A PROPOSAL has been unveiled to convert piggeries on an historic estate into a destination for holiday-makers to help fund the maintenance of a listed mansion which spent almost 20 years on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk register.

Agents for the private owner of Sockburn Hall have applied to Darlington Borough Council for planning permission to transform crumbling agricultural buildings that once supplied the ancestral home of the Conyers and Blackett families.

The scheme would see the creation of a holiday let at the piggeries, alongside five holiday lodges, a holiday cottage and a pool building, all within the grounds of the hall, which occupies a small peninsula bound to the west, south and east by the River Tees.

Documents lodged with the council highlight how the hall has been extensively renovated in recent years following a long period of decline which resulted in Historic England listing it as being in peril for almost 20 years.

The papers state: “Our client has invested a considerable sum of money into the Sockburn estate and the current application proposes an income generator to continue those investments and to ensure the ongoing maintenance of the site.

“The proposal seeks to establish a small-scale tourism offer to assist in the ongoing repair and maintenance of the Sockburn Hall estate. This area has considerable historic, archaeological, and architectural interest, which could be enjoyed, interpreted and valued by visitors to the area.

“At present there are no public footpaths and no public access to the Sockburn site, which means that there is a general, local lack of understanding of this considerable heritage and associative value.”

The papers suggest if approved, the scheme could lead to the opening of the site for heritage open days to enhance understanding of the estate.

They state: “Whilst open days could be held without the development taking place, there is no incentive for the owner to do this and it would not happen.”

The hall was built on the site of a medieval manor house, believed to once be the home of Sir John Conyers, the knight that legend has it slayed a ferocious dragon, known as the Sockburn Worm.

The documents state visitors would have the chance to learn about the history of the pre-Norman conquest, medieval and post medieval history of Sockburnm as well as its connections to some of the country’s most famous poets, including William Wordsworth.

The planning papers add the proposals have been developed with the advice of both Historic England and the council.

They state: “The works to the piggeries are the minimum necessary to bring the building back into use.

“The nature of the facility is to provide an ancillary function to the Hall, with the aim of the accommodation contributing towards the restoration of the piggeries and to contribute towards the continued maintenance of the Sockburn Hall estate.”