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A Northumbrian Naturalist

Pen and ink drawing of Joshua Alder. A Northumbrian Naturalist

This post was prompted by the second TV series of A House Through Time in which David Olusoga traces the history of no 5 Ravensworth Terrace in Newcastle NE1. If you enjoyed the series and are interested in House Histories you may be able to pick up some research tips from our post How Do I Research The History Of My House?

Joshua Alder

Joshua Alder was born in Newcastle in 1792. An article in the monthly chronicles of North Country Lore and Legend states that his early education was with an Mr Prowitt who had a school on Pilgrim Street. From there Joshua went to Tanfield where he was educated by Rev Joseph Simpson. Reportedly a family member who ran a school of good standing. At the age of 15, Joshua went to work in the family business on Dean Street. We have learned from David Olusoga’s TV series A House Through Time that the family had a cheesemonger shop. The year after Joshua returned to the shop his father died which meant that at the age of 16 the responsibility for running the family business and supporting his mother and the rest of his family fell to him.

John Robinson

According to his contemporaries, Joshua was not happy with the commercial life. He preferred to spend time studying, drawing and conducting scientific experiments. As the years went by Mr John Robinson who worked as an assistant in the shop took on more responsibilities. John Robinson resided at Roseworth Cottage in Gosforth. Eventually, about the year 1840, Joshua decided to concentrate on his love of nature and more or less left the family business (according to Richard Welford – other sources say that the shop was sold) to his faithful friend and assistant John Robinson.

Text from North Country Lore and Legend. Profile on Joshua Alder showing Gosforth connection.
excerpt from the 1887 monthly chronicles written by Richard Welford

As a young man, Joshua liked to take long walks and travel to distant places. He would reportedly take a sketchbook which he filled with geological and botanical drawings. Ultimately his interest in nature developed into a specialist knowledge of the Mollusca. Joshua compiled a catalogue of his research which was published among the papers of the Natural History Society of Newcastle. Joshua Alder often worked with Albany Hancock, and many of his papers share both names.

Joshua Alder was one of the founders of the Newcastle Natural History Society in 1839. In 1849 he became the president of the Tyneside Naturalists Field Club of which he was also a founding member in1846. The chronicle goes on to report that –

“All contemporary naturalist of note, at home and abroad, were at some time or other in correspondence with him, and one genus (Alderia) and nine species of Mollusca were named in his honour.”

5 Ravensworth Terrace

It seems that Joshua Alder was a man held in high esteem. After the failure of the Northumberland and Durham District Banking Company which caused Joshua to lose his home at 5 Ravensworth Terrace a memorial was made to the Government which was

“… signed by the best-known men in various fields of investigation and research,…”  he was awarded a pension of £70 from the Civil List.

Joshua Alder died on 21st January 1867 aged 74 years.

Mr Alder was mild, genial and unobtrusive, willing at any time to impart his knowledge to others with much affability, and never allowing the opportunity to escape him of encouraging the young and inexperienced students. In conduct upright and honourable, he was in feeling, word and deed, a gentleman.”

Dr Embleton

Do you wish you could discover the “way back when” timeline of your house? 

When the census recorded occupations such as gentleman, unpaid domestic help and scholar!

Our House History Folios, including 

Householder register

House chronology


offer the perfect opportunity!

You can receive your bespoke stamp on history, add your chapter to the story of your house or impart the perfect gift.

“Blown away by how good it is. Best find all year, such unique gifts. So well presented and wrapped. Made with love and care. You won’t regret ordering.”

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Discovering Heritage House History Folio photograph. ©Discovering Heritage

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My Scottish Townhouse Story

My Scottish Townhouse Story Portrait a3 poster ©Discovering Heritage

My Scottish Townhouse Story offers a unique way to add an extraordinary hallmark to your house. Our specialist archival research displayed with an elegantly designed illustration of your property offers a link to history that allows you to travel back through the years and view your house alongside the residents of yesteryear.

Do you hold your Scottish heritage close to your heart?

We all love the famous stories that run through Scottish history; the colourful characters who were brandishing fervour in the fight for justice throughout a historical landscape that rose and fell with the lives of its inhabitants.

Who were these inhabitants, and where did they live?

Descendants of Scottish heroes built the cities and townhouses of Scotland. Their lives have become interwoven in the fabric of Scottish history. Discovering the history of your house can uncover some interesting stories!

Who Lived In My House?

39 North Castle Street Edinburgh. 1801 – 1826

Today this charming property is split into city apartments—the property boasts at least one famous Scottish resident. 

My Scottish Townhouse Story Sir Walter Scotts residence Edinburgh ©Discovering Heritage

Sir Walter Scott

In the autumn of 1801, Sir Walter Scott became a tenant of this house, described as being in Edinburgh’s new town. By Whit – Sunday 1802 Scott had purchased the property for £850 cash + £950 bond. He lived at this residence until 1826 when the house was sold to aid his financial situation.

Imagine sharing a resident legacy with such a prominent Scottish author! 

By researching records and publications, we can add details that bring the history of your house to life. During our research for this article, we came across an entry in a book describing Walers Scott’s frustration on moving into the premises in 1801. Finding the painters and workmen had made the place almost uninhabitable!  

“To augment this confusion my wife has fixed upon this time as proper to present me with a fine chopping boy, whose pipe, being of the shrillest, is heard amid the storm, like a boatswain’s whistle in a gale of wind.”

Walter Scott His Life and Personality Hesketh Pearson.

This property on North Castle Street was also the subject of a pen and ink drawing by Turner. Such a provenance!

House histories can connect you to a heritage you never knew existed.

My Scottish Townhouse Story Ann Street house ©Discovering Heritage

44, Ann Street Edinburgh 1823 – 1915

 Ann Street was described by Sir John Betjeman as

” The most attractive street in Britain.”

44 Ann Street was designed by the Scottish painter Sir Henry Raeburn with the architect James Milne. The house was completed in 1823, and the street was named after Henry Raeburn’s wife, Ann. Ann Street was also one of the first streets in Edinburgh’s New Town to be designed with private front gardens.

This beautiful townhouse has a legacy of residents; we have looked at a few dating from 1823 to 1915, including a banker, a commissions agent, a teacher and a silk mercer with attending live-in servants.

Tracing Property History

From 1617 the movement of property in Scotland from the humble croft, townhouse, or stately castle was legally recorded and traceable.

In 1617 The Registration Act (General Register of Sasines) was passed under King James VI. A sasine in Scottish law is defined as the delivery of feudal property, typically land. In this sense, feudal property means immovable property, including buildings, trees, and underground minerals. 

The original act underwent several adaptations. Finally, 2002 witnessed the last legal ceremony of Sansine. And in 2007, Automated Registration of Title to Land (ARTL) allowed people to register their title deeds online. 

My Scottish Townhouse Story

We can uncover your unique heritage with archival research to find the story of your own house.

My Scottish Townhouse Story is a bespoke illustration featuring a colour drawing of your house alongside a potted history highlighting its individual legacy.

Visit the Little Histories Shop for more extra ordinary products from the archives!

©Discovering Heritage and Littlehistoriesshop

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Jesmond Dene House

Jesmond Dene House

Black Dene House to Boutique Hotel

We consider ourselves very lucky to have this beautiful old house on our doorstep! Jesmond Dene House has a well-documented history. Today it has become a hotel. Although I have never stayed overnight, I have enjoyed its ambience by merely popping in for coffee or booking an evening meal in its excellent restaurant. I love to visit these old houses and this was a real treat! It fits right into our heritage vision.

Jesmond Dene House In June

I first visited Jesmond Dene House for the occasion of my daughter’s thirtieth birthday celebration in June. It was mid-summer, and we sat in the garden with our cocktails. Our family are based away from Newcastle, so there was a lot of catching up chat! I remember feeling happily content to have my family around me on such a beautiful evening. The garden was peaceful, and behind us, we could hear the waterfall in the Dene. We had such a great evening that when some friends were visiting in September and wanted to mark the occasion, I suggested we eat at  Jesmond Dene House.

Waterfall in Jesmond Dene behind Jesmond Dene House

Jesmond Dene Road

My visit was just as enjoyable second time around. Because Jesmond isn’t far from where I live, I decided to begin my evening by walking to the restaurant.  It was a damp evening in late September. Our table was booked for seven-thirty, so as I arrived, it was quite dark. Fortunately, the house isn’t far from the main road. When I turned off Matthew Bank, it did feel like I had turned into a much older part of Jesmond. I could smell the damp old stone (always a good sign)! I  found it a little bit spooky walking in the dark areas between the lamposts. The house is on Jesmond Dene Road, and traffic is restricted,  the road is very quiet.

As I walked through the carpark, I could hear music from the party in the great hall. However, as I walked into the house, I was immediately swallowed into the lovely tranquil atmosphere. It was fourteen years ago in September 2005 that the house opened as a hotel. This occasion was marked this year with a refurbishment of the restaurant. My visit was well timed for a meal in the freshly decorated dining room.

Newcastle Libraries
Jesmond Dene House photo c1964

Photograph c Newcastle Libraries Taken 1964 when the building was used as a Special School. Note architectural variety

Here Comes The History!

In 1822 Newcastle physician Dr Thomas Healdlam built a house on this site. John Dobson designed the house, and it was called Black Dene. It wasn’t until twenty-nine years later in 1851 when John Dobson redesigned the residence for William Cruddas that it became known as Jesmond Dene House. Jumping ahead twenty years to 1871 and the house has another makeover. The architect of Cragside Norman Shaw significantly enlarges it for Andrew Noble who moved in at this time. The house saw significant changes again in 1896 when Frank Rich, a local architect, rebuilt the premises and changed it to a mansion with 39 rooms.  At this time a west wing was added along with, a billiard room, Gothic porch, and Great Hall. (In 1894 Andrew Noble also built a real tennis court (The Jesmond Real Tennis Club) in the grounds of the house, one of only around 50 currently in use worldwide).

Andrew Noble

Sir Andrew Noble 1st Baronet and esteemed physicist worked with Armstrong’s armaments in Elswick. During his time at Jesmond Dene House, he and his wife Lady Margery entertained important guests. Among these guests were Rudyard Kipling, Baden Powell and the aircraft designer de Havilland.

World War II

Lady Margery Noble died in 1929 at the age of 101. She outlived her husband, Andrew Noble by 14 years. Her hundredth birthday party was the last celebration held at Jesmond Dene House. In 1931 the Newcastle Corporation took over the house, and in World War 11 it was used as an ARP base.  After the war, local workers used it as a hostel.

What a treasure!

Jesmond Dene House rates highly for historical merit. It is charmingly decorated throughout. The new colours in the restaurant reflect the leafy garden giving a light and airy feel. I thought this was quite lovely, we were after all, in one of the noted green areas of Newcastle. New patterned wallpaper sits alongside the dark wood panelling to give a relaxed and mellow atmosphere. I arrived before my friends, so I had some time to sit in the panelled wood bar with my glass of wine and soak up the ambience. Our meal was an exquisite, perfectly balanced delight.

The garden at Jesmond Dene House
The chef used fruits and herbs from the garden.
The garden at Jesmond Dene House

As it is the history of places that fascinates me as part of the Discovering Heritage team, I went in search of some historical memorabilia. I found a wall of old photographs and a small photograph album tastefully displayed on a table in the hallway. The album was full of old pictures which helped to tell the historical story of the house.

Old photogrpahs at Jesmond Dene House

Incidentally, herbs and fruits from the garden were used in some of the dishes. I liked this throwback to our culinary heritage.

Jesmond Dene House is a local treasure, but don’t just take our word for it. Here are some other blogs to click through!

Jesmond Dene House

Ahad Tandoori Archive Gift Author Spotlight Boars Head Carol Bridges of Gosforth Causey End Christmas County Hotel Family Folio Family History Family Story Genealogy Genealogy Help Ghost house Gosforth Gosforth and Jesmond Authors Gosforth High Street Greggs Henry Street House History Ivy Road Jesmond Jesmond Dene John Stokoe Kay's Dairy Little Histories Shop Milk MAN Moods Stationers Murder Newcastle Newcastle Town Moor Newssheet Legacy Omnibus Paper Boy Post Man Remembering delivery men Richard Welford Salters Road Sanderson Hospital Shoulder of Mutton The Corner Shop The Drive The Grove tramway Typhoid

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