The building with a history of its own

A pope or two, Alice in Wonderland and the late Queen Mother are linked to Seaton Holme in Easington.

A pope or two, Alice in Wonderland and the late Queen Mother are linked to Seaton Holme in Easington.

The 13th Century Grade I listed building, which is a former medieval manor and rectory of Easington, is one of the oldest domestic buildings in England.

It is a building in keeping with its location, as the village was the administration centre for the area where Halmote Courts were held which gave rulings on minor crimes, disputes and land transactions.

The village has a long ecclesiastical history, with evidence suggesting that there was an Anglo-Saxon church.

Archaeological investigations at a cemetery site at nearby St Andrew's Hill uncovered burials from the early Seventh Century.

St Mary's Church, opposite Seaton Holme, was endowed by Bishop Richard de Marisio in 1222, with the Rectors of Easington receiving all tithes and taxes.

It was a rich parish, and Archdeacons of Durham held the Rectorship from 1256 until 1832, with many moving into high positions in the Church.

Various records mention Robert of Geneva, who became Pope Clement VII in 1378 and Nicholas Breakspear, who became Pope Adrian IV in the 12th Century.

There was also Anthony Bek, the soldier-bishop was travelled the world as statesman for Edward I and Bernard Gilpin, the Apostle of the North.

A document of 1792 describes the rectory as having 17 rooms well floored in deal.

One of the rectors was Henry George Liddell, born in Ravensworth Castle in Gateshead, who married Charlotte Lyon, niece to the Earl of Strathmore.

He married into the County Durham Bowes family, and it is from the Bowes Lyons that the Queen Mother was descended.

The Rev Liddell was also the grandfather of Alice Liddell, on whom Lewis Carroll based his adventures in Wonderland. The Rev Liddell's eldest son, who bore his father's name, became Dean of Oxford and there met Charles Dodgson - Lewis Carroll - who got to know the Dean's children.

Seaton Holme was bought by the Guardians of the Poor and became a children's home.

The harshness of the Poor Law regime in the village is shown by an entry for 1838 which stipulated that all applications for relief from individuals who owned a "useless dog" would be refused unless the animal was destroyed.

The building lay empty for years until it was bought by Easington Parish Council for £1 and, with £500,000 in grants, it was restored and reopened in 1992 as the headquarters for the Groundwork East Durham environmental body.

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