Cleadon – March 2019

After Sophie and I had finished looking around Souter Lighthouse we decided to go and have a look around Cleadon Village, but before we do lets have a quick look at the Lime Kilns just across the road from the Lighthouse.

These mahousive kilns were built in the 1870’s. Limestone from the quarry and coal from the colliery were fed into the top of the kilns and heated to produce lime for use in agriculture and in the steel & chemical industries. The lime was loaded onto railway wagons known as the Marsden Rattler, and transported to the docks at South Shields. They are a scheduled monument now.

So off to Cleadon then!

Cleadon is a village on the outskirts of South Shields, and it’s where all the posh people live 🙂 . There’s been a village there for over a thousand years and it has a village pond that is a remnant of an ice age lake and dates to Roman times (as do most things!) so we went to see it.

Cleadon Ice Age Duck pond.
Ice Age Daffodils 🙂

We also wanted to see Cleadon Grotto (just because there are no other grotto’s we know of 🙂 ) and went off to Cleadon Park where we thought it was.  Except we wandered around the huge park for ages and couldn’t find it.

But the park was nice to walk in, here are a few shots of it

Crawler Tree
Bread Tree

I’d told Phil we were going to Cleadon and he said to look out for a huge rock in the park.

Phils Rock

Sophie resorted to Lord Google and found out we were in the wrong park to see the grotto 🙄🤭 so back in the car and finally found it.

An 18th century garden ornament that originally overlooked a formal pond in the grounds of Cleadon House. There isn’t a house there now, nor a pond.

And here it is..

Grotty Grotto.

Not very enthralling I admit, but still a little slice of history.

Stay tooned for next time when we’re off to Embleton Bay.




Souter Lighthouse ~ March 2019

The History Bit

On the coast near the village of Marsden on the outskirts of South Shields, stands the rather magnificent looking Souter Lighthouse. This lighthouse was the first in the world to be designed and built specifically to use AC (alternating electric current) and was the most technically advanced lighthouse of its day. Opening in 1871 it was described as ‘without doubt one of the most powerful lights in the world’.  Originally planned to be built on Souter Point, from where it gets its name, it ended up being built on Lizard Point which had higher cliffs and therefore better visibility.  As there was already a Lizard Lighthouse in Cornwall, they didn’t bother to rename it.

The lighthouse was definitely needed by the time it was up and running. Prior to that there had been several shipwrecks at Whitburn Steel, (the name of that bit of coast) due to the underlying dangerous reef. In 1860 alone 20 wrecks had occurred, and it was known as the most dangerous coastline in the country, with an average of 44 wrecks for each mile.

The lighthouse didn’t use incandescent bulbs, but instead used carbon arcs, and the 800,000 candle power light could be seen for 26 miles. The main lens array consisted of a third-order fixed catadioptric optic surrounded by a revolving assembly of eight vertical condensing-prisms which produced one flash every minute. There was extra light to highlight hazardous rocks to the south which was powered using light diverted (through a set of mirrors and lenses) from the landward side of the main arc lamp.

In 1914 it was decided to give up the pioneering electric light and it was converted to more conventional oil lamps with a new, much larger bi-form first-order catadioptric revolving optic, which is still there today.  Then in 1952 it was converted back to mains electricity and the revolving optic was run by electrically run clockwork until 1983.  Sadly the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1988, but continued to serve as a radio navigation beacon up until 1999 when it was finally closed.  No need for lighthouses now what with GPS and satellite navigation taking their place.

Souter Lighthouse was never automated and remains much in its original operational state, apart from maintenance and updates to its electrical apparatus and lanterns.

Souter Lighthouse

The grassed area north of Souter was once a thriving community of 700 people. Built as a mining village in 1874 to house the workers at the new Whitburn Colliery.  The best coal seams in the North East extend out into the North Sea here and Whitburn Coal Company sunk two shafts south of the lighthouse between 1874 – 1877 with the first coal brought out in 1881. By 1898 it was producing 2,600 tons of coal per day. The colliery finally closed in 1968. The reclaimed land is now Whitburn Coastal Park.

Whitburn Coastal Park

The Lighthouse is owned by the National Trust now and you can go and have a look around inside and climb the top. The engine room, light tower and keeper’s living quarters are all on view. Two of the former lighthouse keepers’ cottages are used as National Trust holiday cottages. The lighthouse is said to be haunted, and has even featured on British TV’s Most Haunted ghost-hunting programme. 🙄

We went first to look around the inside of the lighthouse, there’s a lot of gubbins!

copper gubbins
lens and lamp

One of the volunteers was there when we were, and was twiddling knobs and handles to build up the air pressure that drives the foghorn, which still works.

more gubbins
going up

When the pressure was right the Mr.Foghorn told us to follow him so we could set off the foghorn.

Sophie with the foghorn button.

Sophie hit the button and the foghorn nearly blew my ears off!

One of the old bulbs.

We saw the keepers living quarters.

After that we climbed the very steep spiral staircase to get to the top, the last section was just a ladder! But the views were great!

The Foghorn

It only takes a morning to do the lighthouse, so in the afternoon we went off to Cleadon, which apart from being where the posh people live, has an ice~age duck pond and a gothic grotto. So stay tooned for that!


St Cuthberts Church ~ March 2019

The History bit

The Domesday Book, is a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror. Both Ormesby Hall, and St Cuthbert’s church, are mentioned in this record and listed as belonging to ‘Orme’, to whose name the suffix ‘by’ (the Viking word for habitation or dwelling place) was added to make Ormesby.  There has been then, a church on this site for at least 933 years, maybe more. Unfortunately the church as it stands today has been largely rebuilt between 1875 and 1907 to designs in the Decorated Style (gothic) by architects W. S. & W.L. Hicks. What was interesting to Sophie and me was that they incorporated the Anglo-Saxon foundations, carved work and re-dressed masonry from the 12th-century church into the building.

Of course we can’t possibly be steeped in North East ancient history without St. Cuthbert getting in on the act (hence the amount of St.Cuthbert churches up here), and according to the church’s own web site ‘It is said that St Cuthbert’s body rested here during the movement of his body about Northumbria in the 9th Century.’ St Cuthbert sure got around a lot after he died in 687!

You can read my history of St Cuthbert’s post-death journey here.

On with the pictures now.

The tower and spire, housing the ring of 8 bells, was only completed in 1907.

There are some elaborate crosses in the church yard, decorated in a medieval style.

A path runs through the churchyard and the bottom entrance has an oak lych gate.

We came across a chap digging a hole, so I asked if he was digging a grave, but he was just doing upkeep of the grounds, and planting things.

There I was, diggin’ an ‘ole… anyone remember Bernard Cribbins? 🙂
Mr.Digger’s dog.

Mister Digger was very nice and chatted on to us about the church yard. We were quite excited when he told us there was an Anglo-Saxon grave in the grounds, and we asked to see it.

? Anglo-Saxon grave

He explained that they’ve allowed it to get overgrown, and keep it that way, as some people are not averse to sticking their hands through cracks in the stonework to steal bones. 🙄 The headstone is top right in this picture. So a bit disappointing we couldn’t make much of it out.

There were of course less old but still old graves,

Sarah, died aged 23 on 6th September 1793
possibly Bess, died 1734
?Damars/Damats/Damaris  Smith died November 1710

I’ve tried researching the name Damars or Damarts, which is what it looks like to me, but think it’s actually meant to be Damaris, which is a girls name  used here in the 1700’s, and is still in use in the USA.  It is the name of a woman mentioned in a single verse in Acts of the Apostles (17:34) as one of those present when Paul of Tarsus preached in Athens in front of the Athenian Areopagus in c. AD 55. Together with Dionysius the Areopagite she embraced the Christian faith following Paul’s speech. I think biblical names were a thing back then.

Philip, son of Philip & Jane Snowdon, who departed life in the 3rd year of his age.On the 1st October 1767

I’ll finish up with some pictures of the 12th century stones incorporated into the rebuilt church.

There were several christenings going on in the church so we didn’t intrude, but would have loved to see what they had on the inside!

all picture are embiggenable with a click.

Full album can be found here.



Ormesby Hall & St.Cuthberts Church March 2019 – part 1

Ormesby Hall is one of the National Trusts smaller properties. Barely a Stately Home, more of an historic house really, but Sophie and I don’t mind small, and the place was surprisingly interesting.

Shall we commence with the history bit? (Rhetoric question, gotta be done 🙂 )

*Long post alert ~ get the kettle on*

The History Bit

The Estate of Ormesby has been around since before the Norman conquest, and possibly takes its name from Orme who was a tenant thereabouts registered in the Domesday Book.  The Hall has a long history with the Pennyman family and was acquired back in the days of yore, by James Pennyman in 1599, when he bought the whole estate and the village of Ormesby too.  James was the nephew of Robert Pennyman who had been hanged in York in 1569 for his part in the rebellion against Henry VIII known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. The Hall we see today didn’t exist when James bought it, just a large farmhouse, which James adapted and was later enlarged by his son.

We’re skipping forward now to 1722 when the next James Pennyman (there were many James Pennymans in the family!) married the daughter of the Archbishop of York, Dorothy, and came to live at Ormesby Hall. Dot was not enamored of the place and decided to have a new mansion built next door to the Old Hall. She employed the best architects, craftsmen, and artists in the region, and the Hall is now known for being one of the best examples of Palladian architecture in the north. The old hall became the service wing for the new, and the servants had to carry food and laundry outside from one to the other come rain or shine.  Dorothy sadly died in the year the house was completed in 1754, her hubby James having already shuffled off the mortal coil in 1743.

They hadn’t had any kids, so the house stood empty for the next 16 years until the advent of ‘Wicked’ Sir James, the 6th Baronet of Ormesby.  The Baronetcy had been conferred on another James back in 1664 by Charles II and continued through the family. By the time Wicked James got to Ormesby, the Pennymans had garnered a lot of land, estates, and money, owning several properties and estates in the North East. Although Wicked James refurbished the house and built the stables for his racehorses, he was fond of spending money on politics, – he was MP for Scarborough 1770-1774 and for Beverley 1774-1796, and gambling, and consequently squandered the family fortune. He ended up selling most of the house lands and furnishings to pay off his gambling debts and moved out of the house to live in Richmond.  He had married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Henry Grey and had 10 children, 6 of whom were males, but only one of the boys survived, William Henry Pennyman who became the 7th and last Baronet, as he had no children. He lived frugally, so the house stayed in the family, but after he died a distant relative, James White Worsley had to change his name to Pennyman in order to inherit. James W managed to buy back several items of furniture for the Hall. He also leased land for housing associated with the new town of Middlesbrough, to make the estate a more viable proposition. Along with his son, another James, they made the final alterations to the Hall,  adding the front porch, the Dining Room extension and the corridors connecting the service wing and main building.

Nothing much more interesting happened until we get to first World War when the house was lived in by Mary Pennyman. She had married into the family, and her husband, guess what his name was!! (clue- begins with J) was a machine gunner in the war who was listed as missing in action, and Mary was the secretary of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Widows and Orphans Fund and was just 26 years old when she began writing to the wives and mothers of men who were missing or killed during the First World War. 120 of the letters she got in return from the ladies she wrote to were recently found stashed away in the hall, by three National Trust volunteers, and there is now a project ongoing to digitalise the letters and track down the families of the women who wrote them. The letters are so poignant, and you can visit the website at

James, or Jim as he was known, had been severely wounded in the war, but made a full recovery,and returned home to Mary. She got pregnant but died in childbirth, along with the child in 1924. Jims Dad also died a few months later, so Jim wasn’t in a happy place at all. But in 1926 he met and married Ruth Knight and they were very happy together inspite of him being a right winger, and she a dyed in the wool lefty. In the 1930’s unemployment in the area was at 90%, and Jim and Ruth along with other local landowners created land schemes and a way for miners to learn new skills. Jim rented land in Cleveland, and gave it to the miners to grow crops and raise livestock. He also started workshops to train the miners in carpentry and formed Boosbeck Industries for the miners, and rented a showroom in North Ormesby to sell the furniture they made. He provided everything for them and made a personal financial loss in doing so. Ruth meanwhile paid for sewing and knitting workshops for the miners wives. She  promoted the arts in the area and set up local drama groups, making Ormesby known for its theatrical productions. 

In the second World War Jim commanded a battalion of the National Defence Corps as Lieutenant Colonel, giving him the title Colonel James Pennyman, as he is now known. Jim and Ruth were the last of the Pennymans, as he and Ruth never had any children, and when Jim died in 1961 he bequeathed Ormesby Hall and gardens to the National Trust.  Ruth contined to live there until. her death in 1983.

On with the pictures! Today we’ll have a walk around the grounds.

Ormesby Hall

Would love to see this wisteria in bloom!






Stable block

There wasn’t much in bloom when we went, but thing were springing up

and we found bits of colour here and there

Grape Hyacinths

Not sure what this will turn out to be..

Tree of Life

So that’s it for this time, next week we’ll visit inside the house so stay tooned!


All picture by moi, and embiggenable with a click!

Belsay Castle & Quarry Walk – Feb 2019

Our next outing is up in Northumberland, Belsay Castle and the Quarry Walk.

The History Bit

Back in days of yore, the first fortification at Belsay was an Iron Age hillfort, set on a hilly spur known as Bantam Hill.  Not a lot of info on that as no records exist of how big it was, or how long it was occupied, but in 1270 Richard de Middleton, Lord Chancellor to King Henry III had a Manor built there. The Manor stayed in the Middleton family until 1317 when Gilbert de Middleton owned it. At this point in history, Robert The Bruce was on the rampage, and having won a great victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 was raiding into England with impunity. Gilbert raised himself a private army to counter the threat of The Bruce, but stupid Gilbert went a bit OTT and ended up raiding  Yorkshire and extorting money from the Bishop of Durham.  It didn’t take long until he was captured, hung, drawn and quartered, and his Manor confiscated. The Belsay estate was passed around a few people but ended up back in the Middleton clan in 1390, when John Middleton extended the manor and built the castle which is still there today. In 1614 the castle was modified by Thomas Middleton who added a Jacobean range on the west side, probably replacing the old manor. A further wing was added round about 1711, and a walled garden in front of the castle. In 1795 the castle passed into the hands of 6th Baronet Sir Charles Miles Lambert Monck who actually had the surname of Middleton but changed his name to that of his maternal grandfather Laurence Monck of Caenby Hall, Lincolnshire who died in 1798, in order to inherit his estate. Because you can never have enough halls and castles. Charlie had traveled to Greece for his honeymoon and became much enamored of Hellenic architecture, so with the help of John Dobson, the North’s most famous architect, he built a  new manor in the grounds of the castle in the Greek Revival style. He and his family moved into the new building in 1817 and just abandoned the castle. Of course, that fell into disrepair and by 1843 parts of the structure were ruinous.

Luckily Sir Arthur Middleton took it on in 1872 and the 1711 wing was demolished and the manorial house was partially rebuilt so it could be used as a dower house whilst the tower itself was restored in 1897. During the 2nd World War, the military used the castle which led to further deterioration, and by 1945 when the Middleton family got it back, they lacked the funds to sort it out. By 1986 Sir Stephen Middleton owned the estate, but moved into a smaller house nearby, leaving the two properties empty. Both of these were transferred into State ownership in 1980 and the site is now in the care of English Heritage.

In the morning Sophie and I had been to see the Crocus field at Wallington, so after lunch, we decided to do the Quarry walk at Belsay. We walked through the Walled garden to get to it.

there wasn’t much going on in it, no spring flowers as yet.

Way out to the quarry

At least there were snowdrops along the way


It was a lovely blue sky day

and the sun shone low through the trees

Walking through the quarry is amazing

So many colours in the rocks

and I was fascinated by how the roots from the trees above split the rocks on their way to finding some ground and therefore nutrients.


when we came out of the quarry we saw the castle ahead.


I love that they keep the windows painted red!

Before the floor fell

The rear view of the castle shows how spectacular it must have been

You can still climb the stairs to the top, which I’ve done in the past, but not this time.

I like how the gardener lets you know what’s going on

Once we’d walked around the castle, we went back through the quarry, so here are a couple more shots of what we saw, and that’s the end of this day out!

all pictures are embiggenable with a click,

full album can be found HERE


Wallington Walled Garden ~ February 2019

Regular readers might remember my posts of the wonderful interior at Wallington Hall back in October 2018, if not, check it out HERE if you like. In February Sophie and I revisited the walled gardens as we had heard about the field of crocuses/crocusi/croci (whatever plural you prefer) on display.

On our way to the garden, we took in the view across the fields from Wallington Hall.

Misty Morning

There was a ‘plant some snowdrops’ thing going on where the public could help the gardeners populate areas with snowdrops, but there were quite a few parents and kids doing it, and we left them to it.

DIY Snowdropping

Had a close encounter with a duck along the way


and then we got to the crocus field

There were more in beds in front of the conservatory

and a lovely view of the crocus field.

We couldn’t resist revisiting in the conservatory

and then we walked back past one of the lakes

to have lunch in the cafe there

Waiting and Watching.

Stay tooned for our next adventure!


Killingworth Boat Lake ~ February 2019

In 1964, a 15 acre lake was created to help drain the ground for Killingworth New Town, and almost straight away a boating clubhouse was built which is alongside a public car park. Several different groups still use this clubhouse and more use the lake and park, which is run by North Tyneside Council.  A bunch of retired chaps interested in building, racing and sailing model boats formed a sailing group, which is now affiliated to the MYA (Model Yacht Association).

Sophie and I stopped off here on our way back from somewhere as I knew there were swans on the lake, and the racing was in full swing.

and they’re off!
Remote control
No remote control
Come in No.48

Precision Landing
The Swans win.

Seaton Delaval Hall~ Feb 2019 ~ Part 2

Part 1 HERE

The marble floor in the great hall was open to the elements after the fire of 1822,the slabs were loose and the underneath screed worn away. They have all been uplifted, the screed replaced, and the tiles put back in their original position. The cracked ones have been bonded back together with resin adhesives mixed with pigment and stainless steel dowels have been added to give them strength. Some were too damaged and had to be replaced, but they managed to find Carrera Marble and black limestone that seems to match the originals closely.

Marble tile floor

There are 3 lead statues at the hall, David & Goliath, Samson slaying a philistine, and the goddess Diana. Made in the 18th century they are rare to see these days, and also have to have conservation work applied.

David & Goliath
Samson & Philistine (May 2012)

I’ve yet to find the goddess 🙄

There is a fabulous spiral staircase connecting the basement to the upper areas

and down below is the servants quarters and cellars.

At the minute they’re closed off due to all the rain we’re having!

Outside the courtyard canopy is fab for photography

There’s a lovely old willow in the outside area too, some of the branches are on props

Willow (May 2012)

The garden is lovely, especially in proper weather!

May 2012
May 2012.

You can embiggen the pictures by clicking on them if you like.

I was a bit bling back in 2012!  That’s all from Seaton Delaval, but if you want to see more of it the 2012 album is HERE

and the 2019 one is HERE

refs- Wiki, 

National Trust

National Trust blog. (not updated recently)

Seaton Delaval Hall – February 2019

*longish post alert, cup of tea time!*

The Potted History Bit

Seaton Delaval has not got the happiest of histories. The estate had belonged to the Delaval family since the Norman conquest in the 11th century.  By 1717 the mansion was owned by Sir John Delaval who was in severe financial difficulties, so he sold it to his rather rich kinsman, Admiral George Delaval.  George was from a minor branch of the Delaval family, from Northumberland, and his father had left him a legacy of £100 when he died, (about £11,000 in todays money) which he went on to convert into a large fortune from his naval career by capturing a fair few prize ships.

Having reached the position of Captain, he was given command of HMS Tilbury in the vanguard at the Battle of Malaga in the Spanish succession war of 1704, and rose through the ranks to being a Rear Admiral, then Vice Admiral by 1722.

Side by side with his nautical doings he had a full on diplomatic career as a member of the Whig party. That party no longer exists today, they were a liberal lot and in opposition to the Tories, (never a bad thing).  He was envoy to both Lisbon and Morrocco, returning to become the MP for West Looe in Cornwall in 1715, then was made Deputy Lieutenant of Northumberland the year after.

When he bought Seaton Delaval Hall he wanted to restore it so he employed the talents of Sir John Vanbrugh, a notable playwrite and architect. Men were so interesting back in those days, and Sir John is worth a little digression here. Known as a radical he was part of the scheme to overthrow James II, put William III on the throne and protect English parliamentary democracy, and he was imprisoned by the French as a political prisoner. In his career as a playwright, he offended many sections of Restoration and 18th century society, not only by the sexual explicitness of his plays, but also by their messages in defence of women’s rights in marriage. Go Sir John!

His architecture was bold and daring and he created what became known as English Baroque, designing Blenheim Palace, the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill, and Castle Howard, home to the influential Howard family for 300 years. If you ever saw Brideshead Revisited, the series and the movie, it was used for them.

Back to Seaton Delaval, and Sir John informed Admiral George, that there was nothing to do but demolish it and start again. So that happened, though they left alone the ancient chapel near to the mansion, which is now the parish church of Our Lady.  Although the building was completed in 1728 poor old George never saw it. In 1723, at the age of 55, he died as a result of falling off his horse near to the building works.  The hall is considered Sir Johns  finest architectural masterpiece; however he too expired before it was finished, when asthma got the better of him in 1726.

On completion of the hall, Captain Francis Blake Delaval, also of the Royal Navy, moved in immediately, but in 1752, Captain Delaval fell down the steps of the South Portico of Seaton Delaval Hall, and died of his injuries. Clumsy lot the Delavals. He was married to the heiress  Rhoda Apreece, and they had 11 kids, all Barons and Earls and Sir This and Sir That. One of their daughters, another Rhoda, became Lady Astley when she married into that family, and through her, Seaton Delaval passed to the Astley family through her son Jacob.

In 1822 there was a big fire that gutted the central block, and was, apparently caused by Jackdaws nesting in the chimney of the section of the south-east wing closest to the main house. The wing had to be demolished, and although the house was partially restored by architect John Dobson and the central block re-roofed, the insides remained a shell.  It was also used as a German Prisoner of war camp during WW2.

The Hall remained uninhabited, until along came Edward Astley Delaval Hastings, 22nd Baron Hastings, and 12th Baronet Astley.  He spent 51 years doing further restorations, repairing and refurbishing the central block and west wing, and having a parterre laid out. The house opened to the public and it became his permanent home in 1990, until his death in 2007. His son, Delaval Astley the 23rd Baron, and 13th Baronet, 8th of his name, breaker of chains, regent of the realm, Mother of… oops, sorry (you can see where George R R Martin gets his inspiration from!) wanted to preserve the place and give the public more access, (also probably couldn’t afford the heating bills – his job was playing Cameron Fraser in the long-running British radio drama The Archers) so he had a chat with the National Trust who raised the dosh – £6.3 million needed to bring the hall and gardens under its care. The hall opened to the public again on 1st May 2010.

Sophie and I visited this place back in 2012 BW (before wordpress) and returned this year as it had been shut down for more building works, so we went back to review it. The first time around was on a blue sky day in May when the gardens were magnificent, however this time it was a grey day, no flowers and grey skies. Still, it didn’t rain. I’m using pictures from both outings.

Walking up to the side aspect.
Missing bits
Looking up at the main entrance.
The entrance.
The main hall (2012)
The lobby

Some features in the lobby

fallen stonework
checking out the column top
another column top
decorative doric columns, with added face!

The main hall upper levels have six 7 foot tall muse statues, which have been painstakingly refurbished and made stable, but will never be as they once were.

The other muses.

There doesn’t seem to be any references to how they used to look, which is a shame, as they are now I can’t help but think of The Walking Dead!

The decorative plinths at the back of the hall are of some Roman guys

and some Greek guys

The fireplace survived, just about

but they look sad… no jokes about them looking ‘armless’ please!

Stay tooned for next time and more from Seaton Delaval Hall.