The Grange in Hurworth-on-Tees, co. Durham, is a grand Victorian Mansion sitting in a lush green landscape. The beautiful grounds, with flourishing trees and shrubbery, are well tended and immaculate. It is a place that now serves as a much-loved Community Centre, and one can see why the local residents find it a peaceful place. We hope to not only present a history of The Grange, but to also show this Grand Old Dame’s many splendorous faces.
Before The Grange
The Grange was not the first home to occupy the property it now resides upon. Previously there was a house known as Hurworth Cottage, owned by George Gibson. Hurworth Cottage was most likely built between the years 1829 and 1831, when George re-married after the death of his first wife in circa 1827. Adjacent to the Hurworth Cottage property was Rose Villa. After the death of George Gibson in 1872 Albert Backhouse bought the property, knocked down Hurworth Cottage and built in its place The Grange. Rose Villa still sits upon the adjacent property, just on the other side of the wooded area of The Grange, but is now known, funny enough, as Hurworth Cottage. For those descended from the line of George Gibson I am including a small amount of family history.
George GIBSON was born 1797 at Evenwood, Co. Durham. He was a Wholesale Tea and Coffee Merchant at Pilkington’s Yard, Bondgate, Darlington. His death is recorded as the 11th of April 1872, aged 76.
The first wife of George Gibson was Mary COATES, whom he married the 23rd of April 1822 at Grinton, Yorkshire. She died sometime between 1827 and 1829.
The children of this marriage were:
Mary Ann GIBSON, born 1826 in county Durham. She went on to marry Charles Hutton POTTS of Jersey.
William Coates GIBSON, born 1827 in county Durham, and died the 5th of March, 1845, probably at Hurworth. He was 18 years old at the time of his death.
On the 17th of November, 1829 George married his second wife, Ann Martha JAMES at All Saints in Hurworth. Ann was born 1798 at St.Gilesgate, London and died 17th July 1870 at Hurworth, aged 72.
The children of this marriage were:
John James GIBSON, born circa 1830 at Hurworth, and died as an infant on the 20th of September 1831 at Hurworth.
Ann Sarah GIBSON, born 1832 at Hurworth and died in August of 1898. She married Thomas MODLIN, a draper from Kirkham, Lancashire, England.
Elizabeth Georgianna GIBSON, born 1833 at Hurworth and died on the 17th of July 1895. She married Richard SHERATON of Hylton, Durham, England. In the 1881 census he was listed as a retired draper.
George James GIBSON, born 1836 at Hurworth.
John James GIBSON, born 1837 at Hurworth.
Thomas James GIBSON, born 24th of January 1840 at Hurworth and died the 5th of January 1915 at Slough. He married twice during his lifetime, first to Margaret BANKS, who died in 1875, and secondly to Selina Elizabeth LEIGH.
Henry James GIBSON, born 18th of May 1841 at Hurworth and died the 9th of October 1879.
Below are two maps of Hurworth from the year 1857 showing the location of Hurworth Cottage, now The Grange.
The Beginnings of The Grange
Alfred Backhouse built The Grange as a wedding gift to his nephew, James Edward Backhouse, who had married Elizabeth Barclay Fowler in 1873. The house was complete by 1875. The architect was the famous Sir Alfred Waterhouse.
Alfred Backhouse was born at Darlington, co. Durham in 1822, a son of Edward Backhouse and Mary Robson. He married Rachel Barclay on 8 May 1851 at Plaistow, Essex. The Backhouse and Barclay families were well-known banking families throughout England. The Backhouse family also belonged to the Society of Friends (Quakers). Alfred Backhouse lived in his own grand Victorian Mansion, Pilmore Hall, which is in the grounds of Rockcliffe Park, now owned by Middlesbrough Football Club.
James Edward Backhouse, son of Thomas James Backhouse and Margaret Richardson, married, on 2 October 1873, Miss Elizabeth Barclay Fowler, born 1 August 1849 at Woodford, Essex and died 24 May 1911. She was a daughter of Henry Fowler and Ann Ford Barclay. It appears that they were cousins of some degree. James and Elizabeth lived many happy years at The Grange, where fourteen children were born to them. Sadly, a number of those children died at a very young age. Of their surviving children, most went on to marry into successful and prominent families, with one daughter, Elspeth Lillian, marrying Jonathan Hodgkin, an author who, according to United States Ship lists, made a tour of New York in 1914. While walking the grounds of The Grange one can almost hear the laughter of these former children who must have spent many a happy hour playing under the trees.
James and Elizabeth didn’t spend all of their time at The Grange, as evidenced by the census for 1881, where the family are listed as staying in Speldhurst, Kent. Those enumerated in the household were James and Elizabeth and the following children: Edith, Edward, Mabel, Alfred and C.L. (should read Elspeth Lillian). Also listed were the following domestic servants: Jane Scott – Head Nurse, Ada West – Under Nurse and Eliza Reid – Under housemaid. The only person listed at The Grange in 1881 was Elizah Ducker – Groom domestic servant.
James died 29 Oct. 1897, leaving The Grange to his eldest son, Edward Backhouse, who was also left Pilmore when his uncle Alfred Backhouse died. Edward decided to sell Pilmore and live at The Grange. In the 1901 census for county Durham Edward is listed as the head of household at The Grange. He was 24 years old. Listed in the enumeration as part of his household were his sisters, Mabel, Margaret and Rhoda. Also listed were Henritta E. Sinton, visitor, and the following domestic servants: Isabella Skipsey – cook domestic, Elizabeth Woodhouse – Ladies maid domestic, Henry Raisbeck – Footman domestic, Linda Foster – Housemaid domestic, Ann E. Turner – Kitchen maid domestic and Mabel Hugill – Kitchen maid domestic.
As mentioned earlier, James and Elizabeth Backhouse had fourteen children born to them. Below is a list of their children and a bit of their history.
Edith Mary Backhouse, the first child of James and Elizabeth, was born the 31st of July 1874. In 1891 Edith is found listed in the census for The Mount School, Micklegate, York.
Unnamed female, born 1875 died 1875.
Edward Backhouse, born 26 October 1876, at The Grange. Edward married Lucy Backhouse Mounsey in 1902, but they do not appear to have had any children. Edward was killed on 26 August 1922, while climbing in Zermatt, Switzerland. He had been educated at Leighton Park and Balliol College, Oxford, and was the local Director for Barclay & Company.
Mabel Backhouse, born 11 February 1878, at The Grange. In 1897 Mabel was at Oxford University. On 26 February 1903 she married Wilfred Arthur Mounsey at Darlington, county Durham. They had the following children:
Michael James Mounsey, born 28 May 1905
Eleanor Catherine Mounsey, born 9 July 1907
John Backhouse Mounsey, born 22 July 1912
Barbara Ann Mounsey, born 22 July 1912
Alfred Ernest Backhouse, born 12 June 1879, at The Grange. Died suddenly in the United States on 26 November 1955.
Elspeth Lillian Backhouse, born 31 August 1880, at The Grange. Elspeth married Jonathan Edward Hodgkin on 5 July 1902 at Darlington, county Durham. She died 1 March 1969. The children of this marriage were:
Neville Backhouse Hodgkin, born 30 April 1904
Maurice Edward Hodgkin, born 17 February 1906
Oliver Henry Hodgkin, born 27 February 1908
Brian Maurice Hodgkin, born 9 December 1910
Elizabeth Ann Hodgkin, born 23 April 1912
David Kenneth Ronald Hodgkin, born 9 September 1914
Elspeth’s husband Jonathan was an author who had travelled to New York, United States in 1914, as shown by the documents below. He sailed with the famous Arthur Conan Doyle, also listed below. He sailed on the ship “Olympic,” the sister ship of the “Titanic.”
Basil Henry Backhouse, born 9 September 1882 at The Grange. Died 1953. Basil attended the Leighton Park School, Berkshire, in 1901.
Jennett Rachel Backhouse, born 15 November 1883 at The Grange. Jennett married Ronald Hodgkin on 23 February 1915 at Staindrop, county Durham. She died 15 July 1973 at Cotherstone, county Durham. The children of this marriage were:
Ruth Jennett Hodgkin, born 16 March 1917
Lois Hodgkin, born 23 May 1919
Christine Hodgkin, born 1 March 1923
Kenneth James Backhouse, born 26 April 1885 at The Grange. He married Irene Agnes Bell on 15 June 1911 at Darlington, county Durham, but died on 8 January 1912, leaving no children. Kenneth attended the Leighton Park School, Berkshire, in 1901.
Margaret Ann Backhouse, born 4 May 1887 at The Grange. Further information is being sought.
Rhoda Jane Backhouse, born 17 June 1889 at The Grange. Died 1980. Further information is being sought.
Katherine Mary Backhouse, born (apparently) 1895 at The Grange. Further information is being sought. It still isn’t positive whether or not this is a daughter of James Backhouse.
Research into the history of this family continues.
To view photographs of relatives of James Edward Backhouse click on the link below:
To read an interesting article about the Backhouse family and collateral lines click on this link:
The Rogerson Family
In early 1913 Captain William Ernest Rogerson moved his family from Walworth Castle to Neasham Abbey. In 1914, while stationed with the 12thDurham Light Infantry in Woking, Surrey, William suffered a heart attack and died. Shortly afterwards his widow, Violet, moved into The Grange. It is not clear at this time what connection, if any, William or Violet had with the Backhouse family. The information we have to date on them follows. Here is the obituary for William Rogerson, as listed in the Durham Directory:
ROGERSON, Capt. W.E., adjutant of the 12th D.L.I.; formerly of Walworth Castle died 14 November 1914 (Durham Directory, 1915)
William Ernest Rogerson was born at Croxdale Hall, county Durham on the 1st of December 1872. He appears to have been a son of John and Sarah Ann Rogerson. John Rogerson was a Steel Manufacturer.
Violet was born as Violet Mary Mackesy, born 13 January 1872 at Lahore, West Bengal, India. Her father may have been one William Mackesy, but further information is being sought to confirm this. Mother’s name is unknown at this time.
William Rogerson married Violet Mackesy at Kensington, London in December of 1898. On the 1901 census they were listed as living at Moor House Entire, Durham. Names of children, if any, are not yet known.
We know that Violet lived at The Grange from 1914 until at least 1926, where she is listed on the Valuation Lists of 1926. She is also listed in the Rates Books for the years 1917-1920. When Violet first moved into The Grange it was still recorded as being owned by the executors of James Edward Backhouse.
Violet Mary Rogerson died on 18 August 1960 at 93 Barkston Gardens, Kensington, London.
The Spielman Family
Due to the Data Protection Acts we will only include information about this family that is already in the public record. It is not our wish to intrude on the privacy of their living children, if any. So, from information gathered on the Internet this is what we know.
In 1935 Wilfred Godden and others, executors of the James Edward Backhouse will, listed The Grange for sale. On the 2nd December 1935 The Grange was conveyed to Mrs. M.J. Spielman.
Mr. Claude M. Spielman first came to Whessoe in 1923 then moved to Darlington in 1935, where he became Director of the Works. Upon taking up his duties at the Works there were about 70 people on the staff and another 500 in the Works. By the time he retired in 1954 there were 400 on the staff and 1,200 in the Works.
Mrs. Spielman was also known for her good works, as she not only organised but worked with the Whessoe Women’s Knitting Club. Their efforts provided hundreds of socks, gloves and other knitted products for Whessoe men serving in the Forces overseas during WWII.
The Spielmans were a Jewish family and as such they felt it was their duty to help Jewish refugees fleeing Eastern Europe during the 1930’s. Many of these refugees found shelter at The Grange while they were seeking new homes in England.
Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God
In 1955 The Grange was again put up for sale. At this time The Brothers of Saint John of God were already operating St. Cuthbert’s Hospital in Hurworth and they were approached as potential buyers of The Grange. On the 12th of October 1955 the property was conveyed from Mrs. M.J. Spielman to the Rev. William Donegan and others of the Order of Saint John of God. On the 11th of February 1956 The Holy Family School in Scorton, a Juniorate school of Saint John of God, was transferred to The Grange. It was used as a school for boys who wished to become Hospitaller Brothers.
To learn more about the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God click the link below:
The Grange as Community Centre
In 1967 the Brothers decided to close the school and sell The Grange. In October of 1968 the Durham County Council purchased The Grange and gave it to the Hurworth Parish Council to use as a Community Centre.
The Grange was officially opened as a Community Centre on the 20th September 1969. Since then it has served the community of Hurworth well, offering many different services and activities, such as a library, concerts, sports events, a wedding venue and too many other beneficial services to mention.
The famous poet, Rudyard Kipling, once paid a visit to The Grange in the 1890’s. During that time there was housed at The Grange an old Roman sarcophagus. It is believed that the Backhouse may have acquired it when the railway to York was built. The sarcophagus was later housed at St. Cuthbert’s Hospital in the archives. The Middlesbrough Football Club now uses this land. This old stone coffin inspired Rudyard Kipling to write a poem entitled ‘The Roman Centurion’s Song.’ I have included it below.
‘The Roman Centurion’s Song’
By Rudyard Kipling
LEGATE, I had the news last night—my cohort ordered home
By ship to Portus Itius and thence by road to Rome.
I’ve marched the companies aboard, the arms are stowed below:
Now let another take my sword. Command me not to go!
I’ve served in Britain forty years, from Vectis to the Wall
I have none other home than this, nor any life at all.
Last night I did not understand, but, now the hour draws near
That calls me to my native land, I feel that land is here.
Here where men say my name was made, here where my work was done,
Here where my dearest dead are laid—my wife—my wife and son;
Here where time, custom, grief and toil, age, memory, service, love,
Have rooted me in British soil. Ah, how can I remove?
For me this land, that sea, these airs, those folk and fields suffice.
What purple Southern pomp can match our changeful Northern skies,
Black with December snows unshed or pearled with August haze—
The clanging arch of steel-grey March, or June’s long-lighted days?
You’ll follow widening Rhodanus till vine and olive lean
Aslant before the sunny breeze that sweeps Nemausus clean
To Arelate’s triple gate; but let me linger on,
Here where our stiff-necked British oaks confront Euroclydon !
You’ll take the old Aurelian Road through shore-descending pines
Where, blue as any peacock’s neck, the Tyrrhene Ocean shines.
You’ll go where laurel crowns are won, but—will you e’er forget
The scent of hawthorn in the sun, or bracken in the wet?
Let me work here for Britain’s sake—at any task you will—
A marsh to drain, a road to make or native troops to drill.
Some Western camp (I know the Pict) or granite Border keep,
Mid seas of heather derelict, where our old messmates sleep.
Legate, I come to you in tears—My cohort ordered home!
I’ve served in Britain forty years. What should I do in Rome?
Here is my heart, my soul, my mind—the only life I know.
I cannot leave it all behind. Command me not to go!
The above history of The Grange, Hurworth-on-Tees, is far from complete. It is our intent to dig even further into the history of this house, the land it sits upon and the families who have lived their lives under the shelter of her roof. This will be an ongoing research project that we hope will eventually bring some benefit to the wonderful people who operate, manage and visit The Grange, as well as to the community of Hurworth.
To all those who helped to open up the doors for us to investigate this beautiful Victorian home we owe a big and heartfelt Thank You. We would also like to thank those community members who were present at The Grange on the night of our investigation. It was a pleasure to meet and talk with such warm and friendly people.
Many thanks again to Hugh, Eric and Alan. We couldn’t have done it without your help, interest and trust in us.