WHERE IS HOWDEN - LE - WEAR ?????
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HOWDEN CHURCH CLOSED
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|As far as we know the original stone Smelt House was built around 1511.In early documents the house is referred to as 'Bitchborne' or 'Bitchburne' and early maps show a Smelt Mill in this location, until in 1775 it is distinctly named 'Smelter Hill' and from this date derived 'Smelt House'. Probably a wooden structure surrounded by farm buildings, preceded this. It was built in 1843 and an addditional wing was added in 1847. The present building is thought to be the third built on the site. A stone from the first house is built into the gable end and bears the Bowes-Lyon crest. The surrounding land was portioned off into farms,which made up the Smelt House Estate.
The house is thought to have derived its name from the 'smelting' of iron, which took place to the south of the house.Quantities of hard slag and cinders, the remains of an Iron Smelting Hearth, were discovered in the 'kitchen garden', suggesting that iron had been smelted at some period. To the South-west of Smelt House grounds is Iron Banks Plantation where mining for outcrop coal and iron nodules has taken place at some time. History up to the end of the 15th. Century is not recorded but from the early 16th Century, uathenticated records tell us when the Bowes Family erected the original house. In 1851 the estate covered 460 acres and employed 20 men and boys and 9 women. The house had 10 family members and 6 live in servants.
Stone was brought from Scotland to build the walls and ships timbers were used for the beams and interior panelling in the library. It is three stories high, with the top attic floor having dormer windows. There is a cellar, which was used for fuel and wine storage. Originally, the six chimneys were much taller; they had to be shortened for safety. In its hey-day this was a wonderful house, with stables, a tack room, accomodation for a gardener, laundry, coach house, greenhouses, peach-houses and extensive gardens. Smelt house was a good source of employment.
Residents of the Manor House
The earliest recorded residents were the Bowes, a notable North Country family, holders of considerable lands and properties - including Streatlam Castle near Barnard Castle - they stayed until 1570, then, Henry Jackson, yoeman, a member of a wealthy merchant family from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Following the Jacksons, records are rather vague but a Francis Green is mentioned about 1615. In 1700, or thereabouts, a Quaker family called Coates took posession and, according to the 1851 census this family still lived there. After that came the Fryers who were the grandchildren of George Coates.
Many people can still remember the garden parties in the 1930's and 1940's given by the Fryer Family.(pictured)
Smelt House is reputed to have a ghost. Little is known about 'Elizabeth, but she is said to be a young lady who committed suicide, and now walks the upper corridors.
In 1953, Mrs. Carew-Shaw (nee Fryer) sold the house and land. Dr. Fenwick Lishman bought the house. After he retired he sold the property to Durham County Council who re-named it 'Fir Tree Grange' and converted it into a Home for Unmarried Mothers. Later it became a Remand Home for low risk offenders. In 1994, after government cut backs, the house was on the market again and in 1996 was sold to a private buyer.