Howick Hall was home to the Grey family from 1319 until 1963 when the 5th Earl Grey died. His eldest daughter, Lady Mary Howick, inherited. The most famous family member was the 2nd Earl Grey who was a prime minster during the passage of the Great Reform bill in 1832. His monument is in Grey St, Newcastle.
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The house on the site today was built in 1782 by Sir Henry Grey who used the architect William Newton of Newcastle. It is a replacement for a medieval tower. In 1809 the two single storey quadrants that linked the main house to the two wings were enlarged and the first terrace on the south side of the house was constructed. This was under the direction of George Wyatt.
In 1926 the main house was gutted by fire. It was rebuilt for the 5th Earl Grey with different interiors to the previous house. The designs were by Sir Herbert Baker who added the portico on the north façade. The main house has not been inhabited since 1967, but the west wing is occupied by the current Lord and Lady Grey.
The church in the grounds occupies the site of a former Norman one. In 1746 the Norman church was destroyed to be replaced by one in the design of a Greek temple. In 1849 after a fire this one was renovated and enlarged. On the south wall of the church is the marble tomb of the 2nd Earl Grey. On the north wall are small stone gargoyles carved by the 3rd Countess, Maria. The church is used as the parish church.
The gardens were important to the Grey family. Unfortunately many of the old hardwoods have fallen victim to age or disease. The present garden dates mostly from 1920-2001. In February there are snowdrop walks. March brings crocus and daffodils into bloom. Next, camellias, hellebores, and early rhododendrons can be enjoyed. In late March/early April two huge magnolia trees are in flower. Adding to the blooms are herbaceous borders, azaleas, primulas and primroses.
A 65 acre arboretum contains 11,000 trees and shrubs of different countries. There are short and long woodland walks. In the woodland garden (Silverwood) are tender shrubs and trees and hydrangeas. A bog garden is planted with seeds from wild flowers. A pond, two terraces, a rose garden, a meadow and a rockery in front of the house, summer plants complete the picture. For full information on all the many types of plants visit the Howick Hall Gardens website.
BBC Gardeners’ World magazine voted Howick Hall gardens as one of the top five coastal gardens in England. Families will have fun with the Family Explorer Challenge Trail.
Howick Hall Gardens
Two miles north of Longhoughton, Northumberland, off the B1339, reached off the A1
Tel. 0 665 577 285
Open: April to end Sep, daily, 10.30am-6pm; Oct-mid Nov, daily, 10.30am-5pm; early Feb-late March, Wed-Sun, 10.30am-4pm
Parking; tea-room serving light snacks; no dogs
Web: Howick Hall Gardens
All photos © by Barbara Ballard