The History of Rockliffe Hall
Dating back to the 18th century, Rockliffe Hall is steeped in North Eastern history, with stories of its past owners and events offering a glittering insight into its past.
Original plans for the hall date back to 1774, but it wasn’t until after the turn of the century that the hall and the estate started taking shape. Records from the 1820′s list it as being known as Pilmore House. Back then the Pilmore Estate belonged to Robert Surtees of Redworth, the Co Durham Historian, and was habited – around 1836 – by his more famous cousin, landscape painter Thomas Surtees Raine.
It was in 1851 that the current site we now know as Rockliffe Hall came under the ownership of Alfred Backhouse and major developments began. The estate consisted of three separate buildings: the mansion house (Pilmore House), Pilmore Farm (immediately to the West) and Hurworth Grange (to the West of the farm).
Records show that Backhouse successfully attempted to make closer links to the three properties, converting them to a mansion which linked Home Farm and the Dower House. Soon after gaining ownership, Backhouse swiftly commissioned fellow Quaker, and relative by marriage, Alfred Waterhouse to rebuild and re-landscape much of the main building and the estate. It was during this period that Pilmore House first became recognised as the Rockliffe Hall Estate.
Whilst much of the surrounding landscape was neglected in the latter part of the 20th Century, the work of previous owners – with most thanks surely going to the 20 years of intensive work Backhouse and Waterhouse put into landscaping the grounds in the late 1800s – has helped our golf course to benefit from many historic and natural contours and features.
In 1918, Lord Southampton bought the estate and lived there on and off until 1948. A keen cricketer and sportsman, he formed the Rockliffe Park Cricket Club and played on a pitch which still exists in the same site today.
In 1950, the Rockliffe Park estate was bought by the Brothers of St John of God and converted into a hospital. Some 18 years later, it came under compulsorily purchase by Durham County Council and used as a Community Centre. Sadly, it stood empty for several years and was left to petty vandals until, in 1996, Rockliffe Park was bought by Middlesbrough Football Club. Its new owners have since established a new centre for football training facilities that matches its desire to be a top Premiership outfit challenging for major honours.
The estate has unfortunately not been without incident. In 1903 and again in 1974, some of the buildings were badly damaged by fire. In 1944 a light aircraft crashed into the grounds, luckily missing any buildings and causing only damage to trees and the landscape. Rockliffe Hall has even had its brush with stardom and parts of the grounds were used as the backdrop for some scenes from the Michael Caine hit ‘Get Carter’ in 1971.
With the opening of the golf course, destination hotel and first class leisure facilities in 2009, interest in Rockliffe Hall as a five-star resort is being attracted from across the country and all over the world.