A Victorian water tower in Barton Hall is now an interesting family home
PUBLISHED: 23:50 26 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:58 20 February 2013
A Victorian water tower is now an interesting family home with some of the best views in the North East, as Helen Johnson reports
It wasnt built as a house but the Tower House at Barton has been home to Ray Seward for 30 years. Many towers across the North East were built to defend against Scottish raiders, but this one was put up in Victorian times to supply Barton Hall with water.
Water was pumped from the well to the top of the tower where it was stored and filtered but the tanks are now long gone, and the tower is now part of Rays home. Its an impressive castellated tower with granite corner blocks. Its the highest building in the district, he said.
The roots of the house go back to the 1600s, but most of it is Victorian. Among the features that attracted me were the leaded windows with curved cristolean glass which reflects the sunlight. You cant get it any more, so if a pane gets broken, it has to be replaced with flat glass.
The staircase and wall panelling are magnificent too. When we moved in, the balustrades were painted pink, the banisters black, and the ceiling purple, but you could still see that it was magnificent. Ray removed the paint and polished the wood, including the oak parquet floor.
In the sitting room, Ray liked the carved Bombay fireplace with marble inserts. He thinks it was and moved from elsewhere in the hall when it was divided into five separate homes. They shuffled things around when they converted the hall my kitchen units used to be in the Butlers Pantry. Next door, they found some magnificent tiling, depicting hunting scenes.
He believes that the green tiled fireplace in his bedroom was also moved from elsewhere in the house, and added: This was the nursery end of the house, but this was the first one of the conversion, so I think I got the lions share of good pieces.
And features from the hall are complemented by family creations including chairs upholstered by his wife and a firescreen by his parents-in-law and a tapestry on the wall was inspired by a trip to Africa.
When Ray moved in, he met people in the village who used to work at the Big House. They were very interesting to talk to, he said.
There were quite a few big houses in the neighbourhood and all the nannies would get together. The parents had very little to do with them they went on holiday on their own
Ray was told that 30 servants and four coachmen used to work at Barton Hall. This was a working village, with five pubs and four ale houses. It used to be the main road part of the Great North Road, and part of the road to Teesside. When they first built the by-pass now the A1(M) no-one could sleep because they werent used to it being so quiet.
In his 30 years living here, Ray has made many improvements, including a staircase for the tower, as previously there were only ladders to the upper floors. From the top floor of the tower, he has a birds eye view of the garden, as well as more distant views.
When this was Barton Hall, it had extensive lands, but they were sold off. Now the gardens are pretty well all thats left.
Rays garden is about half an acre, and he has made the most of the castellated stone walls that surround it. Roses and honeysuckle cascade down, while the sunnier walls ripen peaches and nectarines. Ray built a stone arch to screen the vegetable garden, where neat beds are filled with organic produce and around 20 varieties of fruit and vegetables.
The garden is informally divided into various areas, including an orchard with wildflower meadow, a rockery, lawns and shrub and flower borders. When the children were young, they enjoyed digging potatoes, pulling peas and picking raspberries, but they wont now they just play football.