Leeds pair's castle is Britain's best home

TONIGHT a Yorkshire castle named Britain's Best Home is the focus of a TV special. But behind the award are the success stories of two very different men.

BEN Huckerby's relentless socialising probably contributed to a lecturer on his design course at Leeds Metropolitan University telling him he was lazy and would never make it in the world of interiors.

But it was also thanks to his enthusiastic networking in the upper circles of cool Leeds that he met Terry George and, as a tender 22-year-old, was handed control of the renovation of a Grade II listed castle.

"It really was amazing." said Huckerby. "Most graduates from design courses struggle to get by, making tea in an architect's office waiting to get their first break.

"And there I was actually living in a castle for three years while I did the place up – unbelievable. I lived and breathed the place, but it wasn't all glamour. It wasn't just curtains and cushion covers – I was there in the lake, knee deep in mud pulling out weeds too."

Huckerby's contribution to Carr Hall Castle scooping the award for Britain's Best Home can't be underestimated.

He worked largely with Terry's partner Michael Rothwell (who has more of an eye for design than George) to create the finished product.

Now 27, he insists the project still isn't 100 per cent complete. But when the judges visited earlier this year it was enough to enchant viewers with its mix of grand Victorian exterior and lavish contemporary interior.

Huckerby said: "We had an overall vision and one of the goals we set ourselves was making views, creating windows and positioning things so that every time you looked out you looked on to something, whether that was something like an oil painting or the swimming pool. And we also restored a lot of original features, like arrow holes in the walls which had, unbelievably been plaster-boarded over.

"And a lot of changes were structural too. We added the pool, and the problems you have to contend with when you're building on to a listed building are a nightmare."

Since the castle, Huckerby has gone on to set up his own eponymous design company and is fast becoming the Leeds interior designer of choice, partly thanks to working closely with another Leeds socialite and businesswoman Deborah de Vittoris.

Now bearing his hallmark are bars Fibre, Oracle and OK Karaoke as well as restaurants Noode, Waterfront and Battered. He's currently working on more grand residential products.

"My own style is a certain contemporary opulence," he said. "But the key is getting to know the client and finding out what they want and need, so if that look isn't right for them, I can create a look that is.

"And that's why meeting people socially really helps because it's the best way of getting to understand their lifestyle, because that's what my design is all about – lifestyle.

"I've succeeded partly because of getting to know people. But I also think it's not just who you know, it's what you know about them."

Council house to castle.......

TERRY George extends a well-heeled shoe from the door of his giant BMW, emerges in front of a row of Leeds terraces and adjusts the Vivienne Westwood shirt ready for his close up.

There are few more incongruous images than this rather ostentatious millionaire standing in front of a block of back-to-backs in one of the city's more modest suburbs.

And yet this upwardly mobile nightclub tycoon and recent winner of Channel Five's Britain's Best Home title is right at home on this street

He may now reside in Carr Hall Castle – a 3.7m turetted pile in a 10-acre deer park – but the teenage Terry George, now 43, started out in a back-to-back at No.4 Prospect Terrace, Bramley.

"I bought this place back in 1984," he recalls. "And it was actually a very pleasant cosy house to live in, it was a nice area and the neighbours were great. "In fact even though it's a long way from what I have now I can put my hand on my heart and say I could go back to living there."

It's a different story in another part of Bramley where Terry lived almost from birth right up until he left home at 17. At 20 Raynville Crescent he lived in a council house with his parents and sister Rosemarie in comparative poverty.

"We had no gas and the electricity was cut off," he said. "We paid a neighbour to run a cable from the back of our house to theirs just to get what power we could.

"I started collecting glasses at a nightclub and even worked in a pickle factory just to get money to get everything turned back on.

"And it was hard. I remember we could hardly ever have a bath, the house always felt dirty and we were truly skint – and I mean so short of cash we could hardly pay for a pint of milk or a loaf of bread.

"You always seem to remember the good times, but when I really think back they weren't the best of times, I was quite unhappy in lots of ways.

"And I think that if I hadn't have come from a background like this I wouldn't have been so ambitious and driven. All I remember was thinking: One day I want a great big house wth a swimming pool – oh, and a BMW."

Carr Hall Castle will feature on tonight's

Own Britain's Best Home on Channel Five at 8pm.

Paula Dillon, President of Leeds Chamber Commerce.

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