It’s surprising to hear Bruno Herdeiro say: “In the last couple of weeks, things have been going really, really well.”

This is a man who two weeks ago saw Scalesceugh Hall, the Edwardian mansion he has spent much of the past two years renovating, ravaged by fire. His adjoining home was badly damaged. But Bruno, like his wife Anita, looks on the bright side.

“I’m probably as positive as one could be, given the circumstances,” he says. “After the really bad night, we’ve been super lucky. Things have gone badly but they could have gone extremely badly.

“The other houses in the grounds were not affected. If it had been in winter, if we had had some frost, the hall would have crumbled because of the temperature differential. It would have cooled down too quickly.

“It happened mostly internally. If it had gone to the outside we would have lost the building. The stars have aligned for us in being able to save the building.

“There’s a good chance we’ll be able to get it watertight in record time. I’m told there is no precedent in the UK for a building of this size that has been fire-damaged to this extent to be rebuilt in less than 15 months. We want to do it in six months.”

Bruno and Anita bought Scalesceugh Hall, three miles south of Carlisle on the A6, three years ago. They saved it from dereliction. It was to be the centrepiece of their innovative over-55s’ residential development.

Thirteen homes have been built in the grounds. The hall was to be converted into flats with a ballroom and a library. Now they are looking no further than saving it. The vast structure to be repaired, including a new roof and 144 specially manufactured windows, by next April.

“We’ll have a big vinyl cover around the façades. We want to drop that and have the building looking stunning again, for you not to have known that the fire had happened. Like-for-like restoration of the key elevations. And we’re trying to find the biggest marquees in the region. Two big marquees to celebrate. I want everyone to come.”

Anita adds: “And show our gratitude for the help. We always knew that Cumbria was quite special. We’ve had cards from people we don’t know. For me and the children it’s been quite an experience.”

They have four children under 10: another responsibility in this challenging time. Anita praises their school, and the neighbours and fellow parents who have made them food, washed the soot off the walls of their fire-damaged home, plastered walls, painted doors.

Bruno says: “We lost probably 50 per cent of what we had. Everything in the kitchen and living room has burned. We travelled around the world together. We liked to buy some memories that were important to us. All of those have gone. That’s life – it’s fine.”

His and Anita’s backgrounds help to explain their resilience and their sense of perspective. Bruno led the team which created Save the Children’s 10-year global plan. Anita, a GP, worked for the Red Cross in Sri Lanka after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

“What we’ve learned is all about problem-solving in a different context,” says Anita. “Getting people safety and warmth and getting them emotionally better so they can engage with recovery. I just go into default mode. Especially for the children. You’ve got to. I’m 100 per cent sure that our backgrounds put life into perspective as well. Of course things were lost. But we can rebuild that.”

“Straight afterwards, it was really scary,” adds Bruno. “But right now we don’t have the luxury to have an emotional perspective. We have to be practical. And we have got to lead by example. Right now we have to inspire everyone, or the energy levels drop. And what happens is what happens to every other building.”

Their determination to act quickly to save Scalesceugh Hall means they are using their savings to pay for the substantial rebuild rather than wait to see if insurance will foot the bill.

On the cause of the fire, Bruno says: “We’re still waiting on the investigation. The natural assumption is an electrical fault, but we don’t know.

“We are doing all the wrong things from an insurance perspective. You have to go through a lengthy process of following protocols. We are committed to saving the building. There’s a very narrow window in which to do that. The building needs to be watertight as soon as possible. It has been punished enough.

“The risk to the building increases the longer it takes. We are driving the process. Whether that will cost us an enormous amount of money, I don’t know. We’re working on the assumption that we won’t get anything back.”

Anita says they also owe it to those who have bought houses in the grounds to act quickly. “People would have said ‘I didn’t sign up to live next to a ruin.’ People recognise that we can get organised. We stick to what we say we will deliver. I’ve seen what can go wrong if you’re not organised.”

Bruno says: “In 20 years’ time, I want to look at this and say it was a bump. It’s one we won’t forget. But it’s not going to fundamentally change what we are doing.

“We are a man and woman on a mission.”