Letter reveals historian’s role in persuading the National Trust to take on Housesteads

A CHANCE find by heritage volunteer Liz Hayward has proved a turn up for the book for two major North East visitor attractions.

Wallington volunteer Liz Hayward with a volume of the "History of Northumberland" she found at Barter Books
Wallington volunteer Liz Hayward with a volume of the "History of Northumberland" she found at Barter Books

A CHANCE find by heritage volunteer Liz Hayward has proved a turn up for the book for two major North East visitor attractions.

Liz’s discovery of a set of history books in a shop has thrown new light on how Housesteads Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland came to be saved for the nation.

The books were part of the library of the eminent historian George Macauley Trevelyan, who grew up at the family home at Wallington in Northumberland.

They have now returned “home” to Wallington, where they have gone on show to visitors at the National Trust property.

Liz, who lives in Humshaugh in Northumberland, has been a volunteer with the book conservation team at Wallington for 11 years.

She was visiting the Barter Books shop in Alnwick when she came across a set of seven volumes of the History of Northumberland, which was started in 1817 by the Rev John Hodgson, who is buried at Hartburn near Wallington.

One of the books was signed by G M Trevelyan, who later lived at Hallington Hall, near Wallington, and also bore the signature of Newcastle architect John Dobson.

G M Trevelyan with a farmer at Housesteads in 1929

G M Trevelyan with a farmer at Housesteads in 1929

Inside one of the books was a letter dated 1929 to G M Trevelyan from the archaeologist and university teacher Robert Carr Bosanquet, who lived at Rock in Northumberland, on negotiations over turning over Housesteads to the Government’s Ministry of Works or the National Trust. Pasted into the book was also an aerial view of Housesteads from the 1920s.

Trevelyan wrote the best-selling History of England, was the first president of the Youth Hostels Association and served on the National Trust’s estates committee.

He bought the farmland and farmhouse adjacent to Housesteads which eventually went to the National Trust.

The Housesteads site is now jointly run by the trust and English Heritage.

“It seems from the letter that G M Trevelyan had a hand in persuading the National Trust to take on Housesteads,” said the site’s property manager Andrew Poad.

Liz said: “As I was leaving the shop, the books caught my eye. Because of my work with the Wallington books collection I am always on the look out for interesting finds.

“It was quite a coup and a case of being in the right place at the right time.”

She alerted Wallington house and collections manager Lloyd Langley and a donation from a benefactor allowed the trust to buy the volumes.

“It was sheer luck that I noticed them and it is very fitting that the books from G M Trevelyan’s library should come back to Wallington,” said Liz.

It was G M Trevelyan’s brother, Charles Philip, a Labour cabinet minister, who gave Wallington to the National Trust.

“1929 was one of the key moments in Housesteads history. Without G M Trevelyan who knows what might have happened?” said Lloyd Langley.

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