New lease of life for historic site
By the end of the 13th century, no less than 15 religious houses held property in Berwick: An Augustinian Friary was founded in the town in 1296 and a Carmelite Friary in 1270 was located on a site close to the present Governor's House.
So great was our port traffic, Berwick was known as a second Alexandria. In one year alone, it was claimed that the trade in wool, barley, salmon, eggs and linen represented a quarter of the entire English national revenue.
Berwick-upon-Tweed has been besieged more times than Jerusalem, changing hands between England and Scotland at least 13 times, since 1492 under English control.
Berwick railway station now covers the ground where once stood the Great Hall of King Edward I’s 13th century castle, once the largest in Britain. Elizabeth I built new walls with a smaller footprint, leaving the old castle outside the new town perimeter.
Only the walls to the north west of the lines and down to the River Tweed remain, most of the stones removed in the 17th century to build Berwick Parish Church and many other fine structures, possibly also The Governor’s House.
The Governor’s House and Gardens formed a focal point within our military garrison, signalling to all the high status of the military governor within this most important of garrison settlements, equal only to Calais. The garden walls are actually attached to the Elizabethan defences, emphasising the unique status of Berwick in a national context. The Governor’s House, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, influenced the design of the civilian houses later developed nearby, including Ravensdowne.
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Once the Governor was withdrawn from Berwick, the house and gardens were successively an officers’ mess, a girls’ boarding school, timber yard, brewery, workshops and latterly home to Lindisfarne Mead.
The site has now been sensitively transformed by local developer Nick Dawe, of Lindisfarne Homes, using respected local builder Michael Guthrie and his ever-cheerful team. The imaginatively-landscaped gardens created by Clare Ryan stand directly above the foundation of the 13th century Carmelite Friary, safe some six metres below ground level. Clare has planted thousands of snowdrop, crocus and bluebell bulbs for spring display.
The last two homes are being prepared for sale. The remainder are now occupied by folk living together in harmony in a communal setting, actively creating or retired, and two clergy, including the new curate to Berwick Parish Church. Rather appropriate, given that the Carmelites were founded on Mount Carmel as a group of lay people, dedicated to living their lives in community, practically and prayerful in service to one another and the wider world.
If you are interested in securing one of the remaining homes, contact Nick Dawe of Lindisfarne Homes, on 01668 219175, mobile 07730 815956, or view the Lindisfarne Homes website and see the plans for the former Blackburn and Price site. For landscaper Clare Ryan, visit clareryangardens.co.uk