Halls of power
Country Life UK|August 12, 2020
Halls of power
Three halls, in Northumberland, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire, paint a rich tapestry of England’s past
Penny Churchill

TODAY in COUNTRY LIFE sees the launch of the gloriously scenic, 540-acre Blenkinsopp estate, near Haltwhistle, Northumberland, which nestles in a wooded, south-facing valley bounded to the north by Hadrian’s Wall and to the south by the River South Tyne, tributaries of which, the Tipalt and the Painsdale Burn, traverse its land. This is Reiver country, a Border region of wild beauty rich in history and folklore, although the estate’s sheltered location and well-managed landscape—a mix of rolling grassland, ancient woodland, young trees and winding burns and lakes—provide an altogether more intimate setting for the handsome stone manor at its heart.

For sale for the first time in 145 years, at a guide price of £4.85 million through Knight Frank in Melrose (01896 807010), the estate is centred on Grade II-listed Blenkinsopp Hall, a handsome castellated structure built by Col John Blenkinsopp Coulson in the early 1800s on the site of an ancient pele tower, one of two border forts controlled and defended by Blenkinsopps since Norman times. One was Bellister, which became theseat of the younger branch of the family; the other was Blenkinsopp Tower, previously called Dryburnhaugh, which was incorporated into the new Blenkinsopp Hall.

Designs for the improvement of Dryburnhaugh were sought from J. White Junior in 1806 and, in 1835, the noted Northumbrian architect, John Dobson, added the south-east tower (later demolished), the stables and the interiors seen today. In 1840, the hall was described in glowing terms by the Rev John Hodgson: ‘Seated on rich ground, at the opening of a woody glen it smiles sweetly on the eye of day, and stretches out its towered walls and long-extent of front to the noon-tide sun. The entrance hall and dining room occupy the ground floor of the centre of the front.’

The hall’s present custodian, Mrs Fiona Lees-Millais (neé Joicey), who has lived there with her husband, Patrick, and their sons, Marcus and Rory, since 2001, remembers being told that the old entrance hall, now the dining room, was the original footprint of Dryburnhaugh, as the thickness of its walls suggests.

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August 12, 2020