Founded 8th May 1999

Newsletter No.49 22 July 2015


I am afraid there are still three members who have not renewed their annual Sub. I will send them the Newsletter one last time, but not the Journal yet. I do hope for a positive response; we have had five new members joining since February and I don’t want simply to replace our total membership.


Robert Knott from Jersey City, New Jersey, USA.

Richard Davenport Hines writes and reviews for literary journals, including the Literary Review and The Times Literary Supplement. An adviser to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Historical Society, he is well known for his biography of W.H. Auden and his recent book on John Maynard Keynes.

Michael Loibner writes: I am a graduate of the University of Graz, Austria, with a degree in English Literature. I focus on Victorian novels with special emphasis on the works of Thomas Hardy. I have been a member of the Thomas Hardy Society since 2001. The connection between Hardy and JMF is obvious. Hence my interest in JMF. In my opinion, JMF does not get the recognition he deserves, especially here in Europe (which is no surprise, though, considering how tightly interwoven his stories are with the people, the landscape and the history of a specific part of England). Besides devoting my time to literature, I work as a journalist and also as a professional basketball coach.



Thanks to the hard work of our three members in the North East, particularly George Robson, a group of twelve of us, based at the Premier Inn, north of Newcastle (using the next door Beefeater for meals and Ken Warren’s talk), had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, blessed with good weather.

On Friday evening, Scott Davidson, the General Manager, kindly showed us around Jesmond Dene House. Bought by Sir Andrew Noble, on the advice of near neighbour Sir William Armstrong, it was altered and extended in 1897. After his widow’s death in 1929, the house was used for a variety of purposes, becoming an hotel in 2005 after extensive refurbishment. A wedding reception was in progress, complete with a jazz ensemble, as we finally congregated on the terrace.


Ray Ion expounding on Jesmond





A strange collection (the house not the members!) To the manor born……….


Armstrong had developed the adjacent Jesmond Dene valley into a woodland park and garden, which he presented to the people of Newcastle in 1883. We drove to the nearby Banqueting Hall (which celebrated its 150 th anniversary in 2012) – now a noble roofless ruin at the centre of a restoration campaign – and walked along to the House in the Dene, where the Nobles lived prior to moving to Jesmond Dene House.


Outside the upper entrance to the Banqueting Hall


Saturday 18 th July:

Thanks to George Robson’s meticulous planning, the Saturday tour was a great success: first a visit to Rothbury church and churchyard, with close connections to the Armstrongs and Adyes. Then, in succession, Cartington House and Castle; Lorbottle Hall, Wooperton Hall - where Wilfrid Cochrane, JMF's successor as company secretary, lived with his wife Yseult [née Noble]; Chillingham Church and Castle; and, finally, Old Bewick church, where Wilfrid and Yseult Cochrane are buried. Each had associations with either the Armstrong, Adye or Cochrane families. JMF would have known them all, but he seems to have had a particular affection for Lorbottle as, I think, did most of us – thanks to Amanda’s warm welcome (and refreshments!).

In the evening Ken Warren gave a well-received talk on life in the North-East in JMF’s time. This will be reproduced as an article in next year’s Journal.



Rothbury churchyard                             Lorbottle Hall






Measuring JMF’s height at Lorbottle



Chillingham Church               Chillingham Castle              Ken Warren’s talk


Sunday 19th July – morning.

A smaller group visited Cragside. Originally completed for Sir William Armstrong in 1863, it was transformed by Norman Shaw between 1869 and 1884. Acquired by the National Trust in 1977, the house was eventually opened to the public in 1979. The house is Grade I listed.


Those attending the weekend were: Michael Daniell, Robin Davies, Celia Grover, Kenneth Hillier, Ray Ion, Roger Norris, George Robson, Ken and Jean Warren, Philip and Jane Weller, George Woodman.


We were delighted that present members of the Noble family were able to join us for the Friday evening and most of Saturday: Sir Timothy Noble; his wife, Elizabeth; Lord Gainford (son of Veronica Margaret Noble [1900-1995], daughter of Sir George Noble [1859-1937]); Sir Timothy’s sister, Laila, and her husband George Embelton.



For those receiving the Newsletter by e:mail, the Journal will be posted separately. I hope you find much food for thought in its pages. I am grateful to the contributors for this issue. I am always delighted to receive longer articles for the Journal and shorter pieces for the Newsletter (next one due in January).



Best Wishes,

Kenneth Hillier

Greenmantle, Main Street, Kings Newton, Melbourne, Derbyshire DE73 8BX

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