Two 16th and 17th merchants’ houses built on the banks of the River Tyne, now home to the North East branch of Historic England. Visit Historic England’s website.
- Known today as Bessie Surtees House, this is the name of two, five-storey high merchants’ houses.
- This building used to be two separate houses known as Surtees House and Milbank House.
- The two houses were built in the 16th and 17th centuries (1500s and 1600s).
- Bessie Surtees House is located along a stretch of Newcastle’s riverfront on Sandhill. During the 16th and 17th centuries this area gained huge commercial importance and became very busy. Many wealthy merchants owned property there.
- The story behind Bessie Surtees house is a Romeo and Juliet love story. In 1772, Bessie climbed down from the first floor window and eloped (ran away to get married) to Scotland with John Scott who was a coal merchant’s son. John Scott later became Lord Eldon, Lord Chancellor of England.
- From the 18th century (1700s), a lot of the richer merchants moved from down near the river to the suburbs. This led to the area’s slow decline.
- Surtees House has had some historical owners well known in Newcastle. From 1880, a town clerk called John Clayton owned Surtees House and later bought Milbank House – Clayton Street in Newcastle is named after John Clayton who was a town clerk (someone employed in a bank) who worked with Richard Grainger and architect John Dobson to redevelop Newcastle city centre in the 19th century. Lord Gort (previously known as SR Vereker) bought the houses in 1930 who was married to the wife who was descended from the Eldons – who Eldon Square, the shopping centre in Newcastle is named after.
- Today, Bessie Surtees House is owned by Newcastle City Council and leased by Historic England. Rooms on the first floor are open to the public and the rest of the building is used as offices.
Then and now
Find more images of the Bessie Surtees House on the Co-Curate website.