Blackett Family History
The Blackett baronetcy was created for William Blackett in 1673. He was born in 1621 in Hamsterley, County Durham from a family of moderately prosperous merchants.
He had a hugely successful career as a trader in Newcastle and became a member of the Merchant Adventurers. Initially he traded in such commodities as flax, cloth, timber and linen and he also had interest in the whaling and fishing trades. He later dealt in lead and coal and subsequently became a substantial owner of lead and coal mining interests.
He was elected Sheriff of Newcastle in 1660 and later Mayor. He was elected to Parliament in 1673 and created a baronet by Charles II on 12 December 1673. He remained an MP until his death in 1680. In 1675 he bought Anderson place, which was known to be the largest house and grounds within a walled city in the country. It was later developed in the 19th century into the modern city centre of Newcastle. Anderson Place itself was pulled down to make way for the new developments and the site of the old house is near the theatre Royal on Grey Street. Following his surrender to the Scots in 1646, Charles I was kept under house arrest in Anderson Place before his trial and execution in London.
Sir William left 7 surviving children. His eldest son Edward inherited the baronetcy and built Newby Hall in Yorkshire. His 3rd son William inherited Anderson place and also built Wallington Hall which is now owned by the National Trust. The Yorkshire branch of the Blackett family moved back to their estates in Matfen, Northumberland following the sale of Newby Hall in the 1750s.
Matfen Hall was completely rebuilt in 1832-6 on the site of an earlier Jacobean house by Sir Edward Blackett, the 6th baronet. Parts of the Jacobean house, dating from 1690, still survive as does the original lintel stone with the family motto of the Douglas family who built the earlier house. The last family member to live in Matfen Hall was Sir Hugh Blackett, 8th baronet, who died in 1961. Following his death and the sale of much of the contents to pay death duties, the Hall was leased to the Leonard Cheshire Foundation. For the next 30 years the Hall cared for some 30 severely disabled residents.
The Leonard Cheshire foundation moved to new premises in Newcastle in 1995 and following a major programme of work the Hall was opened as a hotel in 1999. Initially there were 31 bedrooms and this was expanded to 53 rooms following major works in 2004, which also provided extensive spa and leisure facilities. The hotel is owned and operated by Sir Hugh Blackett (12th baronet) and his wife Anna.
The Estate House
The following article appeared in the Hexham Courant in 2009.
Dower House Project was Dobson’s Consolation Prize
The Estate House at Matfen – just yards from Matfen Hall – is the sort of modest mansion that could have housed a Jane Austen vicar, or the purple-gowned widow of the lord of the manor making way for the eldest son.
And that is exactly why the Estate House was built; as a dower house to shelter relicts of the mighty Blackett dynasty, one branch of which has been at Matfen Hall for 250 years.
The Estate House, now available for long-term rent, can claim a dignity not shared by its grand neighbour, the hall. It was part-designed by the architect who is arguably the North-East’s finest – John Dobson.