Premier Hospitality

The Black Bull

Black Bull

The Black Bull

Set within the Cumbrian town of Sedbergh, against an idyllic backdrop of leafy fells, The Black Bull is a recently renovated coaching inn and dining room. Previously unoccupied and in some state of disrepair, the 17th century building has been transformed to house a public bar, casual and formal dining rooms and eighteen uniquely designed guestrooms.

The Black Bull is the brainchild of James Ratcliffe and Nina Matsunaga, who are hoping to build on the enormous success of their other Sedbergh venue – the Three Hares Café. With both its food and design, The Black Bull stylishly blends the best of the local area with foreign influences for a truly unique experience.

The architecture and interiors have been overseen by Manchester-based Up North Architects – Patrick Thomas, Darren Keung, Jayne Senior, Reuben Roberts and Joel Donohoe – with Silverglide on board as the main contractor.

For the bedrooms, the company worked with associate bedroom designer Jayne Senior. Speaking to Premier Hospitality, Director Patrick Thomas gave a synopsis of the main design ideas:

“There was a fantastic opportunity to capitalise on the views of the fells from the bedrooms. The building has turned its back on the views. To the rear of the building there are views of Winder Fell but amazingly some bedrooms had no windows facing it. We proposed to remove a number of defunct fire escapes and allowed more of the bedrooms to views of the fells and Sedbergh.

“Each room is different. It’s a very irregular shaped building so we were not in a position to just come up with a couple of bedroom designs. We had to design 18 different bedrooms of different shapes and sizes but they have a common language. We tried to find the right balance of luxury, cosiness and character.

“The building had been gutted so there was no character in the upper levels, apart from the central staircase that has beautiful joinery and a stained glass window. That was essentially a restoration project in the centre of the building.

“James is a local lad and Nina is of Japanese heritage. They are a unique blend and there is elements of Japanese and local heritage in what they do. They asked us to somehow intertwine that Japanese influence whilst also creating and restoring the coaching inn. We focused on restoring the coaching inn and public bar and casual dining in character with the 17th century building and then we evolved the language a little bit for the dining rooms. We gave the dining rooms a simpler, Japanese influence. What we found was that there was a similarity between simple stripped back Georgian and elements of traditional Japanese design.”

Patrick added:

“The owners were also keen to have an elemental approach inspired by the landscape – earth, air, fire and water. The fire became restoring fireplaces that had previously been removed. For earth, we were opening up original stone walls that had been covered over. Water was a concept we embodied in the bedrooms by having this spa approach. Then air we addressed via the creation of the balconies and opening up the building and bedrooms to the landscape.”

While a number of the coaching inn’s original features had been removed or lost over time, subtle nods its history are evident throughout. Alongside the restored central grand staircase for example, original brass coaching lamps for internal wall lighting were sourced and re-purposed.

On the food side, The Black Bull uses the best seasonal and local ingredients sourced from independent producers in the area. The menu is therefore subject to daily change but customers can be sure of standout British, European and Asian inspired dishes.

Reflecting on the importance of working on such a comprehensive project, Patrick added:

“I setup Up North Architects specifically to tackle bespoke and special projects such as this one. This one gave us an ideal opportunity to do what we set out to do. We wanted to go to interesting places, work with interesting buildings and to use our skills give them back to the community.”

For more information on The Black Bull, please visit


Wools of Cumbria

Wools of Cumbria produce 100% pure wool natural and over-dyed carpets and rugs made specifically from the three main sheep breeds of Cumbria, namely Rough Fell, Swaledale and Herdwick. The company works directly with all of its clients. Projects are mainly domestic but they also work with commercial clients on supply of carpets and occasionally tiles, but these are mainly bespoke over-dyed shades – as in the case of The Black Bull Inn.

Premier Hospitality caught up with John Barraclough, to ask a few questions on the company and its involvement with the project on The Black Bull. John commented:

“We have been in operation since 2008 – however prior to this I was involved in the spinning of these wools into carpet yarns for more than 20 years when I came to realise that they made such high-performance carpets.

“With regard to The Black Bull, we have supplied a Blue-tint over-dyed Herdwick carpet for 18 bedrooms and a ‘Bull’s Blood Red’ over-dyed Rough Fell carpet for stairs and landings. The former has the natural grey fibre colouring showing through the blue whereas the latter is a rich plain shade.

“We are particularly pleased to have been specifically asked to make bespoke carpets for this prestigious project using both wools which can be seen on the sheep around our own home town.  Sedbergh is almost in the very centre of Rough Fell sheep country and this is the largest installation of carpet to date using this tough and resilient wool.

“Our main aim is to help to increase the use of all three wools to the point where the price rises to a level which makes it financially-viable for the farmers to shear their sheep and get more of the wool to market.

“As a company, we pride ourselves on being able to use these natural wools as stated above and make a product out of them with no chemical treatments which is all processed in small mills within 100 miles of the centre of Cumbria.”


Phil Constable

Phil Constable is a glass art specialist, utilising methods and processes which date back to Victorian times, to create stunning, bespoke, hand crafted branded and non-branded mirrors. Phil has been in the business for five years and his skills include reverse art, screen printing on to glass, gilding, etching, silvering and antiquing.

Since developing his craft, Phil has been involved with numerous high profile establishments, including Dylan’s in Llandudno; Cane and Grain, Black Dog, Tariff and Dale, and The Tavern in Manchester; and Albion Glass in Northwich. With each project, Phil works closely with clients to develop ideas to ensure the right design is implemented to suit specific requirements.

Most recently, Phil has been involved with the work on The Black Bull in Sedbergh, Cumbria. Commenting on the project, he said:

“This project has meant everything to me, as I love working with glass. As with all my work, I begin with an idea, then using traditional processes I create mirrors that are individual to that project or that person.

“Seeing the finished project in-situ really gives me a great feeling, no matter how many mirrors I have made over the years.”

Phil added:

“I pride myself on my ability to create top quality, bespoke products. Each product is made with care and always with attention to detail.”


Silverglide Limited

Established in 2008, Silverglide Limited is Bolton’s leading commercial builder, specialising in projects within the hospitality, leisure, residential and commercial sectors. Overseen by directors, Rick Cleworth and Tony Judge, the company has built up an excellent reputation for quality, value and reliability to become the go-to contractor in the North West.

The company provides an extensive range of construction, building and maintenance services, including refurbishment and fit out works. Silverglide Limited is backed by a dedicated team of site managers and tradesmen, all boasting years of experience in the industry, while the company portfolio includes schemes for the likes of Thwaites, JW Lees, Hydes Brewery, and Amber Taverns, amongst others.

Richard Cleworth, Owner Director, said:

“At Silverglide Limited, we are large enough to cope and yet small enough to care. We are located in Bolton, Greater Manchester but offer our construction services on a national basis.

“We hold health and safety and environmental responsibilities as core values of the company and this is a key aspect of all the work we do.”

Most recently, SilverglideLimited has been involved with the work on The Black Bull, bringing this beautiful 17th century building back to its prime. Working alongside, Manchester-based practice, Up North Architects, Silverglide Limited oversaw the project as the main contractor, taking the job from start to finish.

Tony Judge, Owner Director, said:

“We valued our involvement with The Black Bull, working on yet another fantastic project in the hospitality sector.”

For further information about Silverglide Limited, please visit:

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