THE POST OFFICE
The Halston is housed in Warwick Road’s former General Post Office which opened on 27th February 1916. The site was previously Bartons Yard (which is where the bar/bistro gets its name from) and home to William Barton and his business partner Robert Tweeddale’s horse harness and coach manufacturing business, which also supplied horses for mail coaches during the 1830s-40s.In the early 1900s, construction company Laings won the contract to build the post office. It carved the fluted columns and intricate design of the building’s neoclassical facade with stone from Blaxter quarries in Northumberland. The building was impressive inside and out, with the horseshoe-shaped public counter on the ground floor made from the finest mahogany. The Warwick Road post office served the people of Carlisle for many years until it was closed in 2008.
In 2011 Burge Halston purchased the building with a vision to bring something new and exciting to Carlisle and plans were drawn up for the city’s first ever aparthotel – The Halston.
The Halston’s car park is situated where the city’s Lonsdale Cinema used to be. Designed by architect Percy Lindsay Browne, who also designed popular cinemas and theatres in the North East, it was first run by Sydney Bacon Pictures and opened in September 1931. With a 48-ft wide proscenium, 26-ft deep stage, stalls, a balcony, six dressing rooms and a top-of-the-range Christie theatre organ, the cinema was able to show films and host stage productions. It was an impressive entertainment venue that featured a large stained glass window in the foyer which depicted Carlisle Castle.
Union Cinemas took over the cinema in 1935, which was in turn taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in 1937. During the 1970s the cinema went through extensive changes, with more screens added increasing the capacity significantly. Part of the building became an Alpha Bingo Club (later Gala Bingo), the Christie organ was sent to Harrogate for preservation and the tenancy was leased to RJ Towers who restored the cinema’s original name: Lonsdale Cinema. When the lease ran out in April 2006 the Lonsdale Cinema closed its doors for good after screening its final ever production, It’s A Wonderful Life.
The Lonsdale was left empty for a number of years until Burge Halston purchased the cinema at auction in October 2013. A detailed assessment of the building was carried out but the only option was to demolish the building. Plans were then drawn up to turn the site into a car park that would not only serve The Halston guests, but the people of Carlisle too.
The renovation programme has transformed Carlisle’s former post office into a magnificent aparthotel. The Edwardian building now has a contemporary edge with many of the original features, such as flooring and banisters, carefully restored and it retains all the structural beauty and elegance it displayed during the early 20th century. As the owners are keen to keep the building’s heritage alive, many of the rooms, bedrooms, function areas and offices have been named after poignant figures and places that have played a key role during the building’s history, such as Bartons Yard, The Exchange, The Mail Room and The Press Room.
Planning permission has been approved for Phase 1 of the expansion of The Halston Aparthotel. This will provide a further eight luxury serviced apartments and a ground floor retail unit of circa 2,000 sq ft. And will link to a new car park on the former Lonsdale Cinema site. Watch this space for further updates…