Sophie and I decided to visit Wynyard Gardens even though the flower season was over, we thought we’d do a recce and return in spring if we thought it worthwhile.
The gardens are part of the Wynyard Hall estate, currently owned by Sir John Hall, a North East property developer ( and life president of Newcastle United Football Club). We only saw the hall from a distance as it is a very nice hotel now, but the gardens are open to the public all year round.
The history bit . ( Cup of tea time 🙂 )
We’ll begin by having a look at Charles William Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry. He was born Charles William Stewart in 1778 and was an Irish soldier in the British army, a politician, and a nobleman. As a soldier he fought in the French Revolutionary Wars, in the suppression of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and in the Napoleonic Wars. He was adjutant general to Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) who sacked him in spite of his valour and generally excellent soldiery, as he judged him a “sad brouillon (French for being a knob) and mischief-maker” among his staff. After Charles had finished with all the fighting stuff, his half-brother, Lord Castlereagh (the 2nd Marquess) helped him get into a diplomatic career. He went off to Berlin in 1813, then went off to be the Ambassador to Austria where Lord Castlereagh was the head honcho on behalf of the British Gov’t at the Congress of Vienna. There our Charlie proved his knobbishness with his loutish behaviour, was apparently rather often inebriated, and frequented prostitutes quite openly. He earned himself the nickname of Lord Pumpernickel after a loutish character in a play in fashion.
In 1804 Charlie had married Lady Catherine Bligh, who died in Ireland in 1812, but he found another Missis, Lady Frances Anne Vane, a rich heiress, whom he married in 1819. WTF she saw in him is beyond me but hey ho, different times folks. He changed his surname to hers, and became Charles William Vane, under Royal Licence, as her father had stipulated in his will.
In 1822, his half bro Lord Castlereigh started suffering from paranoia and mental instability, he was possibly affected by syphillis, and possibly being blackmailed for homosexuality, although that may just have been the paranoia talking, either way he wasn’t in a good place, and although friends and family were vigilant, he managed to find a small knife and cut his own throat.
This left Charles to be the 3rd Marquess, and he didn’t do himself any favours during the Irish Famine of 1840 when he and his wife gave only £30 to the local relief committee but spent £150,000 (£13.6 million as of 2020) renovating Mount Stewart their Irish home. Also he led the opposition to the Mines & Colliery act of 1842 in the House of Lords. He is reported to have raged madly against any attempt to deny the collieries the use of child labour. Speaking on behalf of the Yorkshire Coal-Owners Association, Londonderry said “With respect to the age at which males should be admitted into mines, the members of this association have unanimously agreed to fix it at eight years… In the thin coal mines it is more especially requisite that boys, varying in age from eight to fourteen, should be employed; as the underground roads could not be made of sufficient height for taller persons without incurring an outlay so great as to render the working of such mines unprofitable”.
Once married into the Vane family, he used their immense wealth to acquire the Seaham Hall estate in County Durham with a view to developing the coalfields there. He also built the harbour at Seaham, to rival nearby Sunderland. He commissioned Benjamin Wyatt to build the Hall at Wynyard, and it started in 1822 and in 1828 was completed by Ben’s brother Philip Wyatt. Charlie spent £130,000 on it, (£11,824,000 in todays money) and just as it was completed a fire broke out and gutted it!
It was later restored and remodelled by the wonderfully named Ignatius Bonomi. The estate remained in the Londonderry family right up until 1987, though had been let out as a training school for teachers between 1945 and 1960. During this time it lost most of its original contents through sales and breakages.
1987 is when Sir John Hall bought it spending £4,000,000 to restore the house, and hiring Rupert Lord to oversee the restoration . He later moved his company headquarters, as well as his home, into the mansion. The estate, comprising the house and 780 acres of parkland, was listed for sale in July 2002 for £8,000,000. It is now a four-star hotel owned by the Hall family, continuing to occupy a small portion of land.
Garden designer, William Sawrey Gilpin created the initial gardens when the house was first built and instilled gently curved flowerbeds, raised terrace walks, irregularly shaped shrubberies and winding paths to create beautiful images within the landscape. In 1912 Lady Theresa Londonderry recreated the gardens, and kept a garden album which records in great detail the series of gardens she transformed. She created a series of ornamental gardens, including a rose garden, a lily garden, a thyme walk and a herbaceous broad walk, 270 yards long, bounded by a high yew hedge. A wild garden presented a range of shrubs, plants and bulbs in a natural setting, with grass paths, known as ‘the garden river’.
At the turn of the 20th century, visitors flocked to the gardens, which were open to the public three days a week for a considerable part of the year however they closed shortly before the war. In 1987, as well as embarking on major restoration work in the house, Sir John Hall turned his attention to the grounds. Consultants suggested the restoration of the Walled Garden and Italianate Gardens, plans which are now coming to fruition.
refs:-https://www.wynyardhall.co.uk/the-gardens/the-history-of-the-gardens https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wynyard_Park,_County_Durham . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Vane,_3rd_Marquess_of_Londonderry
Well done if you didn’t give up and skip to the pictures!
We decided to do the woodland walk first. It was a beautiful crisp autumn day, the sky was blue, the sun was out, our favourite time of year.
We went down the stairs to get to the woodland walk,
there are some beautiful trees along the way
We came to a little folly, and two little girls ran in to it while I was photographing it
I do like monkey puzzle trees
We came across a little bridge where you could stand and look at the river, Brierly Beck, and I liked the two eagle type statues either side of it
a bit further on we came to what we assumed was an area for kiddies
so many patches of mushrooms along the way
it’s a circular walk and at the point of turning you get to the Hall, which Sophie and I named Riverrun.
you can see an obelisk in the background which was put up to commemorate the Duke of Wellington when he came to visit Charles Vane and was inscribed WELLINGTON FRIEND OF LONDONDERRY, but the Duke didn’t give Charles a place in the government’s cabinet so in 1828 it was altered to ‘WELLINGTON”.
Stay tooned for the return journey and the cultivated gardens.