Landed families and country houses

The sources for finding out about the old country houses and estates of Northumberland, and the families who owned them, have always been fragmented and sometimes hard to track down. The growth of the internet has improved the availability of some of this material, if one knows what to look for.  For some kinds of research, the classic reference works remain essential: county histories, genealogies, architectural guides. 


Sometimes the research of other people may have drawn together these different strands in one place. See for example the online blog Landed Families of Britain and Ireland, described below.


General sources


County history


A history of Northumberland (Northumberland County History Committee). 15 vols. 1893-1940.  Online vols. for north Northumberland at Internet Archive:

Berwick and the immediate surrounding area between Norham and Holy Island were not included in the History of Northumberland because other histories were already in print:


James Raine. The history and antiquities of North Durham as subdivided into the shires of Norham, Island, and Bedlington … now united to the county of Northumberland.  1852. [Not online]


And histories of Berwick by Scott, Sheldon, Fuller, etc. See links at Books online.




For information about families, Burke’s Peerage and Landed Gentry are well-known but the latest editions are sometimes to be found only in print in large libraries. 


Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage. Latest ed.  107th ed., 2004.

Burke’s Landed Gentry. Latest ed. 18th ed., 1965.

– – 9th ed. 1898.  Online at HathiTrust.

Country houses


Nikolaus Pevsner and Ian Richmond. Northumberland. (The Buildings of England).  2nd ed. repr.  New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2002. [Not available online]


A current project


Landed Families of Britain and Ireland is an ambitious blog project to draw together information about the personal and architectural histories of landed families throughout the country. It is the work of Nicholas Kinsgley, archivist and former Secretary of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, and an architectural historian.  Each blog posting is devoted to an individual family; the entry consists of:

Shield Askew of Redheugh and Pallinsburn

The family shield of Askew of Redheugh and Pallinsburn

  • a general account of the family’s history from its first rise to gentry status;
  • accounts of each of the family’s country houses, describing the whole development of the house and giving a list of its owners;
  • biographical and genealogical information about the members of the family who actually owned the estate.

There are also extensive indexes of the people and the houses described, as well as geographical and topical subject headings. The families are being undertaken alphabetically and the project is still very much a work in progress.


Among those families covered so far, one of particular interest in North Northumberland is the Askew family of Redheugh, Pallinsburn, and Ladykirk, situated just over the border in Scotland. Castle Hills house in Berwick is another of the family’s properties, described in this posting.



Ladykirk House
The former Ladykirk House, built in the 19th century, was owned by the Robertson family. It fell into ruin after being damaged by flooding in the early 20th century, and was gradually demolished between 1930 and 1966. A new house was built for Major Askew in the immediate area between 1965 and 1966. (Photo source unknown).
Castle HIlls House, Berwick
Castle Hills house near Berwick-upon-Tweed was built in the early 19th century as a dower house for the Pallinsburn estate by the Askew family. It was later to become a maternity home in the 20th century and is now a private residence. © chili – Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Other research on families in Northumberland and Berwickshire featured in the blog may also be of interest such as Coupland Castle and Howick Hall. There are also descriptions of Cragside and Bamburgh Castle in the section on the Armstrong family.