Tyne and Wear HER(13484): Ravensworth Castle (18th century Palladian villa) - Details
Ravensworth Castle (18th century Palladian villa)
During this period Sir Henry Liddell (1644-1723), son of Thomas Liddell (d. 1619), 3rd Baronet and politician was the owner of Ravensworth. Correspondence between Henry and his sons John Bright (nee Liddell - he assumed the name of his grandfather Sir John Bright of Badworth, Yorkshire) and George, refer to Ravensworth Castle's poor condition and debate the pros and cons both of modifications and replacing the 'old castle' with a new house. The final decision appears to have been building a new front towards the gardens, modifying the east range and including a Palladian façade. Sir Henry died before works were complete. His grandson Henry Liddell (1708-1784), 4th Baronet, succeeded him. An engraving by Buck c.1728 - the first surviving picture of Ravensworth - shows the castle from the east as a Palladian villa overlooking an enclosed court flanked by the two medieval towers (HER 106), linked by the curtain wall. The architect is unknown. The villa was extended in the mid 18th century, probably to designs of James Paine (1716-1789). An engraving by Bailey c.1787 shows that Paine had added two flanking bays. That to the north incorporated one of the medieval towers. Additional chimneys suggest interior changes. The engraving shows the remains of an Elizabethan range and a further medieval tower to the rear (west). At this time five medieval towers may have survived, Sketches by S.H. Grimm c.1780s include an oblique view looking east. Sir Henry died in 1784 without a male heir. The barony passed to his nephew Henry George Liddell of Newton Hall (1749-1791), 5th Baronet. He brought a herd of reindeer to Ravensworth from Lapland, which Thomas Bewick illustrated. Sir Henry commissioned a map of the estate from John Fryer. It shows a central block around a rectangular courtyard with two wings extending from the south-west and north-east, and additional buildings to the east. The Palladian villa and Paine extensions look like Bailey's c.1787 engraving, but the rear (west) looks very different, suggesting that the medieval and Elizabethan ranges may have been replaced, or it may be a discrepancy between the plans and engravings. No above-ground evidence of the Palladian villa survives but there may be some below the Nash house (HER 8183) footprint or main courtyard. In 1787 it was described as 'small, but neat, without much ornament' but with 'elegantly fitted up' south-facing rooms.
<< HER 106 >> W. Hutchinson, 1787, History of County Palatine of Durham, II, pp. 417-18 R. Surtees, 1820, History of the County Palatine pf Durham, II, p. 208 W.H.D. Longstaffe, 1855, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle, 2, I, pp. 256-7 J.R. Boyle, 1892, Durham...Its Castles, Churches etc. pp. 607-8 F. Whellan & Co. 1894, Directory of ... Durham,pp. 1207-08 Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle, 1895 2, VI, p. 49 and Bucks' view H.E. Bell, 1939, Calendar of Deeds given to the Society by Lord Ravensworth, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4, XVI, pp. 43-70, nos. 46, 73 C.R.Walton, 1950, Romantic Ravensworth - Gateshead Post R.W. Martin, The Liddells of Ravensworth, a scrapbook - Gateshead Library N. Pevsner & E. Williamson, 1985, County Durham Second edition revised, pp. 389-90. D. McKay & M. Bowden, (RCHM(E)), 1989, Ravensworth Castle P. Meadows & E. Waterson, 1993, Lost Houses of County Durham, pp 16-19; Gateshead Council, 1999, Conservation Area Policy Guidelines, Strategies and Character Statements, Ravensworth Conservation Area, pp 61-63; Northern Archaeological Associates, 2006, Ravensworth Castle, Gateshead; North of England Civic Trust, 2008, Ravensworth Castle, Gateshead, Conservation Plan