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The Blacketts and the history of Wallington

View of the south front of two-storey courtyard house at Wallington under a blue sky
The south front of Wallington, Northumberland | © National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

The Blacketts were a wealthy Newcastle family of mine owners and shipping magnates. They bought Wallington as a country retreat, purchasing it from the Fenwick family, with whom they shared a love of parties and Jacobite sympathies. Ten generations of the Blackett and Trevelyan families went on to live here. Discover how some of the estate’s key owners shaped the Wallington we know today.

A country retreat

Sir William Blackett (1657–1705) bought Wallington in 1688 as a country retreat away from the family's main home at Anderson Place, Newcastle. He knocked down the unfashionable pele tower and converted the ground floor of the medieval building into cellars.

The new house was very basic, designed for occasional shooting parties rather than as a permanent home. Consisting of four ranges built around an open central courtyard, it would have looked very different to the house we see today.

A corner view of Wallington showing the south front and side of the house
The house at Wallington | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

An excess of good cheer

Although the Blacketts knocked down the Fenwick house, they continued the Fenwick tradition of hospitality towards their visitors. Sir William's son, also named Sir William Blackett (1690–1728) took this tradition to excess and employed six men simply to carry him and his drunken guests to bed after their grand parties.

Upon his death Sir William (the younger) left debts of £77,000 and an illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth Ord.

Wallington would then pass to Sir William’s nephew Walter Calverley (1707–77) on the condition that Walter married Elizabeth and adopted the family name of Blackett. Walter agreed and in 1728 Wallington was passed to the 21-year-old.

Oil painting on canvas, Lancelot (`Capability?) Brown (1715?1783, after Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland RA (London 1735 ? Winchester 1811), circa 1775. A head-and-shoulders portrait of a man, tuirned to the left, gazing at the spectator, wearing a blue jacket and white cravat, grey powdered wig.
Lancelot`Capability' Brown by Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland | © National Trust

Redesigning Wallington House

Much of Wallington as we know it today is down to the vision of Sir Walter Calverley Blackett. He had the house completely remodelled, commissioning some of the greatest artisans to transform Wallington into his principal home.

New additions

He invited the Swiss-Italian stuccodore, Pietro Lafranchini, to create the stunning Rococo plasterwork in the south wing.

Corridors were added and a new impressive staircase was created. Sir Walter Calverley Blackett was also responsible for the Clock Tower, which dominates Wallington's courtyard.

A view of Rothley Lake at Wallington, Northumberland, on an autumn day; the water is surrounded by foliage and the leaves on the trees are turning golden yellow and orange
Rothley Lake in autumn | © National Trust Images / Andrew Butler

Re-designing the estate

He also had the gardens and estate extensively redesigned with pleasure grounds and more trees and he installed many of the water courses and ponds. Much of this work is still visible in the East and West Woods.

Among the many figures involved in the redesign of Wallington was Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who grew up in the local area and attended school in Cambo. He was responsible for designing the pleasure grounds at Rothley Lake and may also have contributed to the work in the East and West Woods.

The Trevelyans at Wallington

Sir Walter’s children died before him, so Wallington passed to his sister’s son: Sir John Trevelyan.

The estate stayed in the family until it was eventually gifted to the National Trust for by Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, a Socialist MP and ‘illogical Englishman’, in 1942.

A corner view of Wallington showing the south front and side of the house

Discover more at Wallington

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

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