The one thing about living in Newcastle is that there are plenty of places of historic interest to visit. From finding out about the Vikings at Lindisfarne to visiting the Roman ruins at Housesteads and seeing Hadrians Wall or watching knights fighting at Warkworth Castle, you will be spoiled for choice. This weekend we decided to pay a visit to Wallington Hall. Wallington Hall is a country house and garden situated around 12 miles west of Morpeth, near the village of Cambo. It is a huge 13,000 acre estate with a woods, gardens and farmland surrounding it. Owned by the National Trust since 1942 there is plenty to explore and discover.
Northumberland has a turbulent history. On the border of Scotland and England many battles were fought here. It is a county of castles and battlefields. Even in times of peace it was known for border reivers and homes had to be defended. Cattle and livestock were liable to be stolen at any time. Originally Wallington hall was a castle and was owned by John Fenwick, a Jacobite and well known aggressor against the Scots. John Fenwick got into debt and ended up selling the estate to William Blackett in 1688. The Blackett family is well known in Newcastle and were a family of wealthy mine owners. In those days wealthy families usually had a country estate, to escape the smog and fumes in the city caused by the industrial revolution. The Blackett family are responsible for the house of today, knocking down the medieval building and building the new hall and gardens. The cellars are the only part of the original Wallington Hall to survive. Wallington Hall passed into the Trevelyan family via the son of Sir Walter Blacketts sister as he had no surviving children. The Trevelyan family looked after the estate for many years until gifting it to the National Trust.
After parking the car we set off to explore. From the carpark there is a short walk until you reach the arch into the courtyard at Wallington Hall.
The courtyard is large and contains the Clocktower cafe where you can stop for food. There is also a gift shop and an opportunity to buy locally grown plants. The clocktower can also been see if you turn around.
Passing the courtyard you get the first glimpse of Wallington Hall itself, with impressive views across the countryside behind. There are plenty of signposts telling you where to go, you have the option of visiting the house, walking in the East or West woods and visiting wildlife hides. Dogs are welcome at Wallington Hall, but are not allowed inside the house. They do need to be kept on a lead in the grounds.
The day we visited was rather a wet and miserable day. We decided to take advantage of a lull in the rain to visit the Walled Garden. The garden is accessed via the East Woods which are entered by crossing the road.
There are a number of different routes you can take to the Walled Garden, each signposted with approximate walking time. We took the most direct route though the woods past the Garden Pond.
The woods at Wallington Hall are home much of our native British wildlife, from red squirrels to otters, bats and great spotted woodpeckers. I was hoping we might see a red squirrel but we were not lucky. The woods were filled with birdsong as we walked along. Turning a corner we found the garden pond.
Duck and moor hens were swimming on the surface and in the middle an artificial island has been created to create a habitat for otters and water voles which live here. Suddenly a great honking noise rang out and family of geese flew in, landing with a splash on the surface of the water. The peace was broken by their honking as they swam around, claiming the pond for their own. A moorhen scuttled in front of us, not sure where to go.
Reaching the far end of the pond we came across Neptune’s gate and the entrance to the Walled Garden. It was about a ten minute walk from the main house.
The first thing that caught our eye were the statues along the length of the wall. We passed Scaramouche, ladies dancing, soldiers and many others.
There were plenty of hidden secrets in the garden. Paths with arches, secret fountains and quiet pools. It must be a magical place to visit in the Summer when the sun shines. At the far end of the garden is the Edwardian Conservatory which is home to a wide array of plants. You can go inside but we wanted to get back to the house before the rain began again.
On our way back to the hall we noticed some statues on the far side of the lawn. I went over to investigate and found that Wallington Hall is guarded by dragons. Every stately home should have dragons.
The interior of the hall is beautifully furnished though out and full of surprises. Each room contains an information sheet with history of the room and guides are on hand to answer your questions.
The discrete entrance hall does not prepare you for the stunning central hall that is just around the corner. This was originally an open courtyard surrounded by the four wings of the house but Lady Trevelyan decided to put a roof over it. Pre-Raphaelite artist William Bell Scott designed the paintings on the walls, these depict great moments in Northumberland history from ancient times to the modern. There are panels depicting the Romans, Grace Darling and her father rowing to rescue sailors stranded off the Farne Islands and the Industrial Revolution. Large owls, the families emblem, are perched on the walls and above the murals are the faces of historic figures from Northumberland’s history. It is stunning and must have been a talking point when visitors came to visit the family.
The kitchen is a complete contrast to the splendour of the hall and gives you a feel of what it must have been like to work in the house. A coal fired stove was used for cooking and heating water which would have needed to be cleaned out every day. Large tables were used to prepare the food, much of which would have come from the estate. It is a complete contrast to kitchens of today.
You can take afternoon tea in the house in a 1940’s tearoom. Chairs and tables fill the room and a vintage radio plays 1940’s music. It is worth peeping in even if you don’t stop.
The house is filled with many interesting rooms, each of which you can linger in for a while. A parlour, with a large sewing box beside a chair where much sewing would have been done. A gorgeous library with plenty of books, a drawing room and dining room. The library was well used and apparently the estate owner used to lend the books to the people who worked on the estate. When they bought the books back they had to answer questions about them as a way of educating them.
There is also a room filled with dolls houses and toy soldiers. These were very much used by the children of the time and are a fascinating look at how childhood used to be. The oldest dolls house dates back to 1835. The detail in the houses is incredible.
The upper floor of Wallington house contains the bedrooms, beside one of the beds is a bath which fascinated my son. It must have been back breaking work to carry hot water upstairs to fill it up. He did not notice the chamberpots in each room. There is also a nursery with dolls and teddies. The china dolls are fascinating to look at today, they are so different from the toys we have now.
The final flight of stairs takes you to a strange room holding the Cabinet of Curiosities. All many of items can be found here from stuffed birds to fossils and even a puffer fish. It is almost a museum in its own right.
We really enjoyed out visit to Wallington Hall and left feeling we had learnt a lot. There is a lot of the grounds that we did not manage to visit on this occasion. You could easily spend a day here exploring everything. The cost to visit is £11.40 for an adult, £5.70 for a child or £28.50 for a family. It is slightly more if you include gift aid and National Trust members get free entry.
I was sent a pass to enable me to visit Wallington Hall but my opinions are my own.