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Tyne and Wear HER(8251): Bensham, Bensham Road, Bensham Grove - Details

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Bensham, Bensham Road, Bensham Grove






Early Modern


Extant Building

Early C19 with mid and late C19 alterations. Coursed stone with ashlar dressings. Fairly low pitched Welsh slate roof, with three corniced stone chimney stacks. Moulded eaves cornice and frieze; cill bands. Two storeys, six windows. Quoins to angles and windows, two original sashes, the rest modern. Doric prostyle porch in third bay, later canted and square bays to right. Later brick right extension with stone dressings. Half-octagonal ended conservatory to left. On entrance front, a two-bay entrance wing dated 1875. Some original windows on rear elevation. Some good late C19 stained glass windows with floral panels and figures in Edward Burne-Jones style; and some arts-and-crafts metalwork to doors {1}. Modest early C19 house, with additions c. 1856-74 and of 1875 by James Shotton for Robert Spence Watson, cousin of Birket Foster and host to Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris. Library with stained glass, tiles and fittings designed by Morris & Co. The earlier parts of the house features stained glass featuring daisies and a dragonfly. In the sitting room there is a stained glass image of Admiral Collingwood by Joseph Baguely. In the main bedroom there are depictions of the Northern Saints. In the late 1870s the house was turned back to front and the images of the musicians were added. There are wooden ceilings and stone fireplaces carved with poetic references. In the fireplaces are early tiles by Morris, Marshll and Faulkner. In the early 1800s Joshua Watson (1771-1853), a Quaker cheesemonger from Allendale, working in Newcastle, bought Bensham Grove. He married Esther in 1806 and had a son called Joseph in 1807. Joseph Watson (1807-1874) was an attorney, poet, writer of children's stories, a Quaker and a political reformer. He believed in the abolition of slavery and sheltered fugitive slaves at Bensham Grove. He married Sarah Spence in 1835. Their son Robert was born in 1837. By 1862 he had taken Robert into partnership. Sarah died in 1871 and Joseph in 1874. Bensham Grove is chiefly notable as the home of Robert Spence Watson (1837-1911), the most notable citizen of Gateshead. He was secretary of the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society, co-founder of many educational institutions including the Gateshead High School and the Newcastle College of Science (now the University of Newcastle upon Tyne). He was, for more than two decades, secretary of the Newcastle Liberal Association and, although he never stood for Parliament, was appointed a Privy Councillor. He was perhaps best known for pioneer work in arbitration of industrial disputes. He married Elizabeth Richardson in 1863. They had six children - Mabel, Ruth, Evelyn, Mary, Bertha and Arnold. Arnold died in 1897, Mabel in 1907, Robert in 1911, Ruth in 1914 and Elizabeth in 1919. After Elizabeth's death, the remaining family members set up an Educational Trust and the new Settlement Association used the house for adult education courses. The Trustees envisaged a 'common meeting ground for men and women to learn through class study, discussions, music and fruits of Fellowship'. The first warden was Miss Lettice Jowitt. Bensham Grove became the first Mother and Child Welfare Clinic in Gateshead and the first nursery school in the north-east. The Bensham Settlement was home to music and singing groups, an orchestra, drama group and arts and handicrafts exhibitions. In 1930 Clifford Webb founded the Bensham Settlement Art Group. This disbanded on the eve of the Second World War. In 2013 the Trustees of Bensham Grove were awarded funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the house.




Department of National Heritage, List of Buildings of Special architectural or Historic Interest, 1 & 6/107;; leaflets by Benham Grove Community Centre - Bensham Grove The Jewel in the Town 1801-1919, A Bunch of Scary Women The Settlement Days Bensham Grove 1919-1939, The Arts Scene at Bensham Grove 1810-1918

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