An imposing late-Victorian mansion, which has played a role in the social and civic history of a Tyneside town, is on the market for the first time in almost 30 years.
Belle Vue is in Harton Village, a leafy part of South Shields, and has been the home of Joyce Thornton since 1985. She and husband Stewart brought up children Helen, Anna and Philip there but Stewart died two years ago and Mrs Thornton feels it is now time to move.
“I’ve loved it here and it will be terrible to move but needs must,” she said. “It’s a lovely house for children, ours loved it here. Proper adventures they had, with all their friends, all the school parties, cupboards to hide in.”
Belle Vue was built around 1895 and offers period features like original fireplaces, high ceilings and cornicing, as well as a 43ft wrap-around conservatory which was put in by the Thorntons. After the First World War the house was occupied by a mayor of South Tyneside, Alderman Edward Smith, and was requisitioned by the Army in the Second World War.
Mrs Thornton said: “I don’t know what it was used for then but it didn’t appear to have been too damaged as there was no evidence of such when we moved in. Structurally it’s sound and the only major thing we’ve done is replace a small sun lounge at the front with the huge conservatory.”
Another previous occupant was South Shields solicitor and estate agent Bill Fantarrow who also owned snooker clubs in South Tyneside. It was while he was living in Belle Vue that it played host to snooker giants of the 1970s like Alex Higgins, playing in charity matches staged in the huge snooker room covering the whole of the top floor of the house.
Mrs Thornton said: “You can get about 100 people in there comfortably. I think Mr Fantarrow did.”
Belle Vue is approached through big entrance gates, fitted by the Thorntons and leading into the gardens, which are mainly laid to lawn with shrubs and cypress trees offering a good deal of privacy.
The house itself has the original and impressive front door which leads on to a large reception hall with panelling and coving. There are three main reception rooms – a drawing room, sitting room and dining room – again with panelling, coving and cornicing and period fire surrounds.
A good-sized kitchen is fitted with modern units and double range-style cooker and a picture window gives views of the gardens. A breakfast room, cloakroom and playroom/study complete the ground-floor layout while the 43ft conservatory has Victorian-style floor tiles and French doors to a terraced sitting area. The first floor has a landing with doors leading off to a single bedroom, bathroom and separate toilet. There are two more landings which give access to three double bedrooms with fitted wardrobes, an en-suite master bedroom, a sixth large single bedroom and another bathroom, as well as the snooker room on the top floor which has two mirror-image feature fireplaces, a dormer-style window, ornate decorative ceiling and fitted eaves storage cupboards.
Although the house has the grace, style and sense of space belonging to an earlier era, it is nevertheless surprisingly easy to look after, said Mrs Thornton.
“It is a big house but I’ve never had help, it’s easy to keep. And it’s very convenient for all local shops and schools.”
She doesn’t have a favourite room but the rest of the family, including four grandchildren under three, gravitate to the lounge when they visit: “The house gets the sun all day, right round. It starts in the kitchen and works its way round until about 8.30pm in the summer.”
Mrs Thornton is hoping to remain in South Tyneside and has her eye on a barn conversion: “I’ll be very sorry to leave but I think I should be moving on, it needs another family.”
- Belle Vue, 8 North Avenue, Harton, South Shields, is on the market for £749,950 through Andrew Craig, tel: 0191 427 1722.