Jesmond Dene Banqueting Hall one of UK's most endangered buildings

Lord Armstrong's Banqueting Hall in Jesmond Dene, Newcastle Upon Tyne
-Credit: (Image: ChronicleLive)

A historic Newcastle banqueting hall has been named one of the 10 most endangered buildings in the UK.

The Grade-II-listed Banqueting Hall at Jesmond Dene Hall is suffering water ingression and needs urgent work, according to the Victorian Society, who compiled the list. The Banqueting Hall was commissioned by William Armstrong as a venue for entertaining his employees from the Elswick Works.

The land and Hall were gifted to Newcastle in 1883 as Jesmond Dene became a people's park and despite gaining listed building status in 1965, the roof was removed by then custodian Newcastle City Council in 1977. The building is now in a state of increasing decay and its use as an artists' studio is in doubt.

The artists' co-operative which uses the building, Armstrong Studio Trust, have carried out repairs over the years to keep the building functioning and watertight. However, the leasehold is held by Urban Green, which manages the city's parks, including Jesmond Dene.

Earlier this month ChronicleLive reported that Newcastle City Council wants more control back over the city's parks, with Urban Green facing financial trouble. This would make it difficult for the charity to invest in the building, especially as it faces an uncertain future.

Lord Armstrong's Banqueting Hall
Lord Armstrong's Banqueting Hall -Credit:ChronicleLive

James Hughes, director of the Victorian Society, said: "The future of the Banqueting Hall has been a source of concern for the Society for some years.

"It is significant in the context of Shaw’s work and career, and significant too to Newcastle and the North East region. It is time that uncertainty over its future is resolved and a holistic scheme that respects the site’s enormous interest is developed."

A spokesperson for Urban Green said: "The inclusion of Jesmond Dene’s Banqueting Hall on the Victorian Society’s Top Ten Endangered Buildings list 2024 really brings to attention the importance of this historic building, and the scale of the challenge in restoring it. It’s a building that holds a special place in the hearts of people across the city, and particularly communities in Jesmond; many of whom have campaigned for the site to be used as a space for arts, science, and education.

"At Urban Green Newcastle we share everyone’s passion for the Banqueting Hall, but delivering a new future for the building would take all our resources and prevent other important work taking place across Newcastle’s 33 parks and over 60 allotment sites. We very much hope the national attention brought to the Banqueting Hall by the Victorian Society helps inspire action on this important piece of Newcastle’s history.

"Our charity will continue to work closely with Armstrong Studio Trust – current occupiers of the Banqueting Hall – to ensure the building is cared for, and working with wider regional and national partners, we will support any achievable plans or proposals that secure the long term future of William Armstrong’s gift to the people of Newcastle."

The blue plaque on the Banqueting Hall
The blue plaque on the Banqueting Hall -Credit:ChronicleLive

The Banqueting Hall is the last building known to have been designed by John Dobson. When he died, Armstrong chose London-based architect Norman Shaw to add a smaller hall behind the main one, as well as a gatehouse, reception hall and display room.

It was the first of his buildings on the list before he went onto extend and rebuild Cragside. The extension is one of two Norman Shaw buildings on the list of endangered buildings across the country, with the other St Agnes' Vicarage and Hall in Liverpool.

Griff Rhys Jones, president of the Victorian Society, said: "We are not normally indifferent to the architect Norman Shaw. We celebrate him in books, academia and TV programmes. Why are some of his finest works here being ignored?

"We can’t licence new buildings when we have such important works of national importance waiting to be put to use. It’s time for some serious thinking."