Matfen, Northumberland

Click here to 
Print this page

Biography finder





























Index of first names


Matfen Hall is a 19th-century country mansion in Matfen, Northumberland, England, the seat of the Blackett baronets and now also a hotel and country golf club. It is a Grade II listed building.

The manor of West Matfen was owned in the 13th century by Philip de Ulcote and passed through his sisters to Felton, by marriage to Hastings and later to Lawson. In 1625 the estate was bought by Lancelot Fenwick of a branch of the old-established local family. The manor and manor house, West Matfen High Hall, was sold in 1680 to John Douglas. His granddaughter and Douglas heiress married Sir Edward Blackett, Bt., in 1757, thereby bringing the estate into the Blackett family.

The present house was built to replace the old manor, in 1832 for Sir William Blackett, 6th Baronet. The impressive Jacobean-style mansion has a three-storey seven-bay entrance front. An important internal feature is a full-height Gothic hall.

Matfen Hall opened as a hotel in 1999 with 31 bedrooms. In 2004, a major expansion programme resulted in the number of bedrooms increased to 53 and our Aqua Spa and leisure facilities created.

This transformed Matfen Hall and its grounds into a premier UK and international tourist and corporate destination hotel, restaurant, conference venue, spa and golf course.

The building and estate has had a varied history. The Blackett family are central to both the past and the present estate. And, William Blackett born in Hamsterley, County Durham in 1621, the key character.

William was a hugely successful entrepreneur based in Newcastle. Ultimately a substantial owner of lead and coal mining interests, he first traded in flax, cloth, timber and linen. And, then in fishing and whaling.

He was elected Sheriff of Newcastle in 1660 and later Mayor. William was created a Baronet in 1673. This followed his election as a Member of Parliament in 1673. He died in 1680 leaving 7 surviving children.

His eldest son, Edward, inherited the Baronetcy and built Newby Hall in Yorkshire. This branch of the Blackett family moved back to Matfen in 1750 following the sale of Newby Hall.

His third son William inherited Anderson Place, known then as ‘the largest house and grounds within a walled city, in the country’. The site of Anderson Place was at the heart of the 19th century development of the modern city centre of present day Newcastle.

Matfen Hall was completely rebuilt between 1832 and 1836. Some parts of the original 17th century house still remain including the original lintel stone with the family armorial of the Douglas family who built the earlier house.

Sir Hugh Blackett, the 8th Baronet, was the last family member to live in Matfen Hall. He died in 1961. The Hall was subsequently leased to the Leonard Cheshire Foundation and for 30 years became a centre for the care of severely disabled residents.

John Douglas, (bef 1689 - aft 1708), who seemingly arrived in Northumberland from Scotland, was initially employed as an agricultural worker in Matfen.

As an attorney, he made a large fortune and purchased a number of estates and properties. He purchased Matfen from the Carnaby family, a branch of the Fenwick family, between 1680 and 1702 as well as acquiring Clarewood in 1686 and Great Whittington the following year. Matfen (West), for which he paid £950 in August 1680, was a township and well built village; it contained 1,905 acres. By November 1702 he laid out a total of £15605 in the purchase of land in that area.

In 1720, John's son, Oley was described as 'of Matfen'.

Oley and his wife Mary's only child, Anne, married, in 1751, Sir Edward Blackett, 4th Bt. On her marriage, ownership of Halton Castle, a pele tower close to Hadrian’s Wall, north of Corbridge, Northumberland and the estate of Matfen, acquired from the once powerful Carnaby family, passed to the Blackett family.

•  Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage describes the Blackett arms as “Arg., on a chevron, between three mullets, pierced, sa., as many escallops in the field.” The crest is: “A hawk’s head erased, proper”. The motto, “nous travaillerons en esperance” (“we will labour in hope”), was added later. In his book “My Name is Blacket” the late Nick Vine Hall states that the “three shells” on the coat of arms “are claimed by some members of the family to indicate that the Blackets fought in the Crusades, but no documentary evidence has been found of this. The escallop was supposed to be the badge of St. James, the patron saint of pilgrims, who was revered by the crusaders.”
•  On 14 February 2019, the engagement was announced between Harry A B Douglass, eldest son of Mr and Mrs Robin Douglass, of Matfen, Northumberland, and Laura R Sebag-Montefiore, younger daughter of Mr and Mrs Charles Sebag-Montefiore, of Putney, London.
•  In March(?) 2018, the engagement was announced between William, son of Mr and Mrs Robin Douglass, of Matfen, Northumberland, and Kate, daughter of Mr Mark Kershaw, of Linkenholt, Hampshire, and Mrs Susan Kershaw, of East Challow, Oxfordshire.
•  Robin Braithwaite Douglass was born in September 1939

Oley's only child, Anne, married, in 1751, Sir Edward Blackett, 4th Bt. On her marriage, ownership of the estate of Matfen, acquired from the once powerful Carnaby family, passed to the Blackett family.



Sources for this article include:
  • Matfen Hall hotel

  • Any contributions will be gratefully accepted


    Back to top


    The content of this website is a collection of materials gathered from a variety of sources, some of it unedited.

    The webmaster does not intend to claim authorship, but gives credit to the originators for their work.

    As work progresses, some of the content may be re-written and presented in a unique format, to which we would then be able to claim ownership.

    Discussion and contributions from those more knowledgeable is welcome.

    Contact Us

    Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024