Park & Rockliffe Court
After the River
Tees leaves Croft, it makes a very large loop around some excellent park
land, before passing below the cliffs of Rockliffe Scaur and on to Hurworth
and Neasham. This park land is now known as Rockliffe Park but in the
early 19th century it was called Pilmore. In 1863,
Alfred Backhouse, a Quaker banker, built Pilmore Hall on this land for
himself and his wife, Rachel, a member of the Barclay family, also of
banking fame. Pilmore Hall was an elegant mansion with magnificent facilities
for hunting and fishing and ornamental gardens for the pleasure of the
ladies. It stayed in the Backhouse family until 1897, when it was bought
as a sporting estate by a Captain Forester, then by a Colonel R. Clayton
Swan and finally by the Earl of Southampton, who lived there from 1918
to 1948. The estate switched names from Pilmore to Rockliffe during the
ownership of Captain Forester.
Southampton was a colonel in the Green Howards so the estate’s proximity
to Richmond was obviously in its favour. He was a keen horseman and Master
of Foxhounds and an even keener cricket fan. He had a pitch laid out on
the estate so that his workers could play the locals from Croft Cricket
Club. Croft and Hurworth cricketers and the Rockliffe estate workers eventually
merged to form one club, Rockliffe Park, of which Lord Southampton was
the first president. Rockliffe cricket club still exists and the team
plays on the same pitch to this day. Backhouse had a private bridge built
from the Yorkshire bank of the Tees across to Pilmore Hall, to enable
carriages to have easy access from the Great North Road, but it had to
be demolished in 1960 on safety grounds, having been practically useless
Estate Cottage (now demolished)
estate went up for sale again in 1948 when Lord Southampton moved back
to London and it was bought by the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God,
who opened a hospital for tuberculosis patients there. Rockliffe House
became known as St. Cuthbert’s Hospital. After a few years, TB became
less prevalent and it became an orthopaedic hospital. The Brothers took
many very seriously disabled people into their care, including some very
young men. It became obvious that there was a need for friendship and
support for these patients and a group of local ladies founded the Friends
of St. Cuthbert’s Hospital. They ran trolley service for all the wards,
providing the opportunity to buy papers, sweets etc and soon made friends,
particularly with the younger element around the ages of sixteen to seventeen.
They also decided on various schemes to raise money to buy a bus so that
these boys could go out together.
Brothers had their hands full with these young men. Although they were
seriously disabled, they indulged in all sorts of antics. They formed
a pop group called “The Spinning Wheels” -this being a reference, I believe,
to their cycle chairs which they used to get down to the village to the
pub and also into Darlington. They even made a recording — enough said!
John Tinsley was seriously interested in writing and edited the hospital
magazine “Rockliffe”. He learned to type and used a Standard Underwood
machine, as he found an electric typewriter too responsive.
included by permission of Jean Kendall, Editor of ‘The Two Hurworths’)
the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God organised
the building of the Rockliffe Court (see below) and then sold the remaining
land to the Middlesbrough Football Club in 1996 for a Training Ground.
concept of Rockliffe Court was born in the spring of 1984 after the Hospitaller
Order of St. John of God identified a need to re-accommodate a number
of people residing at its hospital for the physically disabled, St. Cuthbert’s
in Hurworth Place, near Darlington. The Hospitaller Order of St. John
of God formally requested the Hospitaller Housing Association to pursue
a development to meet the needs of the residents of St. Cuthbert’s who
no longer required hospital care.
a later stage of the development applications for Rockliffe Court were
also referred for physically disabled people who were homeless or living
in unsuitable accommodation. Referrals were made by Social Services, Housing
Departments, hospitals in the Northern Region and in person.
September 1987, the Earl of Stockton cut the first sod of turf on the
site for Rockliffe Court and in January 1989 the first tenants moved in.
Today Rockliffe Court is fully occupied and houses residents with an extremely
wide range of physical disabilities. The needs of some residents have
been satisfied merely by providing good housing, whilst others now live
in a high degree of self-contained accommodation with care-support, rather
than in highly institutional hospital wards. The scheme is quite unique
in the area. Thirteen of the bungalows are registered as a residential
care centre in order to provide a level of care - staff primarily to meet
the needs of these residents. The remaining residents are tenants and
live in sheltered bungalows. The range of accommodation for residents
in this scheme is far beyond that normally found or required. The residents
do in fact live in a home of their own and families who have been separated
by disability and inadequate housing have been re-united.
included by permission of Jean Kendall, Editor of Rockliffe Roundup, 1993)