Survey of Tanfield Hall unlocks the past

Overlooking the famous Causey Arch Bridge with the World’s oldest surviving railway, Tanfield Hall is a Grade II* Listed mansion house with a fascinating history. Lewis Surveying Associates were commissioned to survey the building for a new owner and to advise upon its repair and conservation. 

Paul Lewis, RICS Accredited Conservation Surveyor said, “This beautiful building presents a classic Georgian frontage, but as the survey progressed, it became clear to me that the building had much earlier origins. Older windows and doors could be seen buried in the walls; we knew that a scheme of Georgian alterations around 1725 had made substantial changes to the layout and appearance but the date of the original house had been a mystery.”

Historic research showed that the building was painted in 1625 and was already referred to as ‘The Old Tudor House at Tanfield Hall’. The painting showed that a rear Tudor wing had been demolished and the kitchens relocated to a new Georgian wing on the west side. The original windows to the front were altered at the same time to the Georgian style seen today. Another clue was the strikingly Renaissance gate piers on the drive which clearly pre-dated the current appearance.

The estate was probably created when the Earl of Northumberland had to forfeit the land in 1569 over a dispute with the Crown. The house was thereafter linked to the famous Shafto family, Rowland Shafto living there from 1570, and later his sons Anthony and William. Other famous owners include Sir William Kennet, the members of this notable Catholic family remaining on the fringes of Jacobite politics in the late 16th and 17th centuries, although his son in law, William Mackenzie, 5th Earl of Seaforth 
only avoided execution for his part in the 1715 rebellion by dying in May that year.
The house was later used as an inn and a ‘Boarding Acadamy’ between 1760 and 1860; by contrast, it was an Occupational Centre for the Unemployed in the depression of 1933.

Chris Cowie, the new owner said, “Many thanks for the fantastic survey report - it really is incredibly thorough; it looked at everything we had thought or worried about. The schedule of works will be extremely helpful as well, and I suspect we may well be back in touch in the future if we need to put together any planning applications for works to go to the council. We must thank Paul for his professionalism and commitment.”

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