A year after a devastating fire ripped through Scalesceugh Hall, the iconic landmark has been visited by people who have helped to transform the building all over again.
Fire crews from Penrith, Appleby and Lazonby joined four other stations in tackling the huge blaze which gutted the Edwardian mansion at Carleton.
The Edwardian mansion was in the process of being converted into luxury retirement apartments, and restoration work had just been completed on the roof and 144 windows.
All the hard work was destroyed in the freak fire, along with part of the family home owned by Bruno and Dr Anita Herdeiro, who have four young children.
Now, work is being finished on the first show apartment in the hall, for launch at the end of the month, after a remarkable new restoration effort, achieved through two of the worst storms in British history, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many people involved in the rescue and restoration over the past 12 months were invited to see the progress which has been made.
Bruno Herdeiro admits he went into practical mode on the night of the fire, recalling: “I had to be focused to make the right decisions. We had to make sure the fire didn’t spread to neighbouring properties and take any lives.
“The reality did not hit until much later, when the fire brigade had left and I had to start thinking about rebuilding.”
With only the external walls standing, and unstable, Bruno made the decision to save the building, forfeiting any insurance money that might have been available.
The Herdeiros had to move to a hotel, while their own home was repaired, but received a lot of support from local people.
“It’s one of the big things about Cumbria,” said Bruno. “There is a strong sense of community. Everyone comes together.”
He decided to fight back with an ambitious plan that many thought impossible.
“The building was listed because of its architectural merits — the detail in the sandstone, the arches and pillars,” he said.
“Our priority was to return all those features, so if you drove past on the A6, like thousands of people do every day, a year on, you would not have known that there had ever been a fire.”
The task was made even more difficult by two of the worst storms Britain has seen in recent years, followed by the coronavirus outbreak which slowed supplies of materials.
To save time, a team of skilled craftspeople from across Cumbria was hand-picked by Bruno, instead of putting contracts out to tender. But he admits it has been hard work.
“The biggest challenge for us was exhaustion. We have gone right to the limit of delivering what any of us could manage.
“We have used every last penny we had, sold some of our villas, and still had to rely on the bank for extra help.”
Bruno’s wife Anita has been working at the same time on the front line as a GP through the pandemic, and all money she has earned from this also went to restoring the hall.
The result is 15 luxury apartments with a communal lounge and cinema.
A spa and wellness centre is also close to completion.
The apartments are officially launched next Saturday and the first people are expected to move in at the start of the new year.