The Blackett ancestral home of Shull lies in the Hamsterley Forest area to the north-west of Hamsterley village, and is situated close to Hoppyland (to the south), the Shipleys (to the east) and Bedburn Hall (to the south). The property forms part of a cluster of Blackett properties occupied at similar times in this area which must have seen the Blacketts as a particularly prevalent landed family in the area. (see map of area on “Bedburn and the Shipleys” page for location).
Shull was quite substantial, extending in places to three storeys, but by 1976 was in need of substantial repair and probably uninhabited. (See adjoining photograph). The house, however, still stands today having been restored and is now occupied along with an occupied lodge/gatehouse.
Little is known about the building; however the Blacketts seem to have been in occupation from the 1700s through to the early 19th Century.
It has been described as a “picturesque dowager house in the Swedish style” and was once one of two substantial houses (the other St.John’s Hall ) on the Hamsterley and Wolsingham estates of the Backhouse family, the Quaker banking family of Darlington.
Shull House, however, has not been the main house on its own estate since 1872, when a seven bedroomed mansion house, Dryderdale Hall, was built in the grounds of the property. The original lodge house and estate road to Shull is therefore now also the primary entrance to Dryderdale Hall.
Dryderdale Hall and the Shull estate achieved some fame in 1971 when used as part of the film location for Michael Caine’s cult gangster movie, “Get Carter”, in which the hall, the estate grounds and Shull Lodge clearly feature in the film. By strange coincidence the property had been purchased in 1963 by Vince Landa, the fruit machine king, whose brother Michael was convicted, along with another, of a 1967 gangland murder, on which the film is said to be loosely based.
Our records indicate that the earliest Blackett in occupation was William Blackett of Shull, Shipley and Helmington (1732-1799). He was the grandson of Thomas Blackett of Shipley who had acquired the Blackett home of Helmington Hall from the Trotter family in June 1686 and whose own great great grandfather was Richard Blackett of Shipley, Hole House and Witton Le Wear. Shull does bear a passing resemblance to Helmington.
The line from Richard to the Blacketts of Shull descends through Richard’s son, Christopher Blackett of Shipley and Burnley Row, via the Shipley line of the family.
Records indicate that William’s son, William Stephenson Blackett (see The Blacketts of Helmington and Shull), retained Shull, as well as Shipley, but also held property at Hunwick, Chatterley and Wolsingham. It is from this line that the Blacketts of Wolsingham seem, primarily, to be descended, a line which continued to live there well into the 20th Century.
A family tree in our possession suggests that only these two generations of Blacketts held Shull, a suggestion backed up by the sparcity of references to Blacketts of Shull in the Parish records.
William Blackett senior’s grave, which he shares with his son William Stephenson Blackett together with other sons, John and Thomas, and other Shipley descendants of the Blackett family, is located in the Hamsterley Parish Church graveyard where their elaborate tombstone commemorates them as follows:
“Sacred to the memory of William Blackett esq, of Shull, who died September 17th 1799 aged 73 years. Also John, son of the above who died May 13th 1806 aged 19 years. Also William son of the above who died January 5th 1840 aged 68 years. Also Thomas son of the above of Low Shipley who died April 27th 1853 aged 71 years……”
Shull is yet another indicator of the notable property ownership and position of the Blackett family in the Hamsterley and Weardale area which had continued throughout the area for at least 500 years.