Tunstall court is a lovely stately home or mansion in the borough of West Hartlepool in the county of Cleveland in the UK. Although some of the original buildings no longer stand such as Tunstall Manor, one of the main houses still stand on the same site despite years of changing hands, various use and often neglect.
Built in 1899 by the famous shipbuilder and entrepreneur William C. Gray, the son of Sir William Gray also of shipbuilding fame, Tunstall Court was the Gray family’s main residence, though they did also own similarly sized properties in Yorkshire and Devon. As well as William C Gray and his wife, 7 other members of the Gray family occupied the building for nearly 30 years, with a staff of 12 to make sure their every need was looked after. Even with all these people in there Tunstall Court would have seemed spacious and luxurious with its 30 rooms, ballroom and indoor swimming pool.
Through the work of William C Gray, and his staff such as Thomas Casebourne (a relation of his wife, Katherine Gray nee Casebourne) Hartlepool is much better off than it might have been, both through trade such as ship building and engineering but also tangible assets of the town such as a hospital, public parks and swimming baths built by Gray, as well as the sewerage system, the docks and sea walls being created by the Casebourne family’s side.
Tunstall House was also occupied briefly by the Furness family who were also hugely famous in the shipbuilding trade of the North East of England in the 19th and 20th centuries. This rich tapestry of shipbuilding history is evident in the ship motifs in the grand staircase, as well as other trades of the town being portrayed in the stained glass at the top of the same staircase.
In 1948 the ownership of the building was given to Hartlepool Borough Council who operated a number of initiatives from the building, such as using it as a training college for various trades including a secretarial college at one point. Sadly due to spiralling costs the council were forced to give up the property in 2002 due to a yearly cost of £165,000 for the upkeep of the land and its gardens.
Shortly after this a pilot scheme was launched by the Dutch company Camelot in which people were granted cheap leases of apartments in the building (£25 a week with all bills included, less than a quarter of an average for the area) in return for the occupants acting as security guards and keepers of the property, carrying out light maintenance and generally just keeping the property in a reasonable state of repair.
Again this scheme was short lived and Tunstall court closed its doors for the last time in 2006, and swiftly became the target of many vandals and arsonists, to the point where local police were having to complete patrols of the house and its grounds on a regular basis to move along anyone who was using Tunstall House as a recreation area. A few arrests were made but still the vandalism continued until eventually the house had to be clad in steel around the windows to prevent further access and damage.
There is still a good amount of the original features and beauty of the house surviving, though sadly the pool was removed during its stint as cheap accommodation due to health and safety concerns. With the damaged and burned state that some of the building is in I would be surprised if Tunstall Court ever saw active use again, which real shame considering how elegant the building is, its rich history of its ownership and how favoured it’s grounds are by many interesting birds who use it as a retreat from the more public and crowded Ward Jackson Park adjacent to the gardens.
A few pictures from Tunstall Court are:
And the rest of the images from the Tunstall Court set can be seen here