CHAMPAGNE corks were popped and grand speeches made as an historic site was returned to public ownership for the first time in a thousand years.

Eston Nab, a rocky outpost in the Cleveland Hills, has been bought by a campaign group for £15,000.

The area contains iron and bronze age remains and a monument made out of stone that was once a beacon tower, built in 1808 in the Napoleonic Wars to warn of invasion.

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A red bow was tied around the monument and cut by Daphne Havison, the daughter of Charlie Burdett who lived in the old watchtower in the 1920s as about 140 people cheered. Mrs Havison’s great granddaughter and great-grandson, Ellie Halliday, 8, and Jay Halliday, 5, also attended.

The site has been bought by The Friends of Eston Hills, a community heritage and conservation group that was formed soon after the 214 acre former Wilton Castle estate went on the market in September. The site was split into several lots worth a combined total of £425,000 but the campaigners had not raised enough to buy one lot.

However the land agent offered the group the chance to buy the 800ft-high area around the nab, as it is of such historic interest.

Craig Pancrack, chairman of the Friends of Eston Hills, said: “After the best part of a thousand years if not more since this land was taken from the people, we now officially return Eston Nab to the people, in full and for all time; for all people to walk freely upon it and enjoy it and we hope actively conserve and protect it. It must never again become private property for this land is public land. For everyone. Forever.”