THE HISTORY OF GUYZANCE HALL
If the Village Hall is one of the most used buildings in the parish, Guyzance Hall is definitely one of the grandest. In 1892, J.D. Milburn – a Newcastle Industrial entrepreneur and ship owner – bought the estate of Barnhill (and much of Guyzance) and converted Barnhill Farm into a fine residence. The residence was completed in 1905 and became known as Guyzance Hall.
The Milburn family of Birtley was prominent in Tynedale and North Redesdale prior to the union of 1603. In 1804, a Thomas Milburn moved to Ashington Farmhouse and took employment with Stephen Watson, tenant of the Duke of Portland. Two of Thomas’ sons married into the family of the shipowner, John Davidson. The eldest, William, became owner of the world’s fifth largest merchant fleet as well as a colliery owner in the Ashington Coal Company Group.
By the twentieth century, the Milburn family owned property privately at Guyzance, Fowberry and Ghyllheugh in Northumberland as well as land in Donegal. The Milburn Estates comprises the ownership of thirteen farms in Yorkshire, Northumberland and Scotland and also office property in Newcastle, primarily in Dean Street and the Side.
By the 1860s, the hamlet of Guyzance had been updated. All the cottages had been remodelled and the place had acquired a smithy (on the site of present West House) and a village school, possibly a former cottage converted in 1852. The only Alnwick District Council Guyzance Conservation Area 14 February 2008 Character Appraisal and Management Matters farmhouse there was eighteenth century Barnhill Farm which stood on the site of what is now Guyzance Hall.
In the 1890s, J D Milburn commissioned W H Knowles, an architect of Newcastle, to design a fine country house in Northumberland. The site was to be Barnhill Farmhouse overlooking a dramatic landscape created by the two tight meanders of the river Coquet, an attractive cultural landscape of agriculture and industry that had been developed over at least 900 years. The style of the house would be neo-Tudor, a familiar style for Victorian country houses. Work began in 1894. The farmhouse was retained and restyled as the west wing of the mansion which had a central tower over the main south entrance and a new matching east wing (although the design was fashionably asymmetrical). Knowles added terraced gardens and garden buildings, retaining and re-using Barnhill’s eighteenth century gate piers in the process. A new formal access with a North Lodge was opened up at the east end of the hamlet and a new footbridge over the Quarry Burn improved the newly private access from the south west.
Although the hamlet of Guyzance and modern Barnhill Farm are set well back from this edge, enjoying no dramatic views over the valley, Guyzance Hall itself is located close to the edge to make the most of such viewing opportunities. The central tower was raised after 25 years to make even more of the views for the owners and presumably to make the Hall visible from even further afield in the valley, spatially and visually unifying the Hall and its setting.
The building of Guyzance Hall in the 1890s transformed the area into an amenity landscape, to be enjoyed particularly from the edge of the north plateau. About the same time, transport around the valley was transformed by the new Guyzance Bridge.
The two pleasure gardens of Guyzance Hall may be of such historic quality and survival that they might be considered for designation as an historic park and garden.