If you have visited the quayside at Newcastle Upon Tyne you will be familiar with the Tyne Bridge and the other bridges crossing the river Tyne. What you may not realise is that hidden among the pubs and restaurants that are spread along the length of the quayside is Bessie Surtees House. There are two timber framed houses next to each other, they are 16th and 17th century buildings that are typical of the kind that merchants used to live in.
At that time both the Newcastle and Gateshead sides of the river Tyne had a concentration of factories and warehouses. These buildings escaped the Great Fire of Newcastle in 1854 which was started in a mill on the Gateshead side of the river and quickly spread causing great devastation. It is a wonder these buildings survived.
If you are wondering who Bessie Surtees is, she was the daughter of Aubone Surtees, a prominent Newcastle banker. She fell in love with a young man called John Scott but her parents disapproved of him. She eloped with him, leaving the house though a window. They were married in Scotland and John Scott eventually became Lord Eldon and Chancellor of England.
Outside the house there is a plaque to commemorate this fact.
Inside the house the window is shown by a blue pane. It is quite a long way down to the ground so John Scott must have had to bring a ladder to help Bessie out.
The house now holds English Heritages regional offices but three of the rooms are open to the public. The room Bessie eloped from has a wonderful plaster ceiling which is very ornate and is a lovely example of the architecture of that time.
A middle room is an exhibition telling you the history of the house and has a dressing up box for the children to play with.
Going upstairs you find a third room which again has interesting period features including a lovely fireplace set in wooden paneled walls.
I loved the view of the courtyard which gave a real feel for how it must have looked when the house was inhabited.
Entry into Bessie Surtees House is free and it is definitely worth a visit. I found it very interesting to see a house from those times. My son did wonder how Bessie Surtees managed to fit though the window, but it turned out he thought that the blue pane was the part she went though rather than the whole window!