Twelve Oaks - A Wolsingham house which has family at it's heart

PUBLISHED: 15:15 24 February 2012 | UPDATED: 21:07 20 February 2013

Twelve Oaks - A Wolsingham house which has family at it's heart

Twelve Oaks - A Wolsingham house which has family at it's heart

Peek inside a custom-built Wolsingham home with family at its heart Words and photography by Helen Johnson

Many houses are billed as family homes, but this one has family at its heart one family to be precise; the Wards. The house was commissioned by Dryden Ward, designed by his daughter-in-law Elwyn Ward and Wards have lived here since it was built in the 1950s.

And the familys influence on the design of the house is still obvious, says Elwyns daughter Susan. My mother said what she wanted and she worked closely with the architect.

The kitchen still has her original cupboards and the red Aga. I remember her saying she wanted doors in particular places and she didnt want the rooms too high, else all the heat would be lost up there.

The house, near Wolsingham, was named Twelve Oaks by Elwyn, after the plantation in Gone With The Wind and her husband Desmond planted the eponymous trees.

Decorative touches around the house include oak panelling in the hall, a front door with arts and crafts style iron hinges, stained glass, and the fully tiled kitchen and bathroom.


The bathroom features a panel with a stag etched onto it and Susan said: The whole bathroom was in a showroom in Newcastle, my father bought it complete my mother was over the moon.

Although Elwyn specified the design and fittings, the house was commissioned by father-in-law, Dryden. The story goes that my grandfather started off with just one cow, but worked his way up to be a wealthy businessman, Susan said. He was a timber merchant and could walk into an estate and value the wood there and then. Hed buy whole estates and take the wood off them. He set up all his sons, too. One had quarries, one had a farm, another had sawmills and my father had sawmills, plant hire, haulage, a farm and racehorses.

He also built homes for his sons and for Twelve Oaks, Dryden made use of stone from an estate hed bought for timber. Susan said: They dismantled stables at Biddlestone Hall in Northumberland and hand dressed the stone.

Timber came from the family sawmills, and, added Susan: My mothers side, the Gallachers, were builders and they built the house.

Elwyn Ward was house-proud and designed the house to be easy to maintain but comfortable to live in. Her practical touches are visible everywhere and include plentiful cupboards and worktops in the kitchen, heated towel rails, a walk-in linen cupboard, and a utility wing with covered access to garage, laundry and boiler room.

It also has beautiful views from every window but its only a mile from the village and half an hour to Durham and Darlington.

Built in the 1950s, the rooms are light and airy, with large windows, and often dual aspects the kitchen looks south over the Dale and north to Hartwell Wood.

Susan added: I was born in this house but the others in the family were born at Redgate Head, a farm up the hill. Grandfather owned it and all his sons lived there until they got their own places.

The family has also had a lengthy involvement with the Wolsingham Show. Dryden was instrumental in resstarting the event after World War Two and Elwyn helped make show weekends memorable. My mother was a great hostess and made everyone welcome, Susan added.

She had open house all weekend, and baked fresh bread buns for everyone on the morning.There were beautiful cherry tarts with cream on top, and great big hams, turkey and beef. The whole kitchen worktop was covered with cakes and desserts, all made on the Aga.

Wolsingham Show is renowned for horses an interest which is shared by the Ward family. My lifes work has been with racehorses, Susan said. My father had a thoroughbred stallion called Carnival Dancer at stud He ran a string of racehorses. I worked on the stud when I left school. Ands shes worked with horses ever since.

I break in horses and ride them in point-to-point. Ive had four winners and some placings. Ive also done show jumping and cross country eventing and Ive broken and prepared horses for other trainers a lot have gone on to win.

Im often to be seen on a long rein in Wolsingham, breaking a horse in when the village is quiet.

But after being part of the dale for so long, things are changing. Following the deaths of Elwyn and Desmond, the house is to be sold for the first time.

* Twelve Oaks, Wolsingham, is for sale with George F White, www.georgefwhite.co.uk. 01388 527966.



The print version of this article appeared in the March 2012 issue of North East Life

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