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Jesmond Dene, Newcastle

Millfield House, Jesmond

Last Updated:

4 Mar 2024

Jesmond Dene, Newcastle

This is a


54.990588, -1.592156

Founded in 


Current status is


Designer (if known):

Extension: Frank Rich


Locally Listed

This beautiful brick house you’ll find at the Jesmond Dene petting zoo. It’s now called Millfield House, but the clue into the former purpose of this site lies in name. Busy Cottage Mill once stood here, which utilised redundant buildings from an old ironworks.

Busy Cottage Mill used the old forge and a huge mill race to produce flour using water power. A little similar to the mill in situ up the road, it was an ideal place given the rush of water through the Ouse Burn, and would have catered for the locals on either side. The mill race has since been filled in. They were basically small running streams to power a water wheel to move the big gears and stones in the mill to grind corn.

I mentioned the mill used the buildings from a former ironworks here. Well before any petting zoo or idyllic park, an iron and brass foundry was situated here from at least the 1780s when Thomas Menham operated from a building here. There were workers dwellings here, stables, a brew house and a well which goes to show how extensive this site was. T M Richardson painted it but there’s no trace of it anywhere - just the one below from 1831 from just above Jesmond Old Mill towards Heaton.

Once Armstrong bought the area and transformed it into a park, the ironworks-cum-mill ceased to work. At this point, they were likely demolished. The current buildings doesn’t match up to the old maps, though I’m sure there are some elements retained either in the structure, the cellar etc.

There was once two large townhouses down here - this one and Heaton Dene House, though you’ll find very little on the latter. Millfield has survived as the visitor centre, but this was once the home of Robert Gurney Hoare. A London born man, Hoare was a partner in the banking firm Hodgkin, Burnett, Pease, Spence & Co who were set up privately after the big Panic of 1857. You may recognise the Pease - This was J W Beaumont Pease whose great grandad was Joseph Pease, the abolitionist and founder of the Pease Society. There’s a statue of him in Darlington. His great uncle was Edward Pease. The firm was eventually bought out by Lloyds and Pease became chairman of Lloyds.

With his accumulated wealth, Hoare managed to buy this property and extend it. What we see today is his finished product, with the mind of Frank Rich designing the extension. He’s responsible for Bolbec Hall, the Turnbull Warehouse and Ouseburn School.

Listing Description (if available)

Millfield House is well-known to visitors to Jesmond Dene as it now serves as the visitor centre and rangers’ headquarters. In 1870 it was owned by a Newcastle banker, Robert G. Hoare, who commissioned the architect Frank W. Rich to build an extension on the west side and it is from this period that the name ‘Millfield House’ came into use. The three storey brick house is built on an L plan with a slate roof. The account for the 1876 extension by Frank West Rich is in the Armstrong archive in Tyne and Wear Archives. Millfield House is unconnected with the industrial and commercial site of Busy Cottage (with the possible exception of some masonry ni the cellar). The building is of interest because of its quirky additions made by an architect known for showy structures, and as a well known landmark in the parkland of the Ouseburn Valley. -

Both Ordnance Survey maps above illustrate the Jesmond Dene area from the 1890s into the 1910s. This is well after use as a mill, and was part of the whole Ouseburn Valley parkland. Millfield House is labelled adjacent to Heaton Dene House and a couple of other buildings, with some parts of the structures likely dating from the ironworks era.

The later 1910s map shows a wider perspective in the landscape, with the now demolished Stote's Hall on one side and the large villas popping up at Heaton. Benton Bank was still the primary thoroughfare on what's now the Coast Road, then featuring the tramway which split at Chillingham Road.

A short jaunt further back to 1864, which shows the site as it was when operating as a mill. Heaton Dene House is still extant, as it a few of those structures mentioned previously which were expanded by the 1890s. Both Heaton and Jesmond were yet yo be developing, featuring only coaching inns and manorial complexes.


Millfield House in 2024, featuring the western extension by Frank Rich. The faux-Tudor extension may date from the same time as Rich's work.


An illustration by TM Richardson of Jesmond Dene from Mable's Mill (Jesmond Old Mill). Richardson's illustration of our site cannot be found so this is the next best thing, showing a beautiful vista of Jesmond and Heaton before development. 1831, Laing Art Gallery


The last remaining vestige of the Busy Cottage name are these dwellings, still called the Busy Cottages. They were built in 1858 as workers cottages just a few years before the mill actually closed.

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