Bessie Surtees House

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41-44 Sandhill, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Bessie Surtees House - Old fireplace, Bessie Surtees House
Bessie Surtees House - Room in Bessie Surtees House
Bessie Surtees House - Bessie Surtees House - the famous window
Bessie Surtees House - Bessie Surtees House (on the left by the car)

Bessie Surtees House Newcastle upon Tyne Reviews

Toonsarah Toonsarah
566 reviews
One of the oldest houses in the city Nov 16, 2017
This row of Elizabethan houses and pubs stands at the foot of the Side on your right as you emerge on the Quayside. These are some of the earliest houses still standing in Newcastle, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. They were owned by the merchants who had grown rich from trade on the river, and were built here so that they could easily watch from the first floor windows for their ships coming in.

The house is most noted for the elopement of its eponymous resident with John Scott, a coal merchant’s son, as the plaque below the window from which she made her escape explains. This happened in 1772, and caused a great scandal within the two families concerned, although the couple married in Scotland and later again in Newcastle. Despite his humble beginnings, and this inauspicious start to his married life with Bessie, John went on to become Lord Chancellor of England, so can be said to have done very well for himself.

Once inside you discover that there is much more to this house than a window! It is relatively sparsely furnished, and you only get to see a few rooms on the first floor (the upper floors are used as offices by English Heritage, which explains, I think, the free entry). These rooms however display some wonderful features, most notably perhaps the 350 year old fireplace in the largest of them. The carvings on its oak panelling commemorate the 1657 marriage (and this one was legitimate!) of an earlier daughter of the house, Anne Cock, to Thomas Davison, with their initials and the coats of arms of the two families.

The house itself is in part older still – it is actually three houses that have been joined together over the years, and the oldest part dates from the 15th century. If you like sloping floors with creaking boards, doorways so low you have to duck, and lead paned windows with only a blurry view of the street outside, this is the place for you! I especially enjoyed seeing all the old photos of the house, showing not only how it had changed over the years but also how the entire area around the Quayside had done the same – at one time the haunt of rich merchants, then declining as the city expanded on the hill high above the river, and then in recent years being revived to become the thriving area it now is again.
Bessie Surtees House (on the left …
Bessie Surtees House - the famous …
Room in Bessie Surtees House
Old fireplace, Bessie Surtees Hous…
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