Surrounded by 36 acres of historic parkland near the River Wansbeck, Meldon Park is a glorious estate set in spectacular scenery. Penny Churchill takes a look.
The secluded, Grade II listed Meldon Park is for sale for the first time since its completion in 1835 in a 36-acre historic wooded park overlooking an old deer park in the heart of the Cookson family’s 3,800-acre Meldon Park estate. miles from the market town of Morpeth and 20 miles from Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Andrew Black of Savills quotes a £3.5m target for the elegant Georgian house, built for Isaac Cookson, the youngest son of a successful Newcastle banker, by the prolific northern architect John Dobson, with some internal alterations by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the 1930s.
Best known for designing much of Newcastle city centre, Dobson was the preeminent architect of his time in the North East of England, building or renovating more than 60 churches and 30 country estates. According to his daughter, Dobson never exceeded an estimate and never had a dispute with a contractor, a reputation that no doubt endeared him to the region’s financiers, factory owners and industrialists who commissioned him to build their grand new mansions.
In Country Life (February 24, 1966), architectural historian Marc Girouard traces the history of the Meldon Park estate, from its ownership in the 14th century by a branch of the Heron family of Ford Castle until the early 17th century when it was sold to Sir William Fenwick of Wallington.
It later passed by marriage to the Radclyffes, Earls of Derwentwater, whose vast estates were forfeited when the 3rd Earl was executed for his part in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715.
Much of his estates, including Meldon Park, a 466-acre fenced deer park north and south of the River Wansbeck, was arranged by the Crown as an endowment to Greenwich Hospital.
In 1832 the Greenwich Hospital Trust sold the 2,070-acre Meldon estate for £55,000 to Isaac Cookson, who ran his father’s glassmaking and chemical businesses with considerable success. He was Mayor of Newcastle in 1809 and High Sheriff of Northumberland in 1838.
Cookson, who had already worked with Dobson on an urban development project in Newcastle, gave him no time to build a new manor house on a ridge of a valley in the northern half of the former deer park stretching to the River Wansbeck – a site chosen by the architect after months of walking the land.
For Dr. Girouard, the end result was ‘a straightforward, sensible house, beautifully built and in a beautiful setting. The architectural detail is simple but elegant, the rooms are relatively few, but very spacious. Indeed, one criticism that could be made is that they are too broad; their high ceilings and generous proportions, both upstairs and downstairs, are not quite well adapted to a Northumbrian winter’. That was, of course, in 1966; a lot has been improved and updated since then.
Meldon Park was built on a convenient plan that Dobson adopted for at least four of his homes. The main building is roughly square, with the entrance on the west and a central bay window on the south. A large service wing (greatly reduced in 1962) extends to the north, with a conservatory wing at right angles to the west.
The main reception areas run along two sides of the main house: a library and two drawing rooms to the south and a dining room to the east. The hall on the west side leads to a huge stairwell, “the size of one in a London club,” according to Pevsner. Dobson’s estimates for the construction, dated June 26, 1832, came to £7,188 1s.11d (excluding the stables) and even taking into account the purchasing power of the pound in those days, the figure is still modest.
The heart of Meldon Park has always been the main building of the estate, which has undergone extensive improvements since 1930, when Sir Edwin Lutyens replaced the original metal balustrades on the main staircase with the current mahogany examples and added the decorative plaster panels.
Dry rot was removed and a new roof fitted in the 1980s when the east wing was converted into two separate apartments. The billiard room and orangery were also renovated in the 1980s and a new oil-fired heating system was installed.
The astronomical cost of heating the house with oil eventually led to the recent installation of a biomass boiler, fueled with wood from the estate – a much more sustainable way to heat the hall and surrounding properties, as James Cookson, current custodian of Meldon Park, observe wisely.
For Mr Cookson and his wife, Emily, who moved to Meldon Park at the height of the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic in 2001, the 14,000-square-foot 10-bedroom house over two floors, with further accommodation in the north wing, is both been a challenge as a beautiful family home. Central to the family’s enjoyment of the estate was Dobson’s Grade II listed stables – one of the few still used for its original purpose – and the running of the Morpeth Hunt, founded in 1818 by the Cooksons, who have since killed many of its masters. have delivered.
For Mr and Mrs Cookson, the decision to sell was a painful one and one that they thought long and hard about. “It’s been a battle between head and heart and in the end the head came out on top,” admits Mr Cookson, as he continues to chair the dynamic community that makes up the wider Meldon Park estate.
Meldon Park is currently on the market through Savills with a target price of £3.5m – see more photos or check with the agent for details.
Morpeth: What you need to know
Place: About 16 miles north of Newcastle and about 8 miles inland from the coast.
Atmosphere: The bustling historic market town is a wonderful mix of old and new, with cobbled streets and farmers markets merging with an excellent shopping, restaurant and bar scene.
Things to do: Northumberland is home to more castles than any other county in England, with Morpeth Castle nearby and many others easily accessible. Visit Carlisle Park or explore the cobbled streets of the city. There are several golf clubs in the area and you can enjoy walking.
Schools: Whalton Church of England Primary School has been rated ‘excellent’ by Ofsted, with further education opportunities in the Newcastle area.
See more properties for sale in the area.
Check out this week’s best country homes to hit the market this week via Country Life.