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History of Allen Banks and Staward Gorge

A group of visitors having a picnic in woodland at Allen Banks and Staward Gorge
Visitors enjoying a picnic in the woodland | © National Trust Images/John Millar

The rustic woodlands we see at Allen Banks today are largely the work of 19th-century ‘wonder woman’ Susan Davidson, who made it her life’s purpose to develop the estate. But its history goes back to the 16th century. Learn more about Allen Banks’ past and the stories of those who once lived here.

The Ridley family

In 1567 the Ridley family of Willimoteswick Castle owned the original Ridley Hall, which was the manor house of the district. After a fire in the hall in the middle of the 18th century it was rebuilt and passed into the possession of the Lowes family of nearby Allensgreen.

From the Lowes family to the Reverend NJ Hollingsworth

In 1812 three members of the Lowes family died, leaving Ridley Hall to daughter Mary Ann Lowes. In 1818 she sold the estate to Thomas Bates of Halton Castle for £12,000. He greatly improved it and then sold it for £16,300 to the Reverend NJ Hollingsworth, who lived at the hall until 1830.

Two visitors with their backs to the camera walk a dog through woodland at Allen Bank and Staward Gorge
Exploring with four-legged friends | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

John and Susan Davidson

Not long after, Mr John Davidson of Otterburn bought the estate for his wife, Susan Hussey Elizabeth Jessup. She was the granddaughter of the 9th Earl of Strathmore – here began the estate’s connection to the Bowes-Lyon family.

Susan was the first Lady of Ridley known to take an interest in the garden. She laid out 65 flower beds in the formal gardens and organised the system of paths, rustic bridges and summer houses. She also carried out work on the woods by the River Allen. Susan managed and developed the estate for the next 35 years.

Susan Davidson died childless and left the property to her cousin John Bowes, the illegitimate son of the 10th Earl of Strathmore.

Francis Bowes Lyon

In 1891 the house was rebuilt to its present form and in 1942 Francis Bowes-Lyon gave the woodland estate to the National Trust. Now we do our best to maintain Susan’s hard work so that visitors can continue to enjoy Allen Banks and Staward Gorge today.

Visitors walking their dog through the forest at Allen Banks and Staward Gorge, Northumberland.

Discover more at Allen Banks and Staward Gorge

Find out how to get to Allen Banks and Staward Gorge, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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Two visitors walking a dog along a woodland path at Allen Banks and Staward Gorge, Northumberland

Things to do at Allen Banks and Staward Gorge 

Get out into nature and explore the rich ‘wilderness garden’ at Allen Banks – a woodland paradise with walking trails and abundant wildlife including red squirrels and roe deer.

Fallen trunks at Allen Banks Staward Gorge, Northumberland

Our work at Allen Banks and Staward Gorge 

Find out about our work at Allen Banks & Staward Gorge, including turning rhododendron into charcoal and restoring woodland habitat by replacing hectares of non-native conifers.

Two visitors walking a dog along a leafy woodland path at Allen Banks and Staward Gorge

Visiting Allen Banks with your dog 

With woodland to explore, sticks, and plenty of ground to cover, Allen Banks is a slice of canine heaven. Bring your dog here for an outdoor treat. Allen Banks and Staward Gorge is a one pawprint rated place. 

Oil painting on canvas, Upton House from the South by Anthony Devis, circa 1784, depicting a winter's day with the house seen from across the valley; four men are skating on the lake in the foreground and a horseman accompanied by some hounds is riding in the park beyond; fir trees line either side of the lake and a small classical temple is at the far end.


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