SKILLED TEAM: Father and son team David and Jonny Harper to convert former day hospital into homes
SKILLED TEAM: Father and son team David and Jonny Harper to convert former day hospital into homes

PLANS to convert the site of a former social services building into eight townhouses have been approved by Durham County Council.

Father and son team David and Jonny Harper have been given the go ahead to turn Bede House and Claire House, off Victoria Road, in Barnard Castle, into six terraced houses and build an additional two semi-detached homes.

The two storey buildings had most recently been used as social services offices and a day centre but were originally built as a hospital and infectious ward for Teesdale Union Workhouse.

The buildings’ original function was to serve the people of Teesdale as day hospitals for the workhouse, which was demolished some time ago.

The workhouse was designed by prominent architect John Green in 1838. It was demolished some years ago.

The papers relating to the Teesdale Workhouse Union have also been lost.

The hospitals were built at a later date.

A competition was run in the Teesdale Mercury in the mid-1980s after campaigners lost their 30-year battle to keep Bede Day Hospital open and the buildings were closed and converted to form a social services centre.

Barnard Castle resident Kath Cosgrove’s suggestion was chosen and the building was renamed Claire House after one of the centre’s social workers, Claire Edwards.

Mr Harper, who runs Harpers of Barnard Castle with his father David, said: “There’s a lot of building work going on in the town at the moment, but these buildings are special. They’ve been empty for some time and it would be a great shame to see buildings like these just deteriorate.

“The amount of character they have is amazing. These days you couldn’t afford to build properties to this level commercially and it would

be sad for the town to lose them.”

Mr Harper, 27, who is a trained carpenter, says they hope to retain as much of the character as possible.

He said: “It’s not every day you get the opportunity to work on buildings like these. We want to be able to retain the names of the buildings as they mean a great deal to people of Barnard Castle.”