Find out more about Dissington Hall and the team that keep it running.
ABOUT DISSINGTON HALL
Dissington Hall is a Grade II* listed Georgian mansion, designed by William Newton and built in 1797 by Edward Collingwood, cousin of Admiral Collingwood. Since then it has been home to several other prominent Northumberland families including the Collingwoods, the Bainbridges and the Deuchars.
The building has had an eventful history, especially during WWII when it was used as a TNT storage facility, a hospital facility, and as accommodation for 50 young ladies in the WAAF. There has been damage to the hall over the years, including cracks that are believed to have been caused by a bomb that landed nearby in 1940.
Dissington has since undergone much restoration funded by the Brown family, who have been its private owners since 1968. The building became an exclusive marriage and conference venue from 1992 to 2016, playing host to hundreds of functions and elaborate ceremonies before becoming the thriving enterprise hub it is today.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
The Hall stopped being a wedding venue and re launched as an Enterprise Hub.
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)
From Census Data:-
Edward Collingwood age 59 i.e. Edward Spencer-
Edward Collingwood age 69 (as above) 2 daughters
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 house and sold hall with N Lodge to Mr & Mrs Sharratt
Sold to Mr & Mrs E G Brown