Bessie Surtees House

Bessie Surtees House A Jacobean home with a romantic history, Bessie Surtees House contains offices, an exhibition space and splendid period interiors.
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The two buildings now known as Bessie Surtees House stand on a stretch of Newcastle riverfront that has been used as a quayside since Roman times, when the first bridge was built over the Tyne. By the 16th century the commercial importance of the area was well established and many prominent merchants owned property here. The two buildings, originally numbers 41 and 44 Sandhill, were known respectively as Surtees House and Milbank House. Other houses further east along Sandhill are of a similar date.

22/03/2020

Please be aware that we are closed until further notice. Best wishes to you all.

Bessie Surtees House is open as usual from 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday.
16/03/2020

Bessie Surtees House is open as usual from 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday.

Just one more day until re-opening! Our work lasted a little longer than expected, but we will be open on Monday the 16t...
13/03/2020

Just one more day until re-opening! Our work lasted a little longer than expected, but we will be open on Monday the 16th to the public. Our panelling is looking grand! From dry and pitted to this rich and beautiful lustre! I can't stop staring...

From Monday the 2nd of March Bessie Surtees House will be closed to the public for a bit of TLC in our wood pannelled ro...
28/02/2020

From Monday the 2nd of March Bessie Surtees House will be closed to the public for a bit of TLC in our wood pannelled room. We will reopen on Friday the 13th of March, 10am-4pm as usual, bright and sparkling!

Open and raring to go, Bessie Surtees House is free to visit between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.
02/01/2020

Open and raring to go, Bessie Surtees House is free to visit between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.

20/12/2019

Bessie Surtees House is closed for the Christmas from Tuesday the 24th of December until Thursday the 2nd of January 2020. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

06/12/2019

Bessie Surtees House is a calm sanctuary from the chaos of Christmas. Pop in for a little breather and watch our fire flickering in the hearth. Open 10-4pm, Monday to Friday. Black and white photographs courtesy of Newcastle Library.

02/12/2019

Morning! Bessie Surtees House will be open from 12 noon today. Apologies for the late notice.

National Lottery Heritage Fund
12/11/2019
National Lottery Heritage Fund

National Lottery Heritage Fund

Four celebrities have taken over National Lottery funded heritage attractions to show #NationalLottery players how their money is helping. These are just four of hundreds of sites which are offering free entry or other exclusive treats during the last week of November to anyone turning up with a National Lottery ticket.

Check out their cheeky tours here: www.heritagefund.org.uk/news/25-years-stars-launch-free-offers-national-lottery-players

The National LotteryNational Lottery Good CausesKenwood HouseBig NarstieAbbotsford The Home of Sir Walter Scott Anton Danyluk SS NomadicCardiff Castle / Castell CaerdyddElis James

Great Lengths by Dr Ian Graham and Simon Inglis, only £5 (rrp £15.99). Our favourite page is 116, explaining the process...
11/11/2019

Great Lengths by Dr Ian Graham and Simon Inglis, only £5 (rrp £15.99). Our favourite page is 116, explaining the process of cleaning the pool at a time when it was used for communal weekly (or less) cleansing. Friday was the busiest day as it was also the cheapest day since the water was at its dirtiest. Lovely!

Photographing Historic Buildings only £15 (rrp £20). The process of documenting the historic environment using a digital...
08/11/2019

Photographing Historic Buildings only £15 (rrp £20). The process of documenting the historic environment using a digital camera. Our favourite page is number 143, showing how techniques can really bring out the detail in a photograph of a brass.

Played in Tyne and Wear only £2! (rrp £14.99) An intimate tour of the area's sporting treasures. Our favorite page is 15...
07/11/2019

Played in Tyne and Wear only £2! (rrp £14.99) An intimate tour of the area's sporting treasures. Our favorite page is 151, Miss North Tyneside putting on a brave face and a white dress (!) to release 4,000 racing pigeons. What a trooper!

With all of these Halloween events going on- we turned our thoughts to Christmas! I know, I know...We have a range of bo...
31/10/2019

With all of these Halloween events going on- we turned our thoughts to Christmas! I know, I know...We have a range of books in store, perfect gifts for Christmas, at greatly discounted prices. A Glimpse of Heaven, Catholic Churches of England and Wales- was £20 now only £5. Available from reception in Bessie Surtees House.

What fun we had at Bessie Surtees House for Heritage Open Days 2019! Our wonderfully dedicated staff volunteered to brin...
23/09/2019

What fun we had at Bessie Surtees House for Heritage Open Days 2019! Our wonderfully dedicated staff volunteered to bring the house to life for our visitors over a span of 362 years! We had Ann Cock talking about the fireplace dedicated to her in 1657, Bessie Surtees looking for her love, John, whom she would elope with in 1772, Walter Lyst back in business running a cafe just like in 1910 and Lady Gort introducing the loan exhibition in the house in 1932. Thank you so much to all our visitors for making it a wonderful day.

Things are hotting up for the Heritage Open Days 2019 at Bessie Surtees House! On SATURDAY the 14th of September you can...
30/08/2019

Things are hotting up for the Heritage Open Days 2019 at Bessie Surtees House! On SATURDAY the 14th of September you can meet our namesake Bessie Surtees (1772), Walter Lyst (1910), Lady Gort (1930) and a Cock's Canny Hinny (1657)! Our house will come alive with people from its past with a small pop up cafe and tours of the private rooms usually closed to the public. All are welcome to come and see us and learn about this unique building that has stood the test of time. Call 0191 2691255 to book a space on a tour or visit between 10am and 5pm for a look around this ancient mansion.

Heritage Open Days 2019 are gathering pace! Bessie Surtees House tours still have spaces on the 11:00am and 3:15pm tours...
23/08/2019

Heritage Open Days 2019 are gathering pace! Bessie Surtees House tours still have spaces on the 11:00am and 3:15pm tours, the other two are fully booked! Phone us on 0191 2691255 to make a booking. Tours last 45 minutes and take place in the private rooms of Historic England's beautiful offices.

The quayside is a buzz of energy today hosting the Official World Transplant Games 2019. How lucky we are to have an ama...
19/08/2019

The quayside is a buzz of energy today hosting the Official World Transplant Games 2019. How lucky we are to have an amazing view of the cycling right past our front door! Join us for the fun and excitement today Bessie Surtees House!

In the early 1900's Walter Lyst ran Bessie Surtees House as his Cafe Cocoa Room with his wife Florence and his baby girl...
16/08/2019

In the early 1900's Walter Lyst ran Bessie Surtees House as his Cafe Cocoa Room with his wife Florence and his baby girl, little Flo. In 2009 we recreated their cafe for Heritage Open Days. Join us this year to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Historic England's residency, 25 years of the event and tours of the private rooms on Saturday the 14th of September. Contact us on 0191 2691255 to book you place.

Oh no, there goes another one. Someone passing outside just said "Bessie Surtees House? Yeah, there's not much to see". ...
09/08/2019

Oh no, there goes another one. Someone passing outside just said "Bessie Surtees House? Yeah, there's not much to see". Only the beautifully preserved interior and exterior of an unique Grade 1 historic mansion once the home of a succession of Mayors and other wealthy nobles showcasing detailed wood carvings, plaster work, Linen-fold paneling, herringbone brickwork, a 1930s recycling project on an immense scale, two exhibitions and three period rooms dating from Medieval times-all for FREE. *Breathe* Yeah, not much at all. Costumes, interpretation, architectural scale model...Hardly anything, really.

Heritage Open Days are gearing up for 2019 with Bessie Surtees House, Historic England! Join us on Saturday the 14th of ...
05/08/2019

Heritage Open Days are gearing up for 2019 with Bessie Surtees House, Historic England! Join us on Saturday the 14th of September for a look around our beautiful public rooms and book a tour of the private rooms at [email protected] or on 0191 2691255. Spaces are limited, so you need to be quick!

John Scott has arrived! He wasn't allowed in the house 247 years ago, but we have mellowed in this modern age and he is ...
26/07/2019

John Scott has arrived! He wasn't allowed in the house 247 years ago, but we have mellowed in this modern age and he is certainly very welcome now! Many thanks to the very talented Anna Clough at Sew . . alter, make, create.

Heritage Open Days are on their way! Bessie Surtees House will be open as usual for the duration of the event (Mon-Fri, ...
25/07/2019

Heritage Open Days are on their way! Bessie Surtees House will be open as usual for the duration of the event (Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm) and then open Saturday the 14th of September with bookable tours of the private rooms. Stay tuned for more details...!

Last chance to see your LATE Shows 2019 art work here at Bessie Surtees House before it gets taken down tomorrow! We are...
04/07/2019

Last chance to see your LATE Shows 2019 art work here at Bessie Surtees House before it gets taken down tomorrow! We are open until 4pm today and 10am-4pm tomorrow.

We were thrilled and delighted by a very special visitor last week here at Bessie Surtees House. Bessie's own five-times...
31/05/2019

We were thrilled and delighted by a very special visitor last week here at Bessie Surtees House. Bessie's own five-times great-granddaughter seen here on the right. It was a pleasure to meet her and we can't thank her enough for making a long journey to see us.

Our public rooms look resplendent with sunlight pouring through the stained glass effect windows. Come and see our creat...
24/05/2019

Our public rooms look resplendent with sunlight pouring through the stained glass effect windows. Come and see our creative panels from The Late Shows 2019 at Bessie Surtees House.

Stained glass effect windows created by the public.
24/05/2019

Stained glass effect windows created by the public.

Stained glass effect windows created by the public.

Bessie Surtees House's cover photo
23/05/2019

Bessie Surtees House's cover photo

Bessie Surtees House's cover photo
20/05/2019

Bessie Surtees House's cover photo

What a terrific time we had here at Bessie Surtees House on Saturday for The Late Shows! Many thanks to everyone that to...
20/05/2019

What a terrific time we had here at Bessie Surtees House on Saturday for The Late Shows! Many thanks to everyone that took part. Here are just a couple of photos from the event and if you are waiting to spot your stained glass-effect panel then stay tuned!

"Come hither" said the Green Man, "I know you want to lookInto places rarely seen,Into every little nook. We whisper all...
17/05/2019

"Come hither" said the Green Man,
"I know you want to look
Into places rarely seen,
Into every little nook.
We whisper all our secrets,
Our lives, our loves, our fate.
Come listen," said the Green Man,
"Tomorrow we'll be LATE!"

Visit Bessie Surtees House tomorrow night, 7-11pm for The Late Shows and join us on a private tour (fully booked) and create a stained glass-effect window panel.

It's getting LATE here at Bessie Surtees House. We are looking for ward to The Late Shows this Saturday, 7-11pm.
16/05/2019

It's getting LATE here at Bessie Surtees House. We are looking for ward to The Late Shows this Saturday, 7-11pm.

Bessie Surtees House's cover photo
16/05/2019

Bessie Surtees House's cover photo

The Late Shows
14/05/2019

The Late Shows

We think engaging with arts and culture is a great way to practice self care. Whatever your plans this weekend, make sure you take some time for you. #MentalHealthAwarnessWeek

With a week and a day to go we are counting down to The Late Shows at Bessie Surtees House! We will be asking our visito...
10/05/2019

With a week and a day to go we are counting down to The Late Shows at Bessie Surtees House! We will be asking our visitors to get creative for stained glass effect panels for our public rooms that will be open to view. Tours of the private rooms are as popular as ever and fully booked, but keep your eyes peeled for Heritage Open Days in September when we will running them once again!

26/04/2019

Bessie Surtees House will reopen on Monday as usual, 10am-4pm. Contact us on 0191 2691255 to book your place on the Late Shows tours of the private rooms!

Address

41-44 Sandhill
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE1 3JF

Opening Hours

Monday 10:00 - 16:00
Tuesday 10:00 - 16:00
Wednesday 10:00 - 16:00
Thursday 10:00 - 16:00
Friday 10:00 - 16:00

Telephone

0191 269 1255

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Our Story

The two buildings now known as Bessie Surtees House stand on a stretch of Newcastle riverfront that has been used as a quayside since Roman times, when the first bridge was built over the Tyne. By the 16th century the commercial importance of the area was well established and many prominent merchants owned property here. The two buildings, originally numbers 41 and 44 Sandhill, were known respectively as Surtees House and Milbank House. Other houses further east along Sandhill are of a similar date.

Earliest record of the house

The earliest reference to a house on the site of Surtees House is from 1465. The property was recorded as being owned by Robert Rhodes, a rich lawyer. Carvings on the fireplace in the principal first-floor room of the house record a wedding in 1657. The groom was Thomas Davison and the bride a daughter of Ralph Cock (Ann), mayor of Newcastle in 1634. The couple's family owned the house until 1770, when it was sold to Snow Clayton, a merchant.

Bessie's elopement

One of his tenants was Aubone Surtees, whose daughter Bessie eloped in 1772 from a first-floor window with John Scott, a coal merchant's son. They ran away to Scotland where they were married (and were remarried in Newcastle after the families were reconciled). Scott eventually became a successful lawyer and, as Lord Eldon, Lord Chancellor of England.

The site of Milbank House was occupied in the second half of the 15th century by Thomas Hanson. The ownership descended to Mark Milbank, who married Dorothy, another daughter of Ralph Cock.

Architecture

The buildings are rare examples of Jacobean domestic architecture, built towards the end of the timber-framing tradition. Both are five storeys high and had shops or stores at ground level with living accommodation above.

Milbank House was constructed in the 16th century but was refronted in red brick in the early 18th century. Its original timber-framed structure is now concealed behind a Georgian facade with elegant sash windows and shutters.

You can still see the timber-framed window through which Bessie Surtees eloped. A cast iron plaque below tells the story.

Surtees House is a 17th century structure with overhanging storeys above the ground floor. It has retained its original facade, featuring plasterwork decorated with classical details. The interior, in particular the principal room on the first floor, has fine carved oak panelling, elaborate plaster ceilings and carved fire surrounds.

Decline and restoration

From the late 18th century the richer merchants of Newcastle moved from the busy quayside to the more fashionable suburbs. The houses were divided up and let, and subsequently entered a period of slow decline.

The houses were eventually united by John Clayton, who owned Surtees House from 1880 and later inherited Milbank House on his Father’s death. In 1930 they were bought by SR Vereker, later Lord Gort, whose wife was descended from the Eldons. He employed an engineer, RF Wilkinson, to restore the houses using 17th century architectural fittings salvaged from properties which were being demolished.

Bessie Surtees House was bought from the Gort estate by Newcastle City Council in 1978 and leased to English Heritage in 1989. Historic England now own the property. The rooms on the first floor are open to visitors, while the rest of the building is used as offices for Historic England and their tenants, English Heritage.

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