DiCamillo Companion

Stella Hall (Stellinglei)

  • Earlier Houses: In the 12th century the Bishop of Durham, William of St. Barbara, granted Stellinglei to the Benedictine nuns of Newcastle; the buildings on the site of the house remained a nunnery until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century.

    Built / Designed For: Nicholas Tempest

    House & Family History: In 1700 Jane Tempest, sister and heiress of Sir Francis Tempest of Stella Hall, married the staunchly Roman Catholic William Widdrington, 4th Baron Widdrington, thus uniting two Catholic families and bringing the Stella Estate into the Widdrington family. Lord Widdrington joined the 1715 rebellion to put the Stuarts back on the British throne, and, as a result, was sentenced to death and the confiscation of his lands. He was later pardoned (he died in 1745); his lands were restored to his family in 1733. In 1792 Stella was inherited by John Towneley, whose mother was Mary, daughter of the 3rd Baron Widdrington. Circa 1850 Stella Hall was purchased by Sir Joseph Cowen, a very successful newspaper and coal magnate; the house remained in the Cowen family until Jane Cowen's death in 1946, when the estate was bequeathed to the University of Durham. Stella Hall was demolished in 1953 and replaced with a housing development. With its long Catholic history, it's virtually certain that Stella Hall had secret priest holes. Local legend supposed that there was also a secret tunnel that ran from Stella Hall to Winlaton Hall; the legend was confirmed in the late 20th century, when part of the tunnel was discovered within Winlaton.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: Probably built in the 18th century as a banqueting house, a folly called Summerhouse Hill, once part of the Stella Estate, is today a Grade II-listed semi-ruinous building.

  • Architect: James Paine Sr.

    Date: 18th century
    Designed: Alterations to house, including windows at entrance front
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
    View all houses
  • Title: Lost Houses of County Durham
    Author: Meadows, Peter; Waterson, Edward
    Year Published: 1993
    Publisher: Yorkshire: Jill Raines
    ISBN: 0951649418
    Book Type: Softback

  • House Listed: Demolished

    Park Listed: Not Listed

  • Past Seat / Home of: Nicholas Tempest, 17th century; Sir Francis Tempest, 17th century. William Widdrington, 4th Baron Widdrington, early 18th century; Henry Francis Widdrington, until 1774. Thomas Eyre, 1774-92. John Towneley, late 18th-early 19th centuries; Peregrine Towneley, early-mid 19th century. Sir Joseph Cowen Jr., 1850-1900; Cowen family here until 1946.

    Current Ownership Type: Demolished

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Demolished

  • House Open to Public: No

    Historic Houses Member: No