Tag Archives: John Dobson

LONGHIRST HALL

When coal ruled the north-east. Once the home of ‘Old King Coal’ – one of England’s wealthiest men

Longhirst 1 (childrenshomesorg)

This imposing country house is enjoying a renaissance after a spell in the doldrums. Longhirst Hall, at Morpeth, has been reinvented as four luxury properties alongside several new-builds in its grounds. The centrepiece of the development is Longhirst Hall itself, boasting the original main entrance, a pedimented portico suspended on giant Corinthian columns which opens into an ashlar-faced central hall with Ionic columns, and a central glazed dome. The sweeping Imperial staircase to one end has a wrought-iron balustrade with an anthemion frieze, which wraps around the galleried first-floor landing. Above, the coffered dome is a direct replica of the Roman Pantheon. The property is on sale at Sanderson Young with a guide price of £1.25 million.

Longhirst 2 (Chronicle Live)
Longhirst Hall was built between 1824-1828 for William Lawson, a local landowner and member of a prosperous Northumberland farming family. The architect was John Dobson (1787-1865), born at Chirton, North Shields, who spent most of his life in Newcastle working on numerous private and public projects. One of his most influential creations was Newcastle Central Station and the iconic Grey Street. He was the ‘real author’ of Gothic Revival having built some of the earliest churches in this style. Dobson moved to Longhirst after completing Mitford Hall, also near Morpeth.

William Lawson (1775-1855) remained until his death and the property passed to his eldest son, William John Lawson (1822-1859), who died at Pau, in the south of France, after a lingering illness. He had been custodian of Longhirst Hall for a brief period of four years.

By the death of his eldest brother, the Reverend Edward Lawson (1824-1882), succeeded to the family estates. He was a man educated for the church and for two years was the rector of Bothal. Edward qualified as a magistrate in 1861 and was responsible for working the coal found underneath the estate. He created the nearby model colliery village, built schools and had genuine regard for its inhabitants.

Following his death in 1882, Longhirst Hall was inherited by his son, William Edward Lawson (1855-1944), who turned out to be the last of the family to live here.

He appears not to have had much interest in the house and it was briefly let to Charles E. Hunter (1852-1917), a man well-known through his association with the coal trade, as well as his political work and an active interest in sport.

Longhirst 1 (Sanderson Young)

Longhirst Hall and its 740 acres had fallen into disarray and in 1887 was put up for sale. After a spirited competition it was bought by James Joicey, the MP for Chester-Le-Street, for the sum of £53,000.

James Joicey had married firstly Elizabeth Amy Robinson (d.1881) and secondly, Margaret Smyles Drever (d.1911). He was created 1st Baronet Joicey of Chester-Le-Street in 1893 and was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law by Durham University.  He became a JP for County Durham, a Deputy Lieutenant of the same county, and in 1906 was created 1st Baron Joicey of Chester-Le-Street.

James Joicey (1846-1936) had risen from a clerk’s position at his uncle’s coal office on Quayside, Newcastle, to become one of the largest coal-owners in the country, and one of the biggest individual employers in the world. Nicknamed ‘Old King Coal’, he was the chairman and managing director of James Joicey and Company and the Lambton Collieries, the two largest colliery companies in County Durham.

Lord Joicey - Leeds Mercury - 23 Nov 1936 (BNA)
James Joicey, 1st Baron Joicey of Chester-Le-Street (1846-1936). Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Joicey was an active Parliamentarian and sat for an unbroken 21 years. It ended in 1906 when the Liberal Government came into office and he was given a peerage to strengthen the Liberal Party in the Upper House. In 1931 he switched to the Conservatives ‘in an independent’ capacity.

Always a fierce and outspoken critic, Joicey made no secret of his belief that politicians “had let us down badly”. Speaking in 1935 he said, “A dictator who could keep a firm hand on politicians, as Mussolini has done in Italy, would be the saviour of our land.”

Joicey might well have been one of those autocratic coal-owners often featured on the pages of Catherine Cookson novels. He didn’t endear himself to women and strongly opposed the idea of them becoming MPs, believing it too premature. Despite his political career, he feared for the future of the coal industry and blamed his colleagues. “Today, the most harm done to the coal trade is by the constant interference of politicians and the Government.”  

Longhirst 5 (Sanderson Young)
Image: Sanderson Young.
Longhirst 13 (Sanderson Young)
Image: Sanderson Young.

Lord Joicey made several additions to Longhirst Hall, but in 1907 looked elsewhere to expand his estates. He purchased Ford Castle in north Northumberland and added the adjacent Etal estate a year later. Resident at Ford Castle he put the Longhirst and Ulgham estates near Morpeth up for auction in 1921. They failed to find a buyer and Longhirst Hall was occupied by his two sons – James Arthur Joicey and Hugh Edward Joicey .

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - 14 Sep 1921 (BNA)
From the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 14 September 1921. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

When Lord Joicey died in 1936, his eldest son, James Arthur Joicey (1880-1940), moved to Ford Castle and his brother Hugh to Etal Manor. These were troubling times. In 1929 the 2nd Lord Joicey’s son, also James, an officer in the 17th/20th Hussars had been killed while taking part in a horse race at Folkstone. By the late 1930s the coal industry was struggling and incomes from the agricultural estates were in decline. James Arthur Joicey had been shell-shocked in 1915 and suffered from depression as a result. His elevation to the peerage proved too much and in July 1940, after leaving a letter to his wife, his ‘brain in a storm’, was found shot dead on Ford Castle’s lawns.

Longhirst 6 (Sanderson Young)
Image: Sanderson Young.
Longhirst 7 (Sanderson Young)
Image: Sanderson Young.

Longhirst Hall had long fallen out of favour with the Joicey family. In 1937 it had been sold to alderman William Strafford Sanderson (1880-1973), the deputy mayor of Morpeth. It was an interesting purchase for the councillor and one that might be questioned today. Sanderson remained a couple of years and was responsible for gifting a gymnasium from the grounds of Longhirst Hall for use as a pavilion in Proctor’s Field in Morpeth.

In 1939 the house was offered as a Joint Infectious Disease Hospital, a scheme involving Newbiggin, Ashington and Bedlington Urban Councils, and Morpeth Borough and Morpeth Rural Councils. It was the favoured property and it might have provided Sanderson with a tidy sum of money. However, the Ministry of Health was concerned about the large amount of land involved in the purchase, and the sale fell through.

W S Sanderson - Morpeth Herald - 14 Nov 1913
Alderman W.S. Sanderson. From the Morpeth Herald. Seen here as a young man in 1913. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Longhirst was quickly sold to Mr G. Moore of Kenton Hall who took up residence in September. Better known as Harry Moore, the son of William Moore, who founded Moore’s Stores of Sunderland in 1907, he had taken over the family business in 1930. The grocers and provisions merchants eventually had 114 branches across north-east England. (In modern times the stores were taken over and incorporated into the Lipton’s and Presto supermarket chains). Harry Moore lived here with his wife Maud and was later honoured when his racehorse won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1958.

From the Morpeth Herald - 26 Nov 1937. (BNA)
Sale notice from the Morpeth Herald. 26 November 1937. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

 

Longhirst 2 (Sanderson Young)
Image: Sanderson Young.
Longhirst 3 (Sanderson Young)
Image: Sanderson Young.
Longhirst 4 (Sanderson Young)
Image: Sanderson Young.

During World War Two the house was requisitioned by the Army as a billet for officers, while the troops camped in the grounds.

After the war, some of the Nissen huts in the parkland were taken over by several families who had moved here from Pegswood. They were effectively squatters, the 27 people living here had no water or light and carried water from the main house.

Undoubtedly damaged by wartime occupation the house was vacant, and the Moore family eventually sold it to the Home Office in 1948. It was used as an approved school accommodating up to 72 boys, aged below 13, at the date of their admission. In 1973 it became a Community Home with Education under the control of the Northumberland County Council.

The community home closed in 1982 and suffered at the hands of vandals. The house was being considered as a school for children with learning problems, but an inspection revealed the house had rotting roof timbers and the emergency repair bill would cost about £9,000. The county architect had warned that the lack of heating might cause considerable damage but Longhirst Hall remained empty.

In poor condition the mansion was left to decay for ten years. In 1992 it was bought by a private investment company who completed extensive renovations, combined with new-build facilities, to become a management training and conference centre. It was let to Northumbria University who used the house until 1992 before it was sold to become a 77-bedroom country house hotel, popular as a wedding venue.

The hotel closed in March 2014 after its parent company went into receivership. It was an unfortunate turn of events but one that heralded a new future for Longhirst Hall.

It went on sale with Strutt & Parker for £1.65 million and in 2015 was acquired by Durham-based De Vere Homes; within 12 months work had started to convert the estate into 28 luxury homes.

According to Sanderson Young, the main reception rooms are adorned with ornate plasterwork and have full-height windows. The drawing room is especially stately, with semi-circular bow windows and views across the Capability Brown-style garden with its ha-ha overlooking the paddock.

The breakfasting kitchen has three sets of full-height shuttered French windows and a baronial tiled fireplace. It has a new bespoke kitchen and the same approach will apply to all bathrooms and en-suites.

It also includes a library and study, as well as a back staircase and cavernous cellars.

There are seven bedrooms split over two floors with the four bedrooms on the first floor opening off the galleried first-floor landing which is illuminated during the day by three glazed roof lanterns, each set within its own ceiling dome – and at night by concealed lighting.

CLEADON PARK

A classical Georgian-style mansion built on the proceeds of glass-making and enhanced by coal profits.

Cleadon Park (South Tyneside Libraries)
On this day, 100 years ago, an important proposal went before South Shields Town Council that recommended the Housing and Town Planning Committee acquire the Cleadon Park estate (then in County Durham), belonging to the late James Kirkley, about a mile south of the town.

Following James Kirkley’s death in 1916 the estate had been on the market, but the council had no power to purchase it outright. The Mayor, Councillor A. Anderson, instead entered into a personal contract to secure the demesne at the stated price of £18,000.

The completion was set for August 1st and he had offered to give the council the opportunity to obtain possession of the estate at the sum he had agreed to pay for it.

The original house had been an old farmhouse called Cleadon Cottage and by 1839 was owned by Robert Walter Swinburne (1804 -1886), a South Shields’ glass manufacturer. (In 1850 his company provided half the glass used in the construction of the Crystal Palace).  In 1845 Swinburne commissioned the architect John Dobson to redesign the property, constructing a two-storey classical Georgian mansion with an additional new 8-bay south wing.

Swinburne later moved to Highfield House, Hawkstone, and by the 1860s the estate had passed into the hands of Charles William Anderson (1827 -1906), a conspicuous figure in public life and a lieutenant in the South Shields Rifle Corps. As well as being a banker, he was one of the principal colliery owners in Durham and Northumberland, with interests in both the Harton Coal Company and the Bedlington and Heworth Coal Company.

Anderson remained until 1875 and there were attempts to sell the property. However, Cleadon Park appears to have been tenanted by several wealthy individuals instead. These included Mr A.M. Chambers, Mr Peter Sinclair Haggie, coal-owner and rope manufacturer, who later removed to Windsor Terrace in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and The Limes at Whitburn, and Mr John Salmon, an ardent lover of the sea.

As well as owning property at 31 Park Lane, London, Anderson returned to Cleadon Park in the 1890s and, despite attempting to dispose of the estate in 1904, owned it until his death in 1906.

Shields Daily Gazette - Sat 10 Jul 1875 (BNA)
An advertisement from the Shields Daily Gazette in July 1875. Despite the intention to sell Cleadon Park remained in the hands of C.W. Anderson until his death in 1906. (Image: British Newspaper Archive).

James Kirkley (1851-1916), a solicitor, arrived at Cleadon Park in 1907 after inheriting considerable wealth from his cousin.  He became a director in the Harton Coal Company and now had the means to live the life of a country gentleman. In a twist of irony, one of his first tasks was to oppose a proposal for a new infectious diseases hospital nearby. He stated he had spent thousands of pounds on Cleadon Park and wouldn’t have done so if he thought the corporation was going to put a fever hospital in his midst. ‘If he had thought the hospital scheme was going on he would never have come to live at Cleadon Park at all, and the town would have been poorer by £6,000 or £7,000 a year.’ 

In addition to Cleadon Park, standing in 10 acres of grounds surrounded by trees, he also tenanted Fairlight Hall, near Hastings, owned by the Shadwell family,  where he spent six months each year. Kirkley later hired J.H. Morton & Sons to create a new palm house, tropical plant house and formal gardens at Cleadon Park but he died before the work was completed.

Cleadon Park (South Tyneside Historic Images Online)
The glass covered Tropical House at Cleadon Park with palm trees reaching up to the roof. (Image: South Tyneside Historic Images Online).

Following Kirkley’s death the estate remained on the market until the intervention of Councillor A Anderson in 1918. His purchase had also included Cleadon Park Farm and a piece of land opposite Cleadon Park Gates containing over 51 acres.

After weeks of delays the council eventually decided to proceed with the proposal. A portion of the estate, comprising about 130 acres, was appropriated for houses under the Housing of the Working Classes Act, and the remaining 65 acres, including the mansion house, buildings and offices, be used for an infectious diseases hospital, a tuberculosis sanatorium, and a hospital for maternity treatment.

The house became a sanatorium between 1921 and 1967, later becoming Cleadon Park Hospital, closing in 1979. It was demolished in 1981.

James Kirkley (South Tyneside History)
James Kirkley ((1851-1916), J.P. a native of South Shields, who took an interest in the welfare of the seaside borough and its residents. In early life he studied law and practised as a solicitor. In 1892 he went to London where he continued his professional career until 1906 when, succeeding to the estate of his cousin, returned to his native north east and took up his residence at Cleadon Park. (Image: South Tyneside History).
Cleadon Park (Google Maps)
Cleadon Park was demolished in 1981. Modern housing stands on the site of the old house and this aerial view suggests that an original wall in the courtyard may have been used as a retaining wall to an adjoining property. (Image: Google Maps).

AXWELL HALL

axwell-hall-1-axwellpark-co-uk
The focal point of the estate, Axwell Hall, a nationally important jewel of Palladian architecture and for this reason is listed as Grade II* by Historic England (Axwell Park)


Built: 1758
Architect: James Paine
Private apartments
Grade II* listed

“Ashlar; roof of graduated Lakeland slate. 3 storeys; 3, 3, 3 bays x 1, 3, 1. South elevation: cornice to rusticated ground floor; central three bays project under open pediment containing later corbelled arms.” (Historic England)

Axwell Hall , a house once so splendid, it is hard to believe that it fell into spectacular decline. So dramatic was the decay that by rights it should not be with us today.

In its heyday it belonged to the wealthy Clavering family with prosperity gained through land and mines. They remained custodians for 162 years before economic conditions eventually forced them out.

The Clavering family were descended from 13th century Anglo-Norman aristocracy, the Lords of Clavering and Warkworth, from Alan de Clavering of Callaly Castle, who died in 1328.¹ The lands around Axwell were purchased by James Clavering, a merchant adventurer from Newcastle upon Tyne, for £1,700 in 1629. However, this Lord Mayor of Newcastle would die just a year later.

The estate passed to his John Clavering who died in 1648 but it was his son, Thomas Clavering (1620-1702) who became the first Baronet, ‘Clavering of Axwell’, in 1661. The title was graciously passed down the line until it was handed to Thomas Clavering (1719-1794) who succeeded the title in 1748. He found the existing manor house inadequate for a man of his means and made plans to replace it with something much grander.

Sir Thomas Clavering, 7th Baronet, was MP for St Mawes (1753-1754) and for Shaftsbury (1754-60). He resigned his seat at Shaftsbury to fight for a seat in County Durham but would only succeed in 1768. However, it was a seat he held until 1790. With substantial mining interests, with collieries at Beckley and Andrews House, he had lived at Greencroft Hall (demolished in 1960). In 1782 he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.) by Oxford University².

greencroft-hall-durham-county-council
Greencroft Hall, Lanchester. The former home of Sir Thomas Clavering which was demolished in 1960 for urban redevelopment (Durham County Council Archives)

The old house at Axwell was demolished in 1758 and the architect James Paine engaged to build a Palladian-style house in its place. By all accounts it was not a harmonious relationship between Clavering and Paine, who complained of regular interference in the design by his client.³

Differences apart, Axwell Hall was a resplendent property with parkland laid out in ‘English landscape’ style. It has been suggested the new house and estate was Clavering’s attempt to keep up with the Bowes’ family estate at nearby Gibside.

james-paine-npg
The architect James Paine (1716-1789) and his son (Ashmolean)
000384:Axwell Park engraving 1786
An engraving of Axwell Park from 1786 (Newcastle Libraries)

The next few years saw improvements to Axwell Hall, culminating with significant remodelling by north east architect John Dobson† in 1817-18. A garden temple was erected in the grounds but this has since been demolished.

The Baronetcy became extinct on the death of Sir Henry Augustus Clavering, 10th Baronet, in 1893, but only after he’d made further improvements to the pleasure grounds.  The title now extinct, Axwell Hall remained with the Claverings until the early part of the 20th century. The last occupant was Colonel Charles Warren Napier-Clavering who battled to keep the estate alive but eventually admitted defeat. In 1920 he turned his back on Axwell and moved to Staplegrove House, near Taunton, in Somerset.⁴

002476:Axwell Park Blaydon. Black-and-white photograph around 1920
Axwell Hall shortly before its sale in 1920 (Newcastle Libraries)

The Axwell estate was put up for sale and the inventory provided an insight into the enormous size of the property.  Details in the sale catalogue listed the hall, stables, pleasure grounds, walled kitchen garden, home farm, a gardener’s house, a villa, several lodges, cottages, a dairy and the spa well.

The estate was eventually bought by the Newcastle Industrial and Ragged School founded in 1847 at Sandyside.  ‘There being no agency to bring moral and religious training to bear upon the juvenile depravity and delinquency prevalent in the town’. Its aim was to provide education and industrial training to poor youngsters.

The change of use allowed youngsters from Newcastle, Gateshead, Durham, Sunderland and Middlesbrough to move to Axwell. When it opened there were 153 boys all receiving a dinner of a pennyworth of bread and cheese.

In 1933, Axwell Park as it was now known, became an Approved School, under new legislation introduced by the Children and Young Persons Act, which replaced Reformatories and Industrial Schools. The house was run by the Home Office and received regular mention in newspapers as young offenders were compelled to spend time at Axwell. Locally, the house was referred to as the ‘bad lads’ home.

Forty years later, around 1973, Axwell Park became a Community Home with Education (CHE) under the control of Newcastle City Council. However, the house was in such a poor state of repair that it eventually closed in 1981.⁵

axwell-park-geograph
By the end of the 20th century Axwell Hall was derelict and the park neglected
axwell-hall-2014-chronicle-live
Axwell Hall was purchased in 2005 but was still abandoned in 2014 (Chronicle Live)

For almost a quarter of a century  the house and estate suffered vandalism, arson attacks and had to be boarded up to deter its attackers. Finally, in 2005, it was bought by Eight Property Ltd, which turned the derelict walled garden site into the 18-home Axwell Gardens. In 2016, the £3.3 million Courtyard development was completed with 27 apartments and houses on the site of the former stables adjacent to the hall.

Presently, work is underway to restore the main house, with its interior being converted into luxury apartments.

axwell-park-2016-chronicle-live
Work is now underway to convert Axwell Hall into luxury apartments (Chronicle Live)
axwell-park-2016-3
Years of dereliction are swept away and former glories are revealed (Axwell Park)
axwell-park-2016-2
Rear view of Axwell Hall while restoration takes place (Axwell Park)
axwell-park-2016-1
The £3.3m Courtyard development stands in place of the former stables adjacent to the hall

References:-
¹Sunniside Local History Society
²Douglas Archives Genealogy Pages
³Chronicle Live. 26 Jan 2016
⁴rolyveitch.20m.com
⁵childrenshome.org.uk

Notes:-
†John Dobson (1787-1865). The architect worked in the north east of England. With the builder Richard Grainger he was responsible for the area of Newcastle upon Tyne bounded by Grey, Market and Grainger Streets. He was also responsible for Newcastle’s gently-curving Central Railway Station regarded by many as one of the finest in the country. His best-known country houses are Nunnykirk (1825) and Meldon Park (1832) in Northumberland. 

A collection of old photographs of Axwell Hall by Dig Hastilow, a Clavering descendant, is available to see at Axwell Hall – The Bad Lads School

Axwell Park, Blaydon-on-Tyne, County Durham, NE21 6RB