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Cleadon, South Tyneside

Cleadon Meadows

Last Updated:

1 Jun 2020

Cleadon, South Tyneside

This is a

Country House

Cleadon Meadows, Cleadon

Founded in 


Current status is


Designer (if known):


Cleadon Meadows housing development now occupies site.

'By the early 19th Century there were five large residences in the village: Cleadon House (HER 8027), Cleadon Old Hall (HER 12765), Cleadon Tower (HER 964), the Matthew House (CS15) and a new house built on the west side of the turnpike, just to the north of the village. This last was Cleadon Meadows (HER 12764) built for Russell Bowlby Esq. Bowlby originally came from Durham, marrying Elizabeth Gibbon from Cleadon Hills Farm in 1792. He had formerly been a Captain in the Royal Artillery before
relinquishing his commission to become a solicitor in South Shields (Sykes 1824, 10). The first reference of him in Cleadon dates to early 1832 when he stood for Parliament, representing the new borough of South Shields, enfranchised that year with the passing of the Reform Act. Bowlby received only 2 votes, the winner, Robert Ingham of Westoe, returning 205 (Fordyce 1857, 724).

The year before, in 1831, Bowlby had fought a duel with one of his competitors, Mr Braddyll, after calling him ‘a chicken newly hatched about which the pious clucking hen, the Mother Church, was invited to shelter under her dingy wings’. The duel was held at 7am at Offerton Lane near Herringdon. Bowlby discharged his weapon first but missed, which says little for his military prowess given that he had previously been in the artillery. As a gentleman, Braddyll then discharged his weapon safely into the
air. Bowlby apologised for his earlier comments and both men apparently left amicably (Hamilton et al
1831, 521). The Captain stood again for election in 1835 but once more lost out to Ingham, this time 27
votes to 128 (ibid). Bowlby appears in the 1839 tithe but by 1853 has moved from Cleadon Meadows to
Whitburn, where he died in 1865.

The house was sold to Mr John Clay, a banker and shipowner. Clay became the first Mayor of South
Shields following the granting of a Charter of Incorporation by Queen Victoria on September 5th 1850.

Perhaps in celebration of his new position, Clay commissioned the famous Newcastle architect, John Dobson, to rebuild Cleadon Meadows in 1853. Dobson had earlier converted the farmhouse at nearby Cleadon Park into a classical mansion house for the coal merchant James Kirkley, agent to the Harton Coal Company. It may have been this that first attracted Clay to the architect’s work.

Cleadon Meadows is first shown on Blackett’s map of Cleadon (Fig. 38), produced in 1831, but only appears in detail on the 1839 tithe map. The original building, which dates to the early years of the 19th Century, was L-shaped in form and was completely demolished when the new house was erected. The new house was positioned further back from the Shields Road, set within attractive parkland. Historic photographs show a double-façade building in the classical style, with pedimented cross-wings set at each end of the 3-bayed central block and a heavily denticulated cornice (Plate 114). In addition to the house, the 1855 first edition 25-inch OS map (Fig.50) also shows three buildings set to the north of the property, almost certainly stables and a coach house. Born in 1802 in London, John Clay (Fig. 51) married Margaret Davidson, daughter of a local shipbuilder, and moved to South Shields. For 16 years he was the manager of the South Shields branch of the Northumberland and Durham District Bank. Established in 1836, the bank initially had a healthy capital and strong portfolio of investors but ten years later, in 1857, it went bust owing more than £1.19M, equivalent to around £50M today. Clay left Cleadon Meadows soon after, eventually returning to
London where he became an iron merchant. He died in 1887 in Sussex (Shields Gazette, 3rd March

Following Clay’s departure, Cleadon Meadows was purchased by Richard Shortridge JP, chairman of South Shields County Magistrates, South Shields Guardians and the Tyne Ferry Company. Shortridge laid the foundation stone for All Saints Church in 1866 and lived at Cleadon Meadows for the rest of his life, dying in 1884 at the ripe old age of 86 (Sunderland Echo, 12th December 1884).

The property was purchased by John Broderick Dale (Plate 113), the founder in 1858 of a private South Shields bank, Dale & Company. After several mergers this became part of Barclays Bank. In 1900 Simon
H Fraser, a coal fitter, was living at the house (Ward 1899-90, 372) and in 1909 Alfred E Doxford was in
residence (Kelly 1909-10, 359). Alfred was the son of the shipbuilder William Doxford, who, with his
brother, William Jnr, formed W. Doxford and Sons, known locally simply as Doxfords. The company was to become one of the largest shipbuilders in Sunderland, until the closure of the yard in 1988.

In July 1920 Cleadon Meadows was sold to Edith Carlin who died in 1923. Her husband, George Lamb Carlin, sold the estate for £5000 to the Brown brothers, a well known family firm of builders in South Shields. They later purchased the 17-acre estate outright when it was finally disenfranchised and sold by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1924. The property stood empty for a number of years. In 1935 there was a proposal by the South Shields Corporation to turn it into a mental hospital (Sunderland Echo, 18th January 1935), but this never came to fruition.

Over the next 50 years the Browns sold off various plots of land, including 7.6 acres to Durham County
Council for the construction of a new junior school, built in 1963, which stood in the grounds of the current school. Three years later the remaining estate was sold for development. Eight acres was purchased by John T. Bell and Sons Ltd (builders) of Newcastle for £36,000, while the remaining land was retained by Browns. Sadly, the Dobson House was demolished when the present housing estate was built. Today all that remains of the former grand country house is the name – Cleadon Meadows – and perhaps the ball finials that once topped the gateposts. The salvaged finials may have a new location now on top of the modern piers erected at the entrance to Cleadon Cottages, although the provenance of these features has not been confirmed.'

Please read this excellent history on The Cleadon Village Atlas Report. The link is above.

Listing Description (if available)

Above we can see the first two Ordnance Survey editions. The Cleadon Meadows estate can be seen just north of the village itself, surrounded by greenery, a spring and a small pond to the back of the site.

Cleadon at this point was a rural village, occupying only one main thoroughfare and with a local railway station on the Newcastle to Sunderland line a fair walk west. A tile works and clay pit also surround the village.

The third edition shows Cleadon developing as a fully fledged town serving the various industrial sites that surround it. The North East was growing quickly at this point and the need for modern dense housing was imperative in all areas.

Cleadon Meadows is still in use as a residence and isnt demolished until the 1960s.


Photograph of Cleadon Meadows Country House, undated. The image projects its rural setting just outside the village.

Retrieved from Cleadon Village History


Undated photograph of the rear facade of Cleadon Meadows. The image features a couple of horses & carriages. The building seems in quite an austere state at this point. Image retrieved from the Beamish Collection no. 15284


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