Society committee visits Dunston Hall

The society have previously expressed its concern about various aspects of recent works at Dunston Hall, but have been reassured following a visit to the premises made in late April.

Dunston Hall’s east front. There was probably a house here from around 1600. There are survivals in the present fabric, but this front was somewhat remodelled in the 1820s.

The committee saw at first hand the considerable and high quality work that has been carried out on the grade II listed house itself, into a high quality bespoke events and wedding venue, and in the conversion of outbuildings into a wedding and events location.  One of the converted out-buildings, also grade II listed, contains a number of historically and architecturally important cruck beams. Conversions are currently taking place on a number of other former farm buildings, some also grade II listed, into a high class food-hall, due to open later in the year, subject to necessary consents  The committee were able to see all this work and hear first-hand about it from Mark Lancashire, Dunston Hall’s Operations Director.

Inside the main entrance hall. High quality finishes, fittings and furnishings are the order of the day.
A sitting room in Dunston Hall. The fireplace may have been original to the 1820s alterations.

Says civic society chairman Howard Borrell; ‘A considerable amount of time and money – perhaps well in excess of £2 million – has been spent on the various recent schemes that have helped not only guarantee the future of the Dunston Hall, but its important outbuildings. Many of the latter, even those listed grade II, were in serious decay, but have been put back into use as a wonderful venue for things like weddings. The work is high-class and sympathetic to the historic environment. It has also injected money into the local economy through construction work and employment in the various aspects of the Dunston Hall business.

This impressive space, complete with cruck beams, has been converted from a  formerly near-derelict out-building. The beams do not now form structural support due to their former advanced state of decay, but have been supported by the insertion of steel plates. This was possibly part of an originally U-shaped range surrounding a farmyard, with the original Hall at its north-eastern corner and may date to original construction of the hall c.1600. It is listed grade II.

David and Lynsey Harrison have owned the hall and garden centre since late 2020. It was formerly more widely known only for its garden centre.  Phased work was carried out on restoring the house and estate to its former glory and the garden centre now has a popular bistro.

Another recent move has included purchasing what is described as the ‘deer park’ to the front of the house. This possibly dates to the 1820s update and additions to the hall. Here there are plans for tree-planting, other habitat improvements and better public access.

Members of the committee were keen to discuss issues such as car parking and noise generation. They heard about arrangements made for overflow parking and that marquee events had now ended, alongside other event noise reduction measures employed.

Comments Howard Borrell; ‘We have seen the quality finishes achieved here and spoken first hand to one of the people responsible for elements of the scheme. Taken as whole the development has certainly breathed new life into one of the town’s historic houses and estates.’

Society Chairman Howard Borrell (right) with Dunston Hall’s Mark Lancashire, in the food-hall. This building is also grade II listed. It is still being fitted out but will offer fresh vegetables, fruit and other produce when opened.  

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