History of Nunnykirk Hall
Nunnykirk Hall is a 19th-century country house and Grade I listed building in the civil parish of Nunnykirk, near the village of Netherwitton in the English county of Northumberland. The hall is now our school building.
The House and Estate
In 1536 the Nunnykirk estate, including a tower, was owned by the abbots of Newminster Abbey but fell to the Crown on the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
In 1610 it was granted by the Crown to Sir Ralph Grey. Grey later sold it to the Ward family of Morpeth who built a manor house.
In 1771 Ann Ward, the heiress of the Nunnykirk estate married William Orde, (the half brother of Admiral Sir John Orde). Their son William Orde, Jr. (1774–1843) rebuilt the house in a grand style designed by architect John Dobson in 1825. William Orde, Jr. established a racing stud at Nunnykirk and both he and his nephew and heir Charles William Orde (1810–1875) enjoyed considerable success as breeders. Their most successful horses were Beeswing, Nunnykirk (winner of the 2,000 Guineas), and Newminster (winner of the St. Leger 1851).
Since 1977, the house has been occupied by our school and became known as the Nunnykirk Centre for Dyslexia.
Nunnykirk is in central Northumberland and lies between the high fell sandstones and the lower ground of the rivers Coquet and Font.
The earliest archaeological remains in the parish are two prehistoric enclosures: a circular enclosure and a rectangular enclosure which may date to the Iron Age.
A rare early medieval find has come from the parish in the shape of the Nunnykirk Cross. It is probably ninth century in date and is similar to other crosses from the Hexham area.
In medieval times, much of the lands around Nunnykirk were granted to the Cistercian Newminster Abbey (near Morpeth) as monastic granges. This area did not escape the effects of the wars between England and Scotland in medieval times and a tower was built at Nunnykirk. Later, the effects of Border reivers in the 16th and 17th centuries meant that those who could afford it built defended farmhouses, called bastles. Some of these buildings were converted into more comfortable farmhouses when the threat from reivers abated in the later 17th century.
Agricultural improvements at this time led to the building of new farms at Colt Park where buildings were designed to meet the needs of new developments in farming. Lime kilns were built at Whitehouse as part of these developments, providing lime for building and improving the soil. The arrival of the North British Railway in the 19th century provided an easy means of transport for a range of industries such as coal mining at Ewesley and Whitehouse Colliery. The very building of the railway necessitated the building of bridges such as the railway viaduct over the River Font.
The secluded nature of Nunnykirk led to the building of Nunnykirk Hall, designed by John Dobson.