Beamish Hall, a grade 2 listed building, is an elegant country house hotel situated ten miles north of Durham City on the A693 between Chester le Street and Stanley, and a mile from the Beamish Open Air Museum, which sits within the grounds of the manor of Beamish. Beamish came into the possession of a branch of the Blackett family around 1683.
The history of Beamish Hall can be traced back to the Norman Conquest, being a fortified manor through the middle ages and Border Wars. Many notable North East families including the Blacketts owned and lived at Beamish over the centuries.
The hall itself has been added to over the years and is now a very fine hotel, with many of the beautiful rooms named after its former notable occupants such as the Charrons, Monboucher, Shafto and Eden families.
The Beamish estate was held in earlier centuries by the Charrons, whose daughter married into the Monboucher family, and eventually came into the Wray family. Thomas Wray sold Beamish Hall and estate in 1671 to the Christian family of Ewenrigg, Cumberland, from whom William (later Sir William) Blackett (1657-1705) acquired it around 1683 for the benefit of his brother-in-law Timothy Davison. (For details of the purchase of Beamish, which was by no means straightforward, please click here.)
Timothy Davison was married to the eldest child of Sir William Blackett (1621-1680), Elizabeth, who bore him seventeen known children before dying in 1694 aged forty eight. From the age of seventeen Elizabeth’s life must have been one of continuous child bearing, her last known child being born only two years before her death. It is not known if the family then lived at Beamish, though later generations of the family did, including Timothy’s eldest surviving son William, whose first wife Elizabeth bore him five children. They lived at Beamish Hall, as did William’s second wife, Dulcibella, who bore him a further five children.
The second daughter of William and Dulcibella was Mary Davison, who married Sir Robert Eden (see The Eden Line). The hall was occupied by the Eden family until 1904 from whence it passed to the Shafto branch of the family, in whose ownership it remained until 1952. Following the death of Mr Robert Shafto the Estate was disposed of and some of the two hundred and fifty year old furniture was presented to the Merchant Adventurers Guild Hall in Newcastle. The hall was later leased and used by The National Coal Board as head office for Mid West Durham. It was later bought and used as a residential college by Durham County Council. After its use by DCC, Beamish Hall stood empty until the year 2000, when it opened as a conference centre. In 2004 the current owner Mr David Craggs bought the estate and restored Beamish Hall to its original state of splendour, incorporating the many features that depict the past notable occupants of this splendid stately home.
The present house seems to have origins dating back to the early 15th century; the main part was built circa 1737, with extensions being added in 1813 and 1901.
Images by Thomas Longbottom with permission from Beamish Hall.