AN illustration has surfaced of a magnificent Northumberland mansion which was demolished after the execution of its aristocratic owner.
Dilston Castle and Chapel, overlooking the Devil’s Water near Corbridge, was the seat of the Radcliffe family who held the title of Earl of Derwentwater.
The 3rd Earl, James Radcliffe, was beheaded in 1716 for his part in leading the Jacobite rebellion in Northumberland.
He had built the Queen Anne mansion at Dilston, but after his death squatters moved in and the great house was home to up to 18 families. It was demolished in 1768.
Had it survived, Dilston Hall would have ranked amongst the finest stately homes in the North.
The watercolour illustration of Dilston Hall, created a short time after the Earl’s execution, was put up for auction at the Newcastle salerooms of Anderson & Garland, fetching £100. Under the image is a poem and the Earl’s coat of arms.
The work is by Ebenezer Landells, an engraver, draughtsman, and illustrator who was born in Newcastle. He based it on a drawing made by Hexham artist Thomas Oliver made on the spot and published as an engraving.
Two years ago a dig was carried out at Dilston to uncover more of the story behind the hall. The excavations by North Pennines Archaeology examined the southern end of the building.
Digs started at Dilston in 2003, helping archaeologists to piece together the evolution of the site, uncovering a 12th Century timber structure which was followed in the 13th Century by a defensive tower.
This was demolished around 1420 and a new stone tower built – whose remains are now called Dilston Castle. A Great Hall was also built next to the tower.
In the Tudor period the Great Hall was joined to the tower and the buildings were later enhanced as a Jacobean manor house. Then in the first decade of the 1700s the 3rd Earl built his mansion.
A new hall was built in the 19th Century and from 1835 was the home of John Grey, father of the social reformer Josephine Butler.
He was agent for the northern estates of the Greenwich Hospital – land which had gone to the Crown after the execution of the 3rd Earl of Derwentwater.
The hall is now the base for Mencap Dilston College.