In 1754, at 41 Sandhill in Newcastle, England a baby girl named Elizabeth (Bessie) was born. She was the first daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Aubone and Elizabeth Surtees, a well-connected family who had high hopes that Bessie would one day marry a Duke or other worthy suitor.
Unfortunately for her parents, Bessie fell for John Scott who did not meet their approval. Rather than give up the love of her life, Bessie took matters into her own hands to ensure she would be with the man she loved. What followed next turned young Bessie into a folk heroine of Newcastle.
On November 18, 1772, Bessie climbed down a ladder out of the first floor window. Hopped into a carriage with her John and rode off to Scotland. There the two eloped, much to the dismay of both their families.
John Scott went on to become Lord Chancellor of England and was knighted in 1788. I’d assume her parents chilled out when they realized Bessie was a better judge of character than themselves. The story is silly, but has become one re-told through the years. 41 Sandhill still stand in Newcastle today, with a plaque at the infamous window where 18 year old Bessie Surtees ran away and changed history.
The Bessie Surtees House is a Grade I, English Heritage property, just a stone’s throw from the Newcastle riverfront. I passed the house while walking around Newcastle, exploring the charming medieval streets and graffiti plastered alleyways. Never one to pass up an English Heritage site, I went inside to see what it was all about.
The property is made up of two 16th and 17th century merchant houses, and are a terrific example of a Jacobean era home. There are many original features throughout, but it was not until 1930 that they were restored to the 17th century masterpiece that you see today.
A visit to the Newcastle gem won’t take much time as there are only a couple of rooms to explore. The carved wood paneling, gorgeous fireplaces, intricate ceilings and period furniture bring you back to a time where much more care and love went into the home.
Admission to Newcastle’s Bessie Surtees House is free. I didn’t even need my much-loved English Heritage membership card to get in. You can visit for yourself Monday-Friday from 10-4.