The Old Rectory is an outstanding Grade II*-listed house in the pretty village of Ryton, in Tyne and Wear. The six-bedroom home lies in an incredibly peaceful and bucolic location, within a conservation area nestled at the edge of Ryton Willows Nature Reserve near the River Tyne, yet only a 20-minute drive to central Newcastle. Measuring over 5,500 sq ft internally with rooms on a grand scale, it also has a capacious loft space, extensive mature gardens and a separate double garage. Originally a Bishop’s Palace, the house is built on an H-plan and has a medieval core, Queen Anne façade, and countless preserved historic features.
Setting the Scene
The Old Rectory has been in the loving care of the same family for 45 years; prior to that it was owned by the Holy Cross church and called Holy Cross Rectory. Divided into two homes by the current owners, the smaller Rectory House is positioned at the southern wing and is comprised of the original service areas and stable block, while The Old Rectory itself is much larger and home to the original principal rooms. Various rectors have left their mark, making notations in the chimneys and on the windows and doors.
The house was extensively remodelled during the Baroque period and retains plenty of character that marks it as such. The entrance is framed by a broken scrolled pediment from 1709, within which are set the arms of Bishop Lord Crewe (the last Prince Bishop). The two carved stone crosses at the apex of the gables are dated 1710 and the chimney stacks are of a rare octagonal design. Exceptional internal features include the elaborate Baroque oak staircase, handsome wainscotting and exquisite scrolled door casings. An array of folding shutters frame fenestration of varying ages, with extraordinary 15th-century stone mullion windows to the rear of the house.
For more information on the history of The Old Rectory and Ryton Village, see the History section below.
The Grand Tour
The Old Rectory lies at the end of a sweeping gravel carriage driveway, accessed through ancient cast-iron gates. It is surrounded by trees and entirely secluded from the nearby village. The home’s grandeur is immediately apparent: set out over three storeys, it is built from coursed squared sandstone with quoins, tall stone gable copings and large sash windows. Within, there are scrolled door casings to most principal room entrances and original floorboards of exceptional quality.
Entry is through an ornate doorcase and half-glazed wedding doors, which open to a capacious stone-flagged hall. A large open hearth lies directly ahead, while four ornate 19th-century wooden support columns provide decorative centre points. Dark green wallpaper has been used to decorate this room – a remnant from when Ken Russell filmed part of DH Lawrence’s ‘The Rainbow’ here, in 1989.
The ground floor has an excellent layout and works as a circular connecting plan. A rear hallway leads to the kitchen and orangery; it also provides access to a large cellar. The kitchen was formerly the butler’s pantry and is generously proportioned, with plentiful room for cosy kitchen suppers. It contains fine old cupboards and a warming Aga, and provides side access to the double garage. The orangery is a double-height space, where detailing of the original Tudor exterior walls is most evident.
The main hallway leads back to the central staircase, a majestic structure with flying newel posts and alternating double helix spiral balusters, accompanied by handsome wainscotting. The ground floor family room, which lies adjacent to the staircase, has wonderful proportions and features fielded wainscoting and fine wooden mouldings to the fireplace and ceilings. There is panelling at the rear of the room, which is marked as being dated from 1678.
The first floor has three bedrooms (two of which are currently used as a drawing room and study respectively) and a bathroom, with the floor’s largest room to the front of the plan. This room (and the room directly above) are from the building’s primary phase. It has a handsome stone chimneypiece, extraordinary Tudor beamed ceilings and tripartite six/six box sash windows that flood the room with light. Three further bedrooms and two bathrooms lie on the second floor. All of the rooms are wonderfully versatile and have excellent proportions and verdant views. Cavernous loft space offers the opportunity for further accommodation, subject to planning consent, with the roof itself in good order and watertight.
The Great Outdoors
The west-facing walled rear garden is exceptionally private, with direct views of the Holy Cross church’s beautiful 13th-century broach spire. Wide steps lead from the York stone terrace, where there is space for seating and entertaining, to a deep lawned area. There is an orchard towards the end of the garden, with several varieties of apples in abundance come autumn. The gardens completely envelop the house and are filled with mature trees and wild planting.
Beyond lies the Ryton Willows Nature Reserve, a wonderful and historic area that sits on the only registered battlefield in Tyne and Wear. The Battle of Newburn took place here in 1640, leading up to the English Civil War. Today it is home to a rich and diverse landscape, with ponds, woodland and grassland leading to the sandy banks of the River Tyne. Offering wonderful walks and adventures, the riverbanks attract seals in the summertime and birds including herons, kingfishers and goosander, while the beech trees in Middle Wood are home to owls and woodpeckers.
Out and About
Old Ryton Village, within which The Old Rectory lies, is a wonderful, well-established community. The village was recently listed by Country Living magazine as the sixth healthiest place to live in the United Kingdom. The Old Cross pub on the village green lies at the heart of the area and is community-owned and family-run. The greater village of Ryton has a variety of local amenities, including a Sainsbury’s and a Co-op.
The historic city of Newcastle, one of the major centres of the Industrial Revolution and home to outstanding examples of architecture from the era, is just a 20-minute drive away. It has an excellent choice of restaurants and shops; it is also home to The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, which is housed in an incredible converted mill and holds world-class exhibitions and events. The fashionable Quayside area is recommended for evenings out.
There is a good choice of state and independent day schools. Nearby Ryton Infants and Junior School act as feeders to Thorp Academy, all located on the same site and only a 10-minute walk from The Old Rectory. Gosforth Academy is a highly regarded senior school located in Gosforth, an area within Newcastle. Also within Newcastle, Dame Allan’s offers places from prep through to sixth form for boys and girls, while Royal Grammar School is also considered a very good independent co-ed senior school.
Transport links are excellent. Newcastle International Airport is a 20-minute drive away, with routes to most European cities and holiday destinations, as well as London Heathrow and other southern English airports. Train times from Newcastle station to London Kings Cross are just 2 hours and 50 minutes; services run half-hourly.
Ryton was historically part of County Durham until 1974, before being incorporated into Tyne and Wear. The economy was built upon agriculture and coal mining; there are records of coal being shipped to London as early as 1367 from the area. It soon became a place of migration for the wealthy, who wanted to escape the urban sprawl of the Industrial Revolution in Gateshead and Newcastle and established fine houses in the area. Both John and Charles Wesley preached at Ryton’s village green, while Charles Thorp, then rector of Ryton, established a savings bank in 1815 at the White House – a building still standing in the village today and thought to be the first of its kind in England.
The gardens of The Old Rectory abut the early 13th-century Holy Cross church’s grounds, home to an important and ancient Saxon Castle Motte – an elevated position acting as a strategic post in Norman Times, to see incoming invaders at the bend in the River Tyne. In years gone by, Ryton Rectory became unsustainably grand due to the excesses of the bishop, news of which displeased Queen Anne and hence the title Prince Bishop ended with him.
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