The name Kirkleatham is derived from Kirk and Lythum, Lythum comes from an old English word meaning slope, the Kirk prefix distinguishes Kirkleatham at the foot of the Cleveland Hills from Upleatham which stands high on the southern slope of the hills. It is a small community and was declared Cleveland’s first conservation area in 1970 Today it is a delightful spot with attractive Almshouses, A fine Church and a museum. The Village has no shop, no pub and only a limited bus service. According to the Domesday Book there was a priest and a church at Kirkleatham. In the fourteenth century a dozen monks were established as a Chantry to pray each day for the souls of the De Thweng family who had owned estates since the Norman Conquest.
In the early 1700’s when the nearby alum works were at there most productive (the works being the oldest in the country) a John Turner came from Herefordshire to be the works manager on behalf of the mine’s owner, Sir Thomas Chaloner. The said John Turner married Elizabeth and they had thirteen children. In 1623 he bought the Manor of Kirkleatham and two years later built Kirkleatham Hall, this was enlarged in 1676 by his eldest son, also named John. William a younger son of John the elder spent his boyhood at the Hall and in later years, founded the Hospital for the deserving poor. In 1719 Cholmley Turner made many improvements to the Almshouses and later built a Chapel and school. His nephew, Charles Turner, in 1774, decided to make the entire village into a park as he was keen on agricultural pursuits and improving the farmland. The Turner family owned the estate for over 200 years until it passed to the Newcomen family in 1848. In 1949 Mr. Le Roy Lewis (a descendent) sold it to Ortem Estates and there was an auction of farms, cottages, the Hall and it’s contents.
Sir William Turner’s Hospital, sometimes known as Kirkleatham Almshouses, continues to provide sheltered accommodation, as it has done for the last 325 years. During 2000 it was extensively renovated. The Free School has been converted into a museum and a “Special School” was built on the site of Kirkleatham Hall, which was demolished in 1956.
The churchyard has been sacred ground for over 1000 years. The Vikings used it for a burial ground in the 9th century. A stone coffin from this period stands inside the church. The old church was demolished in 1763 and re-built by Robert Corney, a local stonemason and joiner, who lived in Coatham.
The church has an austere and dignified exterior, built in a classical style, which was fashionable at that time. It was not altered by the Victorians and so retains its character. This 18th century structure is in reasonable condition and is now a grade I listed building.
There are three bells, two cast by Lester and Pack of the Whitechapel Belfoundry in London in 1763 and the third recast by Taylors of Loughborough in 1901. The Parish Registers date from 1559 and are kept in safe custody at the Teesside Archive in Middlesbrough. The marble font is circa 1740 while the eagle lectern, 1901, is in memory of Queen Victoria. The brass on the floor depicts Robert Coulthirst who died in 1631 at the age of ninety. There is also a magnificent silver dish that was washed ashore at Coatham in 1740.
The ornate gate piers were restored in 1934, and then again in 1994. The skull and cross-bones represent “The Banishment of Evil” from this Holy Place’.
The gate piers, wall, steps and mounting block are all listed Grade II. In the graveyard three graves are listed for there historical importance.
1 Teresa Newcomen
2 John Gaunt, who founded the salmon fishing industry at Coatham.
3 Robert Corney, who built the church in the 18th century.
The oldest gravestone is dated 1699 and many Coathamians are buried here because there was no church at Coatham.
A grey slate memorial tablet commemorates the Bosanquet family who once resided in the “Free School”.
Picture courtesy of the Musem.
This red brick building, provided by Sir William Turner in 1676, forms three sides of a quadrangle and gave accommodation to 10 poor men, 10 poor women, 10boys and 10 girls of extenuating circumstances (orphans or neglected children). The adults had to be over 63 years of age. The eastern side catered for the women whilst, the western side catered for the men. The schools for the boys and girls occupied the buildings on either side of the chapel. Male and female statues are set into niches in the walls while on the chapel roof are two statues: - a girl holding a book and a boy holding a basin. A fosse, rather like a miniature moat, carries the highway ditch across the northern boundary.
In1742 Cholmley Turner built the chapel and schoolhouse. The chapel is domed and has a marble floor. The Italian designed stained glass window is titled “The Adoration of The Magi” and portraits of John Turner and Sir William Turner are shown on either side. In the centre of the courtyard is a statue of justice (blindfolded) while on the chapel tower is mounted an ornate one-handed clock, dated 1749 and made by Henry Hindley of York. The impressive iron gates, surmounted by Sir William Turner’s Coat-of-Arms were restored in 1964. Two castellated bastions were built, one at each end of the Almshouses as decorative features.
Until 1950 a museum and library occupied the rooms above the Almshouses on the east side of the court. The library was 60feet long and housed 3,000 volumes of standard works. The books having been collected for the Free School in 1756. At the western end a room contained a museum of local and international artefacts. Amongst the items there was a carving of St. George and the Dragon, which had been made out of a single piece of boxwood by a prisoner using only a penknife, it had taken him 4 years.
All the museum items were sent to an auction room in London, except for the carving, which is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Almshouses have been governed by a board of trustees since 1950.
The Hall commenced in 1625 and was later enlarged and remodelled by John Carr who castellated the hall and added stable blocks, bastions,ha-ha walls and ornamental gates. The Hall itself had eighty spacious rooms with 15-foot high ceilings. There was a whisky still in the kitchens and in the grounds was a red brick pigeon cote holding a thousand nest boxes and these helped ensure warming food and drink during the winter. Fishponds in the grounds also provided food and an icehouse in the nearby woods helped preserve food; the icehouse was demolished by I.C.I. when they took over ownership of the woods. Decorative items included “Neptune’s Cascade” and “Fountain” in the woods.
The stable block behind the hall was designed and built by James Gibbs and consisted of a two-storey brick and stone building around a courtyard. An internal feature was a turret staircase. The stables were used until 1954 by a racehorse trainer. They are now owned by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and were until quite recently, rented out as a pig farm. After becoming derelict they were repaired in the 1980’s and now await a new use.
Beautiful picture of the Stable Block Courtesy of the Musem.
The Hall continued to be a family home until 1948, the last direct descendent being Mrs Le Roy Lewis who sold it Ortem Estates. It was later bought by the e Education Authority who demolished it in 1956 to build Kirkleatham Special School on the site.
Near to the Hall was “King’s House1772”. Which was used as servant’s quarters and occasionally as a venue for village social events, it was known more recently as a village hall (similar to a community centre) and was popular for Saturday night dances. It was demolished in 1956.
The walled gardens grew produce for the Hall residents. There were pear trees along the walls and a hedge if lavender bushes. Fruit bushes included gooseberries and blackcurrants, in the 1920’s locals could pick their own for 4d an lb.
It was a local custom on a Sunday evening to hire a landau (2s 6d) to ride down Redcar Lane, visit the gardens and return by way of Kirkleatham Lane. In 1985 the owner of the gardens were refused planning permission by the Council to build houses on the site. The Council eventually bought the gardens but the site is now overgrown.
The derivation of the name Turner came from a man who used wheels or lathes to produce round objects made of wood, stone or clay.
This painting of Sir William Turner was painted in 1675 by Mary Beale.
It now hangs in The Charter Hall of King Edward's School, Witley
Picture courtesy of the Museum.
William Turner spent seven years of his boyhood at Kirkleatham Hall (1625-32). He then went to London and made his fortune as a woollen merchant. He remained a bachelor, but being a generous man, he remembered the villagers at Kirkleatham and arranged for a hospital to be built for those in extenuating circumstances, be they young or old.
He was knighted in 1662 by Charles II and became Lord Mayor of London in 1669. He was small of stature and in his later years often suffered from gout.
He was often heard to say keep to your shop and your shop will keep you, every page in his account book was headed “LAUS DEO” (GOD BE PRAISED).
Sir William bequeathed £5,000 to his great nephew Cholmley Turner to help him establish himself in business. Sir William is buried at Kirkleatham.
Coat of Arms
A silver cross on a black shield, five millstone irons (black and pierced) on the cross.
The crest is a golden lion, with a black and white collar, advancing and facing, grasping in its right paw a millstone iron. In later years the lion had his paw resting on the millstone.
This Stained Glass Window is in St Peter's Church.
In the left hand scene is Sir William Turner and his Coat of Arms
The mausoleum was built by Cholmley Turner in memory of his son, Marwood Turner, who died aged 21, whilst on a grand tour of Europe. The architect was James Gibbs.
Although it had an octagonal exterior, it was circular inside with niches around the wall for statues of family members. In 1839 Teresa Turner had the mausoleum restored and in 1981 further restoration work commenced on the exterior of the building. This restoration was funded by English Heritage and the local authority. It is now a listed Grade I building. Outside the building is to be found a buttress bearing the Turner Coat of Arms, which formerly stood on the conical roof.
Built in 1709 at the cost of £2,006. The architect is presumed to have been William Wakefield of Huby Hall. Some of the pupils were of needy circumstances and some came from families who paid for their education, included in some of the subjects taught were Latin and other languages. Lessons were discontinued in about 1756 and the school was then used for tenant farm workers and retired hall servants. F following an enquiry at the school’s demise the Newcomen family founded a new Sir William Grammar School, at Coatham in 1869.
The west wing of the free school was used as a barracks during the 1914-18 war, a Mr Bosanquet, resided in the east wing. He eventually bought the whole building. Mrs Bosanquet, who was born in the White House U.S.A., later sold the free school and 15 acres of land to Teesside Borough Council for £16,000.
The building is now a museum, opened in 1981, known as Kirkleatham Old Hall Museum.
To the west of the church are five listed buildings,
No 7 (Tudor Cottage) No 8 (Dower House) No 9, No 10, and No 11 (Old Vicarage).
Nearby are four cottages, privately owned, which were originally railway houses alongside the track at Redcar. When the railway was moved and the houses no longer needed, the white brick buildings were carefully dismantled and then re-erected in the quite countryside at Kirkleatham, for occupation by estate workers.
History supplied by Mrs. Vera Robinson M.B.E.
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