EIGHT people are packing their bags ready to take up the housing offer of a lifetime.

They were chosen from about 400 hopefuls who applied to live in Tunstall Court - a 30-room Georgian mansion in Hartlepool - for £25-a-week, with all bills and council tax paid.

Hartlepool Borough Council, which owns the former adult education centre, came up with the idea of having live-in caretakers look after the property until its long-term future could be secured.

It had been costing the council £165,000-a-year to keep Tunstall Court open and it closed to the public last autumn.

A council spokesman said: "We have been delighted with the considerable interest this has generated.

"The eight people chosen will now live temporarily in selected areas of the building to help keep it secure while it is marketed for sale.

"We hope that those people will have moved in by the end of this month."

The property, situated on the edge of the West Park area of Hartlepool, was the home of the Furness family during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and has strong connections with the town's industrial development.

Camelot Property Management has been assigned to look after the vacant building and has just finished vetting potential housesitters.

Business development manager Christopher Okpa said: "We've had a wide variety of people applying for this opportunity.

"They applied via a website and we chose the best candidates from that.

"Now we have eight people ranging from students and policemen to nurses.

"They will have to live there and take care of the property, including mowing the lawn and general maintenance."

Before the decision to mothball the home, council officers were looking at a number of possible uses.

These included residential accommodation or a hotel and conference centre.

A cabinet report had earlier dismissed plans to turn it into a late-night licensed bar.