Author(s): Keith James Bell
Twenty one years ago Keith and Maggie Bell bought Crook Hall and Gardens as a private home and then decided, in what might be seen as a fit of madness, to open it to the general public. This is the story of buying a medieval Manor House situated in the middle of Durham City, and then the extraordinary experience of opening your home to the public. Keith describes how the Hall and Gardens were developed into one of the top tourist attractions in the North of England. This is the story of the practical and emotional struggles through those years and inspiring, engaging and sometimes downright hilarious interactions with each other, the people who came to work for them, and the general public. When they bought the property Keith ran a management consultancy and his wife, Maggie, worked in Child Psychiatry. They had no master plan to build a business from their new home. This story is the record of what happened once they decided to open their front gates to the public. With absolutely no experience of the gardening nor the hospitality sector and little exposure to the difficulties of owning a listed building, this was an undertaking fraught with hazard. Although they had limited time and an even smaller budget they could bring to the project an enormous amount of enthusiasm and energy. The book is divided into various different parts of the project: the period before opening the Hall; the tales of the ghost in the house; the wedding parties; the various events they ran; the different visitors they welcomed, the team they built up to run the house and their future aspirations for this wonderful success story.