Monday, 18 March 2013

Newsham Mansion


I was reading John Wallace's History of Blyth recently, which was published in 1863. This passage from the first chapter immediately caught my attention:
John Ogle occupied the mansion house at Newsham in 1561, and farmed the estate, and indeed the Bebside estate as well, of which he was proprietor. This wealthy gentleman, ...of the house of Ogle, was second son of Sir William Ogle, of Cockle Park...
 A mansion house at Newsham? (Which to those unfamiliar with this part of the world is a district of Blyth not usually regarded as upmarket.) Where was it? Do any parts of it still survive? What was its lifespan? Intrigued, I set about finding out more. Tantalisingly, Wallace also mentions as an end note to the chapter:
Site of Newsham Mansion, Blyth (click to enlarge)
This mansion is still standing, and has long been occupied as a farmhouse by the Wilson family. It presents a fine example of the dwellings of the lesser gentry of 300 years ago. Its massive walls, five feet thick, and stout oaken beams, give evidence that the builder intended it to serve more than one generation of tenants. To see it is well worth a journey to Newsham. It has little outward attraction, but the interior examined with a reference to the Inventory of John Ogle, will amply repay the labour.
The inventory mentioned was made in 1586 on the death of John Ogle. It is a lengthy document that list all his goods, tools and livestock and is worth reading. Importantly, for our purposes though, it lists the possessions in each room of the house which are:


  • Chamber over the parlour
  • Parlour
  • Hall
  • Butterie
  • Chapel
  • Garret Loft
  • Kitchen
  • Malt loft Brewhouse
  • Milkhouse
  • Study


Newsham North Farm
The pattern of landholding in Newsham is complicated, but to briefly summarise, the Delaval family were the main holders from the 12th until the 17th century. The Earl of Derwentwater held it until 1723 when he was beheaded for his part in the Jacobite Rising and then it was purchased by the Ridley family.

My first thought was that the mansion probably occupied the same site as the present day North Farm on South Newsham Road, but could I find out any more? The classic History of Northumberland series produced in the early 20th century should have more information and this proved to be the case:

After the Cramlingtons had finally abandoned their connexion with Newsham, their mansion became a farmhouse upon the Ridley estate. It stood on the site of Newsham North farm, on the north side of the road leading inland from the Link-house and at the east end of the present hamlet of South Newsham. Unhappily it was demolished about the year 1880, and little information can be gathered respecting its architectural features. Warburton, writing about the year 1720, describes it as 'an ancient structure but something ruinous.' So far as can be ascertained, the hall was a plain structure of sixteenth century date. The main building was two stories in height, and was flanked at one end by the pantry, and at the other by the dairy, which communicated with the stables and other farm buildings at the rear of the house. 

1860s 1st Edition OS Plan
A document of Nov 23rd 1208 regarding a dispute between landholders mentioned a manor house and small hamlet already established at Newsham. But the previous information suggests it was built in the 16th century, although it was possibly on the site of the 13th century manor house. The text confirmed the house to have stood on the site of North farm and to have been demolished in 1880, although sources were not cited for this. The 1st edition Ordnance Survey mapping was published in the early 1860s, which preceded the demolition of the house, and indeed shows a different layout from the 2nd edition mapping of c.1897. The present North Farm is a stone-built building and it is possible that the materials from the mansion house were re-used in the construction of the new farmstead, although the term "mansion house" may be overstating the status of the dwelling from the descriptions given in the books quoted here?