The history of Acorn Bank

View of Acorn Bank house.

Acorn Bank has a long history that dates back to the 13th century. The first owners were the Knights Templar in 1228, from whom the nearby village of Temple Sowerby got its name.

After the suppression of the Templars, the manor passed to the Knights of the Hospital of St John, who held it from 1323 until the Dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.

Keeping it in the family

In 1543 Acorn Bank was acquired by Thomas Dalston, a local landowner from Dalston, just outside Carlisle, and remained in the hands of his descendants right up until the 1930s.

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries it passed through the female line three times, eventually passing to the Boazman family from Newton Aycliffe in County Durham.

The Boazmans started to mine gypsum at Acorn Bank from the 1880s onwards. Acorn Bank was not their main residence and so had little investment, which means that very few Victorian alterations were made to the house.

Parts of the house date from the 16th century, but the main block was rebuilt in the mid-17th century. The whole house was then given a new façade in the 1690s, with Georgian sash windows added in the 1740s.

How we came to care for Acorn Bank

Acorn Bank, with its 180 acres of park and woodland, was given to us in 1950 by Dorothy Una Ratcliffe, the Yorkshire writer, traveller and art collector who had bought the property in 1934 with her second husband Capt. Noel McGrigor Phillips.

Dorothy Una Ratcliffe at the helm of Sea Swallow

Dorothy lived on at Acorn Bank with her third husband for a few years until she relocated to Scotland. Her impressive collections of paintings, sculpture, glass and fans were bequeathed to the City of Leeds on her death in 1967.

The house was leased to tenants for the next 40 years; the last tenants were the Sue Ryder Foundation, who used it as a nursing home. We opened the gardens to the public and during the 1990s began to open up the estate walks and started the restoration of the watermill.

A new chapter

When the Sue Ryder Foundation closed the home in 1996, we took on the direct management of the building. After initial extensive repairs and restoration, holiday apartments were established within the house to provide much-needed income and the tea-room was opened in one wing in 2000.

In 2012, the shop and visitor reception were relocated into the house and regular visitor access to empty ground-floor rooms was enabled for the first time, as we embarked on a journey to bring the house back to life.

Explore the house as it starts to tell it's history

Biomass central heating replaced the ancient and inefficient oil-fired boilers in June 2013 and we are now exploring ideas for future uses of the house, whilst addressing its conservation needs in the shorter term.