The Blacketts and the building of Wallington

Portrait of Walter Calverly Blackett

The Blacketts were a wealthy Newcastle family of mine owners and shipping magnates. They shared the Fenwick’s love of parties and Jacobite sympathies, but the Blacketts managed to avoid both financial ruin and treasonable activities.

A country retreat

Sir William Blackett (1657-1705) bought Wallington in 1688 as a country retreat from the family's main home at Anderson place in Newcastle. He knocked down the unfashionable pele tower on the site, originally built by the Fenwick family - only the ground floor of the medieval building, which he converted into the cellars of the current house, still survives.

The new house was a very basic building designed for occasional shooting parties rather than as a permanent home. It would have looked very different to the house we see today. It consisted of four ranges built around an open central courtyard. The upper floor was reached by ladders and had no internal dividing walls.

An excess of good cheer

Although the Blacketts knocked down the Fenwick house they continued the Fenwick tradition of hospitality. Sir William's son 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 he left debts of £77,000 and an illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth Ord.

Wallington passed to his nephew Walter Calverley on condition that Walter married Elizabeth and adopted the family name. Walter agreed to this and in 1728 Wallington passed to the 21-year-old Sir Walter Calverley Blackett (1707-77). Fortunately Sir Walter proved a better household manager than his uncle had.

Rothley Lake at Wallington, near to his birthplace, was designed by Capability Brown.
Rothley Lake in autumn at Wallington
Rothley Lake at Wallington, near to his birthplace, was designed by Capability Brown.

Partitions and pleasure grounds

It is to Sir Walter Calverley Blackett that we owe much of Wallington as we know it today. He had the house completely remodelled, adding staircases and partitioning the upper floor into rooms. The gardens and grounds were extensively redesigned with the introduction of pleasure grounds, the planting of many trees, and the digging of water courses and ponds. Much of this work is still visible in the East and West Woods, and we are working on uncovering more of it.

Sir Walter also built the clock tower which dominates Wallington's courtyard. Amongst the many figures involved in the recreation of Wallington was Capability Brown who may have contributed to the work in the East and West Woods and was certainly responsible for designing the pleasure grounds at Rothley Lake. Sir Walter’s children died before him, so Wallington passed to his sister’s son: Sir John Trevelyan.