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Our History

1774

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.

1851

The current site we now know as Rockliffe Hall came under the ownership of Alfred Backhouse and major developments were made. The estate consisted of three separate buildings; the mansion house (Pilmore House), Pilmore Farm (immediately to the West) and Hurworth Grange (immediately to the West of the farm).

1871

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.

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 on neighbouring land.

1950

The Rockliffe Park estate was bought by the Brothers of St John of God and converted into a hospital in 1950. It was some 18 years later that it was compulsorily purchased by Durham County Council for use as a Community Centre. Sadly, it stood empty for several years and was left to petty vandals until 1996.

1996

Rockliffe Park was bought by Middlesbrough Football Club. Its new owners sought to establish a new centre for its training facilities that matched its desire to be a top Premiership outfit challenging for major honours.

1836

Records from the 1820’s list it as being known as Pilmore House. Then, the Pilmore Estate belonged to Robert Surtees of Redworth, the County Durham Historian, and was habited - around 1836 - by his more famous cousin, landscape painter Thomas Surtees Raine.

1863

However, 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.

1903

The estate has not been without incident. In 1903 and again in 1974, buildings were badly damaged by fire.

1944

A light aircraft crashed into the grounds, luckily missing any buildings and causing only damage to trees and the landscape.

1971

Rockliffe Hall had a brush with stardom and parts of the grounds were used as backdrop for some scenes from the Michael Caine hit ‘Get Carter’.

1774

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.

1836

Records from the 1820’s list it as being known as Pilmore House. Then, the Pilmore Estate belonged to Robert Surtees of Redworth, the County Durham Historian, and was habited - around 1836 - by his more famous cousin, landscape painter Thomas Surtees Raine.

1851

The current site we now know as Rockliffe Hall came under the ownership of Alfred Backhouse and major developments were made. The estate consisted of three separate buildings; the mansion house (Pilmore House), Pilmore Farm (immediately to the West) and Hurworth Grange (immediately to the West of the farm).

1863

However, 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.

1871

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.

1903

The estate has not been without incident. In 1903 and again in 1974, buildings were badly damaged by fire.

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 on neighbouring land.

1944

A light aircraft crashed into the grounds, luckily missing any buildings and causing only damage to trees and the landscape.

1950

The Rockliffe Park estate was bought by the Brothers of St John of God and converted into a hospital in 1950. It was some 18 years later that it was compulsorily purchased by Durham County Council for use as a Community Centre. Sadly, it stood empty for several years and was left to petty vandals until 1996.

1971

Rockliffe Hall had a brush with stardom and parts of the grounds were used as backdrop for some scenes from the Michael Caine hit ‘Get Carter’.

1996

Rockliffe Park was bought by Middlesbrough Football Club. Its new owners sought to establish a new centre for its training facilities that matched its desire to be a top Premiership outfit challenging for major honours.

Lewis Carroll

In 1843, when Lewis Carroll was a shy, stammering 11-year-old, his father, Charles Dodgson became rector of Croft, located just a few minutes from Rockliffe Hall down the bank and over the railway line. Carroll’s intimate connection with the village lasted until 1868 when his father died - he is buried in Croft churchyard - and many of the area’s historical stories are to be found in Wonderland.

Croft was prosperous because people came from London to drink the foul-smelling spa water in the belief it would improve their health, in the same way that Alice drinks a potion from a bottle which causes her to change shape.

There were feuding families – Tweedledee and Tweedledum- and an enigmatic grinning feline in the church stonework – the Cheshire Cat. In The Rectory, where the family lived, there was backwards writing on a pane of glass, curious doorways and a cellar like a rabbit hole - all of which pop up in Wonderland.

East Coast Main Railway Line

You might have noticed Rockliffe Hall overlooks the main east coast line connecting London to Scotland through Darlington. Thomas Storey, who worked closely with George Stephenson on the Darlington and Stockton Railway from 1821 lived at Pilm ore House from 1936.

As a chief railway engineer he led on the plans for the Great North of England Railway; and it was right on this estate where the first sod was cut on 25th November 1837 by the GNE’s chairman, George Hutton Wilkinson. The great railway enterprise was started right here; with the mainline running along the estate boundary.

The Backhouses were huge investors in the railway lines and, in 1851, their profits reaped from the industry enabled the family to buy the entire estate.