaletto, Van Dyck and William Dobson.

Alnwick Castle, home to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, reflected in the River Aln

Alnwick Castle, home to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, reflected in the River Aln

Alnwick Castle, home to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, reflected in the River Aln

Maintenance of the castle costs more than £1.5 million a year. Ralph and Jane had to make the castle work in the 21st century, as a home, a tourist spot and historical treasure, fighting against convention with a raft of visitor attractions, jousting sessions, gift shops and tearoom, and a few controversial decisions.

Over the years, the castle has featured as a backdrop for Blackadder, Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, Elizabeth, Mary Queen Of Scots, Transformers and the Christmas special of Downton Abbey.

But it was Harry Potter — and, in particular, the broomstick lessons and Quidditch matches — that really changed things.

‘There’s been a huge Harry Potter effect and we’re very grateful for it,’ says Ralph. ‘We do as much Harry Potter stuff as possible and it just doesn’t seem to die out.’

Over the centuries, Alnwick has had so many incarnations, lurching from good fortune to bad and back again with every new monarch. 

During the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the Percys abandoned Alnwick as the north was considered too dangerous. 

By the 18th century they were back, and the place was abuzz. There was a staff of more than 200 maids, cooks, valets, butlers, grooms, ten priests and, at one point, even a resident executioner.

Now the staff seems to consist mostly of guides, shop assistants, cafe workers and gardeners. The Percys themselves have a daily as well as a chef.

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Source: Daily Mail |World News

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