Businessman shells out for £2m Kings Weston House no one wanted
A BUSINESSMAN has launched a personal crusade to restore one of Bristol's most historic and best loved buildings back to its former glory.
Norman Routledge is now the proud owner of Kings Weston House after splashing out several hundred thousand pounds on the property, and is already working on plans to renovate the 300-year-old building.
His plan is to live in the property with around nine or ten friends and also hire out the building as a venue for weddings.
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Kings Weston House is one of the best-known buildings in the area and commands stunning views over the Bristol Channel and the northern suburbs of the city.
Mr Routledge, 55, has spent the last 18 months negotiating to buy the building which has a long and chequered history.
The Baroque mansion was originally built by the influential Southwell family but it has also been used as a police training centre, conference centre and a popular wedding venue.
The last owners went bankrupt just over 18 months ago and Mr Routledge has been talking to the bank about buying the house ever since.
The project to renovate the building will include teams of helpers, and it really is the grandest of grand designs.
Mr Routledge runs Cannon Security – a Filton-based fire and burglar alarm firm – and owns a house in St Andrews.
He said: "I have always wanted to own an old building like this and the opportunity just came along.
"The bank was originally asking for £2 million but there was no way any one was going to lend me the money to buy it.
"As soon as you mentioned that you wanted to buy a Grade I Listed building the banks just walked away."
The father-of-one said: "We tried every way we could think of to buy the house and it has been something of a personal mission. I kept getting turned down but there was no way I was going to give up."
In the end Mr Routledge was introduced to a group of investors willing to buy shares in his company.
He said: "In the end the bank was faced with a choice. They could have left the building to stand empty and let it crumble and fall apart, or the other option was to sell it to me.
"In the end the bank decided to sell but there was no real option because no one else was mad enough to want to take the building."
The businessman owns the property while the surrounding parkland is managed by Bristol City Council.
Mr Routledge already has planning permission to convert the top two floors of the house into living accomodation and plans to sell his house in St Andrews to pay for the restoration work.
The aim is to move in within a matter of months and reopen the building to the public within a year to 18 months.
He said: "I know it sounds a bit odd but my aim has always been to save this great building so people can come along and enjoy it.
"We want as any people as possible to come and visit the house and see for themselves how stunning it really is.
"The reason for doing all of this has always been to save this fantastic building which was just being left to crumble away.
"It has been left standing empty for more than a year and the roof is leaking really badly in some places."
He added: "Most people I have spoken to think we are mad taking on something like this, but that has never stopped me before.
"There is plenty of work to be done but I am sure that it will all be worth it in the end."
Mr Routledge shares his home with four other people but has already convinced a group of around ten friends to move into the new house with him.
He said: "Who would not want to move into a house like this? I can't see why you would not want to live here?
"Obviously it takes a special kind of person to live with other people and you have to learn to be tolerant.
"But I have always lived this way since leaving university and it is just the way I prefer to be.
"The people who are moving into the house have been as much a part of the journey as me and have been involved right from the beginning.
"The deal went through just before Christmas and we can't wait to get cracking.
"I know it is bit more unusual and bigger than normal but you could say that this is my dream house. I guess I just tend to have bigger dreams than most people."