IMAGINE having your own icehouse hidden in your rockery! Julie Gourley has just that because her house is in the grounds of Urpeth Hall, between Chester-le-Street and Stanley.

“Whenever we get visitors, they are always curious about it – but they don’t like to enter!” she says.

During the great icehouse-building craze of the early 19th Century, the hall – then known as Urpeth Lodge – was the home of Calverley Bewicke, a member of a Newcastle family of merchants who was also a commander in the Durham Militia.

Also big in the militia were the Vane family of Raby Castle, near Staindrop, and from 1806-1816, Calverley was the MP for Winchelsea which was one of several of the Vane family’s own seats.

The Northern Echo:

Winchelsea, a Cinque Port in Sussex, was one of the most rotten of rotten boroughs as it had only 11 voters. They were bought by the Earl of Darlington who installed his own MP, in this case Mr Bewicke, who was expected to vote with the earl’s other MPs in furtherance of his interests.

The Great Reform Act of 1832 abolished the corrupt seat, but Calverley had done well enough to have a mansion with an icehouse.

That mansion is now divided, with Julie having the Grade II listed icehouse beneath its artificial mound in her garden. Historic England notes that it is “large and well-preserved”.

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