HALSTEAD’S most historic building will be turned into a hotel, the Gazette can reveal.

John de Bruyne has purchased Townsford Mill, as well as the neighbouring blacksmiths, and has already set his sites on transforming the mill into a hotel. The building was on the market for £895,000, but Mr De Bruyne declined to say how much he paid for it.

The owner of Cambridge’s Antsey Hall and originally of Colne Engaine, Mr de Bruyne saw this as an opportunity too good to pass up.

He said: “Obviously it is very early days, but we see this as a project and the long term plan will be to convert the site into a hotel, as well as having a bar and a cafe. I saw that it was up for sale before Christmas, and straight away I thought wow, that is an opportunity I can’t resist.

It is an unbelievable building and in my opinion one of the most industrial historic buildings in Essex.”

Mr de Bruyne believes Halstead, and the surrounding villages have a lot to offer to tourists.

He added: “Of course I see how a hotel could work in Halstead, Sudbury’s population isn’t much bigger and they have a 64 room hotel. It truly is a lovely part of the world with huge appeal, look at some of the surrounding villages.

“The likes of Clare and Long Melford are beautiful, Halstead as well as Townsford Mill is in an unreal location.”

After visiting the site on a handful of occasions, there is very little he wants to change, aside from the falling water level in the river.

The water level has dropped drastically due to broken sluice gates, but Mr de Bruyne is eyeing a renewable energy scheme.

He added: “I have visited the site a few times, and it is exceptional, but it is a travesty that they have left the river get as low as it has. It is almost criminal, I have tried to contact the Environment Agency already but had no luck.

“I want to see a weir put in there, and I don’t see why it can’t be used to generate electricity too.”

A planning application to convert the building, which will be vacated by tenants including Halstead Town Council, will follow in due course.

The mill, built in 1788, was bought by Samuel Courtauld in 1825, and developed for silk production until 1982.