Page last updated 20/06/11
'Weardale in pre-historic times supported food gathering and hunting peoples and later farming families supplementing their living with the chase from late Mesolithic times to, at any rate, the end of the Bronze age'. Flints have been found further up the Euden Beck above the Grove towards Redgate Shield.
Redford Grove was originally known as Eudenleys and is first mentioned in Bishop Hatfield's survey of the See of Durham in 1380AD. Part of the 'township' of South Bedburn in the Manor of Wolsingham, it consisted of one building and ten acres of land rented by the Dean of Auckland for 2s 6d per year. The suffix 'ley' implies a clearing from the waste or forest which covered the area at the time of the Norman Conquest. (The Euden Beck might have been named after the Eure family who held Witton Castle and much of the land in South Bedburn or possibly derived from Iwdene 'Yew Tree Valley' ). It was probably occupied throughout the year unlike the clearings at Ayrehope Shield and Redgate Shield for which the term 'Shield' (shieling) implies they were used for summer grazing. It is likely to have been cleared in the middle of the 13th century - better quality land on the Wear between Wolsingham and Witton was not cleared until that time but on the other hand 'Rootford' (Redford) just downstream on the Bedburn had been cleared by 1256. (Hamsterley Church was founded around 1180).
The 'manor' known as Rutynford in 1369 had been acquired by Sir John de Eure in the c1350s and formed part of the dower of his wife Margaret. At her death in 1378 it was known as Retynford (held of the heirs of Stephen de Birden).
Four centuries after Bishop Hatfield, prior to the passing of the Hamsterley Inclosure Act in 1760, Euden Lees (or Euden Leazes) had probably changed little. By 1760 Euden Lees was owned by Farrer Wren and Myles Sandys but the cleared land had been extended by an additional inclosure to the north of Euden Beck called 'Crow Nest' belonging to John Blackett and by other land south of Euden Beck and to the west of Euden Lees belonging to John Addison. In the discussions deciding the allotment of land under the Inclosure Act Wren and Farrer claimed unique usage of the land on the south west side of Pennington Rake and were confirmed in that land under the enclosure. George Surtees of Mainsforth had been building up holdings of land in Hamsterley (?), Lynesack and Softley which entitled him to a major allotment of land when the moors were enclosed as a result of the act. He took for this allotment the moorland forming the most of the watershed of the Euden Beck and the hillside to the south of the Bedburn Beck. He then aquired Euden Leazes from Wren and Sandys and Redford with its allotments from Patrick Lyon to complete an estate which effectively forms Hamsterley Forest today. Over the next century the Surtees continued to build up the estate by purchasing farms in the area such as Podge Hole and Mayland. Their main seats however were at Mainsforth and Redworth.
Crosier Surtees succeeded to the Surtees estates in 1769 by direct succession
and by marrying his cousin the co-heir but fell out severely with his wife (or
vice-versa) and retired to live at Pennnington Rake around 1800 with a woman who
bore him several children. He died in December 1803 having been found frozen
after falling from his pony returning from a dinner at Raby Castle. He was
succeeded by his son Robert Surtees who continued to live at Redworth House.
Around this time the Surtees appear to have changed the name of the property
from Eudon Leazes to The Grove although the house was still on the original site
some 250m to the south west of the current building.
The first part of the current building was erected sometime between 1820 and 1851 as a hunting lodge for the Surtees. It was extended with what is now the middle section around 1893 and a further extension was added to the northeast around 1912. The bridge across the Spurlswood Beck is dated 1843 (rebuilt 2003) and is probably contemporary with the initial phase of building.
Crozier and Jane Surtees (by unknown artist)
Robert Surtees was succeeded by his son Robert Lambton Surtees in 1857 but he died in 1863 to be succeeded by his brother Henry Edward Surtees. Henry developed The Grove as a hunting lodge and kept a pack of hounds at The Grove until the 1870s. Henry Edward was in turn succeeded by Henry Siward Surtees in 1895 who built the extensions to the Grove.
More information on the Surtees can be found in
Henry Edward Surtees 1843
The next big change came in 1927 when Henry Surtees sold the Redford Estate to the Forestry Commission for £15,000. George Paton Pollitt, a director (1919 - 1945) of Brunner, Mond and Company which formed part of ICI when it was formed in 1926, had rented The Grove but moved out after the sale. Most of the hillsides were already plantations as early as 1860 but the Forestry Commission developed the whole estate as woodland. See 'Finding hope in happy Hamsterley'.
Around 1946 Lewin, a refugee from Germany in 1939 and owner of a clothing factory in West Auckland, rented Redford Grove from Forestry Commission for nominal rent (4/6d?) on condition that he repaired the house. The main property was split into three sections plus the asociated cottage. On conclusion of the lease in 1982 his descendants bought the property and it has been in private hands since that date.
"Walks in Weardale" by W. Herbert Smith second edition 1885 includes (p133) 'A Paper on the Bedburn' by J.P. Soutter with the following section relating to The Grove:-
'If not the largest the Bedburn is one of the most picturesque tributaries of the Wear. Rising on the heather-clad moors betwixt Wolsingham and Eggleston, which fom the watershed of the Tees and Wear basins, it pursues an almost uniformly E.N.E course and nearly parallel with the main valley of the Wear till it merges its waters with the larger river a mile above the village of Witton-le-Wear. Geologically, the whole basin of the Bedburn may be said to be formed of the Millstone Grit series of rocks, so that if its banks may not display the luxuriant verdure of a limestone burn, or the rugged grandeur of a basaltic gorge, still its course is never tame or its scenery insipid. Its current is always sufficiently swift and strong from the rapidity of its descent to prevent any stagnant reaches, and its crystal waters retain their pristine purity unsullied by any manufacturing contaminations. For although there are several charming residences on the estates through which it flows, yet there is neither church, chapel, school, nor publichouse in its drainage district. After the first few miles of its course as an incipient rivulet welling out from the heathery moor, throughout its entire length the banks of the Bedburn are richly fringed with natural woods or artificial plantations.'
'At the extreme limit of cultivation on the verge of the moorland, standing on the delta formed by the union of the two main forks of the Bedburn, is situated the delightful rural retreat of "The Grove", the shooting residence of H.E. Surtees, Esq., snugly ensconced in the bottom of a deep valley surrounded on all sides by steep acclivities, and embowered in woods, so that it is invisible on every side. In summer or autumn, when the fragrant heather is in bloom and the woods gay with the innumerable rowan trees laden with their bright coral berries, a wearied harassed citizen could scarcely find a more congenial retreat to recruit his exhausted energies "the world begetting, by the world forgot." The only drawback being the insatiable myriads of midges whose blood-sucking powers and propensities are intolerable. The house itself is plain and unpretentious, having been modernised and added to at various times. For miles above and below "The Grove" the steep, sunny, sandy slopes are covered with thriving plantations of larch in various stages of growth, all giving token of vigorous health. In early spring, when the slender cord-like branches are putting forth their light green feathery tassels of of leaves, gemmed with the young rosy-pink cones, swaying and dancing in the rude breezes of March, then a larch wood is worth a journey to see. But "The Grove" is so remote that it must be rarely seen by the ordinary run of visitors to this unfrequented valley.'