History of the Buildings:
About the architect
William Newton (1730 – 1798) son of Robert, a shipwright who had become a builder by 1760, the only building to be worked by both was at Simonburn near Rothbury.
Other interesting works; -
- The Infirmary, Times Square 1751-1753
- Capheaton Hall 1758
- St Ann’s Church City Road 1764
- Charlotte Square Newcastle 1770
- Keilder Castle Northumberland 1772
- The Old assembly Rooms Westgate Road Newcastle 1774
- Backworth Hall Newcastle 1778
- Castle Eden House gothic exterior. 1780’s
- Howick Hall Northumberland 1781
- St Nicholas’ Cathedral refitting interior 1783
- Whitfield Hall Co Durham 1785
- Hesleyside (East front) Northumberland 1796
Newton dated the designs for Dissington Hall 1794 and these, (marked “never built” for some reason) are now in our possession. The hopper head and window capstone are both dated 1797. Newton built Dissington in the Classical style as he almost always did, following the lead of Robert Adam and Payne. It is a fine building, in the best tradition of the smaller English country house. It is built of local sandstone in fine Ashlar, so well-made that the joints are barely visible. There are nine windows in the main elevation set in groups of three, with a central projecting bay. The mass of the height is broken by the first floor sill string and ground floor cornice, which is a feature of Newton’s design.
The parkland immediately in front of the house (now owned by the Church Commissioners) is pleasing, with scattered trees in the Capability Brown manner; the railings are wrought iron, with classical finials on the posts. The river Pont runs through it, and sluices south west of the house fed a fishpond and the leat for the mill at the south east near the road. There is also a ram pump, which provided the water for the house until the 1950’s.
There were (until the 1970’s) a series of semi-natural sloping stone dams to widen and enhance the river and lead the eye through to Eachwick Bridge in the middle distance.
There is still evident a derelict icehouse in the woods near the east Lodge (filled with builders rubble in 1956)
The Builder - Mr Collingwood
Edward Collingwood (1734 – 1806) was a barrister of Chirton Hall in North Shields when he commissioned William Newton to build the new house at the manor of North Dissington. (On land bought by a previous Edward Collingwood in 1673 from Sir Ralph Delaval) He was a 60 years old bachelor, and Cuthbert Collingwood wrote “I was surprised to hear that he had really begun to build his house at Dissington, which he has long amused himself with talking of” but that Chirton would “always maintain its preference as a residence”.
This proved to be so as he died at Chirton in 1806. He was the head of the Collingwood family, which included Cuthbert, i.e. Admiral Lord Collingwood. Because he had no direct heir, he left Dissington to his sister’s grandson Edward Spencer-Stanhope of Cannon Hall in Yorkshire, on condition that he changed his name to Collingwood at the age of 25. The Deed Poll (1817) appertaining to this name change has been acquired by us and is now in our possession, as is a portrait of Walter Spencer-Stanhope MP, his father and his trustee until his coming of age in 1816.
Owners over the last 209 years FIG 1
|Edward Collingwood of Chirton Hall (1734–1806) Builder
||owner from1797 to 1806 (9years)
|Held in trust until Spencer-Stanhope came of age
|| in trust from1806 to 1817 (11years)
|Edward Collingwood (formerly Spencer-Stanhope) Married Arabella in 1820
||owner from 1817 to 1866 (49years)
|Their daughter Arabella inherited & married Rev Calthrop who change name in 1868
||owners from 1866 to 1903 (37 years)
|Edward Collingwood (son of above) Married May Raw 1906
|| owners from 1903 to 1955 (52 years)
|The Church Commissioners
||owners from 1955 to 1956 (1year)
||owner in 1956
|Mr & Mrs Sharratt
||owners from 1956 to 1968 (12 years)
|Mr & Mrs E.G.Brown
||owners from 1968 to 1998 (30 years)
FIG 2 Known Occupants
From Census Data:-
||Edward Collingwood age 59 i.e. Edward Spencer-
Stanhope who changed his name 1817 wife Arabella and 2 daughters, Butler, Housekeeper and 13 servants
||Edward Collingwood age 69 (as above) 2 daughters
The second being Arabella married Rev Calthorp who inherited in1868 and changed name to Rev Collingwood as condition of inheritance.
||Joshua Letchford. Visitor of tenant Emerson Bainbridge since 1867
||Emerson Bainbridge of Bainbridge store Newcastle and 4 servants
||Henry Middleton Banker age 45
|| Henry Middleton Banker age 55
||Lord Joicey Father of Colonel Lord Joicey of Etal Manor who was 5 years old when they left
||Edward and May Collingwood (with daughter Eileen age 3) son of RobertCalthorp. Eileen married Frederick Firth in 1934 left for New Zealand Re-married 1943 Robert Blair
|1920 – 25
||Spencer Steel works
|1925 – 29
|1930 - 40
||James Deuchar (Land mine dropped in Parkland)
|1940 – 47
||RAF and Army (W.A.F.S Admin for Polish air force & T.N.T. dump)
||Tailor & Bain (engineering workshops & draughtsmen)
||Mrs May Collingwood (Widow of Edward) Sold Dissington to the Church Commissioners
||Church Commissioners sold Garden, Hall, and N Lodge to Brigadier Saunders Who kept garden and sold hall with N Lodge to Mr & Mrs Sharratt
||Sold to Mr & Mrs E G Brown
Later Georgian Expansion.
The original builder was an ill elderly gentleman who lived in Chirton until he died in 1806, and then the estate was held in trust, so little was probably done to the Hall until after the young Edward inherited in 1817. After 1867 tenants always occupied the hall with 7-year lease being typical, so it is fair to assume that no major building work would be allowed.
Therefore a good working assumption is that most expansion and alterations evident today were carried out by Edward Collingwood (formerly Spence Stanhope); between when he was 28 and married Arabella in 1820and1850, when he was a widower of 58.
This agrees with the Truscan porch date C1820 (Bruce Allsop) clock date of 1846 (PAINE of London); the building of Dalton Church in 1837, the addition of etch-amber glass to the main stairs possibly around 1840 and Collingwood’s expenditure records in the NRO.
Changes to the roofline, entrance and servants stair -
The current west wing once had a higher pitched roof; the flashing marks can still be seen. Newton’s Plans show open poultry houses & a coal store. There is evidence of a different roof structure at the head of the east wing too, probably to accommodate re-routing of east stair.
Part of the mono-pitched roof adjacent to the east wing used to have two-pitches, evidenced today by the timber joist design. The inside the wall in the room immediately north of this shows two coaching arches.
This means that the high wall joining the clock-tower block and the east wing is probably post 1820. This agrees with copies of plans for addition of the Clock tower range held in the County Record Office.
The Truscan porch was added later, the change is shown as a pencil alteration to Newton’s original plans. The servant’s stair that descends from the second story used to emerge in the current Arch room, then probably the servants hall, and had a much less ornate cornice still evident in the void above the arches.
It was altered probably to connect to the East wing at First floor level - hence the addition of the ‘box’ to accommodate the landing. (It is not clear when the lower flight, descending west was added)
This will all have been to allow the current Truscan entrance porch and arched reception room, with its finer cornice work, to link through the imperial staircase and Saloon, guests never meeting servants.
It seems likely that the hall was originally approached for deliveries from the North-East into a walled courtyard (or yards) then only the two-storey part of the East servants wing would have existed, with a single story, pitched roof building to the north, with some other structure possibly only a wall or open poultry sheds where the west wing now stands. The main Entrance could possibly have been in the South front. Evidenced by Newton’s Plans & stonework imperfections.
The East Wing housed a brew-house (&/or Laundry?), servant’s accommodation, head-butlers pantry with stone safes; these may well have housed the silver. There was a stair ascending east central to the wing connecting with servant’s rooms above.
The West Wing was added later too and housed game & meat larders, kitchen with range and outside bell, and the Long Kitchen with two big ranges. There was a stair (ascending west) to the north of the wing, and a smaller winding stair at the south of the wing, both connecting with servants rooms above.
Every window in both Wings looked inwards to the yard, for family privacy.
All the food preparation rooms, brew-house, kitchen, meat larders originally had wrought iron security bars on the windows.
The expansion 1820-1846 continued with initially the clock tower range, less the clock & bell tower, then with the North coach house range, and west stable range which finally formed, with the outer wall, an enclosed courtyard. The exact sequence, nor the architect of all this is still unknown, (William Newton had died by then).
The home farm range is a traditional Northumberland ‘F’ shape layout and comprised 3 pigsties, a small stable, an open hemmel, a slaughterhouse, dog kennels and a bone-rendering boiler. The date is unknown.
The Breakfast Parlour and original butler’s Pantry were knocked through and timber panelling added, with the loss of two fireplaces (evidenced by counting chimneys). Large oak beams support the resultant span; the date of this is unknown.
There must have been a plant here to make acetylene gas from coal as some of the main rooms have old small-bore lead pipes buried in the plaster. Gas lighting started to be popular after 1807 and the Collingwood family had their own coalmines.
There was low-voltage electric bell and indicator system installed using Leclanche wet cells (invented 1866). The system was in use in the 1930s.
The Hydraulic Ram Pump still evident beside the river Pont was manufactured by Green & Carter Ltd at the Vulcan Iron Works in Kingsworthy, Winchester and was installed possibly around 1919. The system is based on the design of Pierre Montgolfier who patented the first automatic pulse valve hydraulic ram pump in 1816 and was used to feed water to the House from the river Pont until around 1958.
During WWII the Dissington Hall was used as a TNT storage facility, a hospital facility, and as accommodation for 50 young ladies in the WAFF, who cycled every day to Ouston Aerodrome (now Albemarle barracks 39th Artillery) to support the Polish Air Force headquarters there.
The changes made were:-
- An engineering brick shed built to house a static fire pump-engine.
- Static water tank to provide fire-fighting supply
- Toilet and septic tank in home farm range used as an office?
- 24ft rope ladder from the second floor window (or earlier??)
- External steel escape ladder from the second floor to ground
- Installation of poor drains, removing vital ventilation to foundations
- Possible Loss of some sections of library bookcases.
- Air-raid shelter added to North West of west wing.
- Damage to main & servants stair by dragging boxes
- A 2nd floor concrete screed laid on the boards above the long kitchen
A bomb was dropped around 1940 this may well have caused the various cracks evident today on the east and South elevations of the main block. Large steel joists have been used to repair the head of the central bay and the ladies morning room ceiling.
A timber-framed agricultural type building with original slate roof near the icehouse was stolen around 1975. All of the lead on the flat part of the main roof was stolen, apparently, around 1947; it was replaced in felt including the main valley gutters. This still causes problems today.
Presumably to enhance the looks of the hall (in C19th?) two external rainwater down-comers were removed from the south-east & south-west corners of the main block, all rainwater was then led into a small gutter on the west and a valley gutter on the east wing. Due to the various extensions as the building evolved, these routes became very long and overloaded and could not cope, thus allowing water into the building.
Failure of the East and West valley gutters and loss of the lead roof covering on the main block allowed water in. This ultimately all led to the problems described below and to the loss of the cornices above the imperial staircase, and in one first floor bedroom.
There have been many serious outbreaks of dry rot, caused by wet rot, caused in turn by both rainwater ingress and poor 1930’s water pipes or backfilling of the foundations.
There are still many untreated timbers or buried timbers within the masonry of the building that are likely to be affected.
Outbreaks discovered and (mostly) dealt with since 1968 have been:-
- in and below the servants stair & behind the Arches (pipe work)
- in the first two rooms in the east wing (pipe work)
- large fruiting bodies in the cellar ceiling (pipe work above)
- floor trusses & skirting behind the library bookcase
- in the west wing central window frame
- where the west wing meets the main block, 2 floors and door lintels 17 beam ends and servants stair
- In the east clock tower range door frames & skirting & stair.
- in the stable block
- many second floor window casings and shutters in the main block
There is still active dry rot in the second floor and main roof timbers.
Post-War Changes to Buildings
The middle drive now a woodland track was closed off to traffic
The Sharrat family, who were building contractors, carried out many repairs to the building. They also made some changes such as the installation of a glazed screen to the original Breakfast Parlour with bevelled glass, apparently salvaged from a Cinema in Newcastle. In 1959 the two lean-to greenhouses were installed from a single salvaged structure cut in half, with low-grade stonewalling below; at the same time the flower beds were constructed alongside the west wing.
The Hall, then disused, was bought in 1968 by E.G & H.M. Brown from the Sharatt family for use as a private dwelling and as a restoration project, In the 1970s and 1980s the family themselves, working with individual craftsmen, tackled a great number of urgent repair and maintenance projects.
The Hall began to be used as a marriage venue and conference centre
- Emerson Bainbridge 1817 – 92. Tennant.1867 – 81
Leased Dissington for two seven year terms then he moved to Eshott Hall which he bought in 1887. He had by then opened his store in Market Street, Newcastle, (now John Lewis) and this was the first department store in Europe, selling the first ready made dresses. He was also among the first to adopt electricity in 1890 and was advanced in staff care, in 1862 the firm had a hostel for staff with library and gymnasium.
- James (Jimmy) Deuchar, tenant 1929 – 41
Managing director of James Deuchar Ltd, brewers and whisky distillers of Edinburgh 1902 -52. Rented the Hall and Gardens until 1940, when a bomb was dropped in the parkland and he immediately moved out to Oakland Manor although the tenancy lasted for 5 more years, Riding Mill. Had a pink Rolls Royce whilst here.
He installed his Billiard Table in the north end of the East Wing, knocking two rooms together. He was a very tall man and had a reputation for drinking and holding wild parties.
- Admiral Lord Collingwood 1748 – 1810
Cousin of Mr Edward Collingwood of Chirton, (the builder of the Hall)
1806 on the death of Edward he inherited the large estate of Chirton North Shields, which included a coal mine. As he was unable to return home from the Mediterranean where he was Commander in chief after the fall of Nelson at Trafalgar the previous year he never lived there, although his wife and two daughters did. The will also had a clause leaving half of Chirton’s library and cellar to Dissington causing much dispute.
Joined navy age 12 At sea 25 years
Home to Newcastle for 7 years married and bought Morpeth. Had children and “visited family in Northumberland”
1793 - Back to sea for 9 years
Home to Morpeth for 1 year for the last time
1810 - Died at sea when returning home
It is very likely therefore that he would have visited the Dissington Hall in 1802 when it would have been be complete in its original form, and probably then only used by his uncle to entertain and impress.