Phoenix House in Etherley, County Durham has been re-born

PUBLISHED: 00:16 05 December 2011 | UPDATED: 20:24 20 February 2013

Phoenix House in Etherley, County Durham has been re-born

Phoenix House in Etherley, County Durham has been re-born

Phoenix House in Etherley, County Durham has been re-born as a family home that is perfect for Christmas parties - and has its own ghost, as Helen Johnson reports

Some houses, it seems, were made for Christmas and Phoenix House, in Etherley, near Witton Park, is one of them. The substantial Victorian family home comes alive when the decorations go up and the family start to arrive.


But when Christine Bell and her husband Malcolm bought the house in 1987 it was far from being at its festive best. Cellars which had been filled with rubble and had caused the kitchen floor to rot had to be cleared and the family spent a whole winter with the kitchen open from cellar to eaves, washing up in the bath. It was worth it, though, for the lovely kitchen I enjoyed in the years after, Christine said.

As soon I came into the house I just knew that it was perfect a big stone house, in a village, with a community, with local shops, and a bus.

But until they moved in, they werent aware of one of the houses other features a ghost. I think its a woman in a cloak, said Christine. She walks across from time to time. I think when we built the porch we upset her for a while, because she disappeared, but then she came back. I dont know who she is, but shes amiable.

Fortunately, the presence on the drive hasnt deterred visitors. From when we first moved in, we were always a big crowd for Christmas even the first year, when we didnt have a kitchen. The house was so big that all the grandparents my parents and my in-laws could come.

Christine thinks the house was originally built for the owner or manager of Phoenix Pit, one of the earliest pits in the area, which was in the field behind the house. A field away was the earliest part of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, surveyed by George Stephensons son.

But by the time the Bells bought the house, it had been divided into two dwellings. That explains why the layout was a little odd, Christine said. We returned it to one property and knocked an arch from the kitchen to the breakfast room.

Christines husband Malcolm, who works as a planning consultant, added: I strive to help local distinctiveness. At one time, Witton Park had the most declined population in the county, but weve been delighted to be part of the areas revival. Were now hoping that the centre of Witton Park will be designated as true village green.

Malcolm sought out local experts to enhance his home. Mr Westmarland, a blacksmith who was restoring ironwork on the old greenhouses at Walworth Castle, made the wrought iron gates and Teesdale stonemason Trevor Wood built a conservatory. Most of the stones came from former outbuildings on the site, while some are old sleepers from the original Stockton and Darlington Railway.

The conservatory now leads to the garden, with views across the valley and one of the couples favourite additions was a stained glass window depicting the rebirth cycle of a Phoenix a bird with dual resonance given the old pit and the houses recent renaissance.

The window was made by Trisha Hudson, Malcolm said. And we framed and hung all her initial drawings for the project. I love the Arts and Crafts movement and all it stood for in the joy of a relationship with what you make or have around you. It is a joy, a lift on coming home, to see something crafted or made for the place.

Once restored, Phoenix House made a magnificent family home. Its fabulous for parties, said Christine. Because of the circular nature of the house the rooms are arranged around a central staircase people can move around and nobody gets trapped in one room. And having lots of rooms makes it great as a family house too.

Christmas is always a special time here. Wed go for walks with the dogs. And there always seemed to be a kitten trying to destroy the Christmas tree. On Christmas Day, wed have a Champagne breakfast, then open presents.

Friends were always coming in, and wed walk into the village to see friends. Then we had dinner in the evening.

* Phoenix House is for sale with Addisons of Barnard Castle for offers in the region of 485,000. 01833 638094, www.addisons-surveyors.co.uk.


Some houses, it seems, were made for Christmas and Phoenix House, in Etherley, near Witton Park, is one of them. The substantial Victorian family home comes alive when the decorations go up and the family start to arrive.

But when Christine Bell and her husband Malcolm bought the house in 1987 it was far from being at its festive best. Cellars which had been filled with rubble and had caused the kitchen floor to rot had to be cleared and the family spent a whole winter with the kitchen open from cellar to eaves, washing up in the bath.

It was worth it, though, for the lovely kitchen I enjoyed in the years after, Christine said.As soon I came into the house I just knew that it was perfect a big stone house, in a village, with a community, with local shops, and a bus.

But until they moved in, they werent aware of one of the houses other features a ghost. I think its a woman in a cloak, said Christine. She walks across from time to time. I think when we built the porch we upset her for a while, because she disappeared, but then she came back. I dont know who she is, but shes amiable.Fortunately, the presence on the drive hasnt deterred visitors.

From when we first moved in, we were always a big crowd for Christmas even the first year, when we didnt have a kitchen. The house was so big that all the grandparents my parents and my in-laws could come.

Christine thinks the house was originally built for the owner or manager of Phoenix Pit, one of the earliest pits in the area, which was in the field behind the house. A field away was the earliest part of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, surveyed by George Stephensons son.

But by the time the Bells bought the house, it had been divided into two dwellings. That explains why the layout was a little odd, Christine said. We returned it to one property and knocked an arch from the kitchen to the breakfast room.

Christines husband Malcolm, who works as a planning consultant, added: I strive to help local distinctiveness. At one time, Witton Park had the most declined population in the county, but weve been delighted to be part of the areas revival. Were now hoping that the centre of Witton Park will be designated as true village green.




Malcolm sought out local experts to enhance his home. Mr Westmarland, a blacksmith who was restoring ironwork on the old greenhouses at Walworth Castle, made the wrought iron gates and Teesdale stonemason Trevor Wood built a conservatory. Most of the stones came from former outbuildings on the site, while some are old sleepers from the original Stockton and Darlington Railway.

The conservatory now leads to the garden, with views across the valley and one of the couples favourite additions was a stained glass window depicting the rebirth cycle of a Phoenix a bird with dual resonance given the old pit and the houses recent renaissance.The window was made by Trisha Hudson,

Malcolm said. And we framed and hung all her initial drawings for the project. I love the Arts and Crafts movement and all it stood for in the joy of a relationship with what you make or have around you. It is a joy, a lift on coming home, to see something crafted or made for the place.Once restored, Phoenix House made a magnificent family home.

Its fabulous for parties, said Christine. Because of the circular nature of the house the rooms are arranged around a central staircase people can move around and nobody gets trapped in one room. And having lots of rooms makes it great as a family house too

.Christmas is always a special time here. Wed go for walks with the dogs. And there always seemed to be a kitten trying to destroy the Christmas tree. On Christmas Day, wed have a Champagne breakfast, then open presents.

Friends were always coming in, and wed walk into the village to see friends. Then we had dinner in the evening.




* Phoenix House is for sale with Addisons of Barnard Castle for offers in the region of 485,000. 01833 638094, www.addisons-surveyors.co.uk.



The print version of this article appeared in the December 2011 issue of North East Life

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