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History of Crook Hall Gardens

View inside the stone medieval hall, with an arched doorway and a light-filled leaded window
Inside the medieval hall at Crook Hall Gardens | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

A stone’s throw from Durham’s World Heritage Site, Grade I listed Crook Hall is considered one of the city’s most significant medieval domestic buildings. Dating back to the 14th century, find out how it's changed over the years, who lived here and some famous faces who visited.

Tenants and owners of Crook Hall

The oldest part of Crook Hall we see today was built by Peter del Croke in the first half of the 14th century. It's likely to have replaced an earlier building.

Following the del Croke family residency, Crook Hall had a series of short-term tenants until 1372, when Alan de Billingham took ownership. The Billingham family remained connected to the hall for almost 300 years and were employed by the Bishops of Durham at various points during this time. It was Thomas Billingham who, in 1450, gave the natural spring known as Fram Well to the people of Durham as a clean water source.

Aerial view of the Georgian and Jacobean buildings and summer gardens at Crook Hall
The Georgian townhouse and Jacobean manor at Crook Hall Gardens | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Melloe

In 1667 Thomas Billingham sold Crook Hall to Christopher Mickleton, who passed it on to his son, James, a year later. James and his wife Frances made a series of changes to the hall, including a new wing and doorway.

John Mickleton, grandson of James and Frances, sold Crook Hall in 1721. By 1736 it was in the hands of the Hopper family of Shincliffe. The Hoppers added the Georgian wing to the west end of the building, with good quality pine panelling, a fine staircase and a stuccoed ceiling. Evidence suggests that they let the property rather than living it themselves.

Famous visitors

Yorkshire-born antiquarian and topographer James Raine and his family became tenants of Crook Hall in 1834, where they remained until James’ death in 1858. During their time there, many of James’ friends and correspondents are known to have visited. These include William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Walter Scott and John Ruskin.

Sunny view of summer flowering borders in front of the Georgian townhouse

Discover more at Crook Hall Gardens

Find out when Crook Hall Gardens is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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We're lucky to currently have a full team of volunteers at Crook Hall Gardens, so have paused recruitment for the time being. Please check back for future opportunities.