How many older houses have a full history from ‘cradle to grave’? In most cases, it is a patchwork of information, sources and, sometimes guesses. The house, currently known as 20, Bondgate Without, is no different. It has gone from being identified as 42 Bondgate Street, to 42 Bondgate Without, to 16 Bondgate Without, to 18 Bondgate Without to its current address of 20. Along the way it has variously been a family home, a doctor’s surgery, and an hotel with a cellar bar. Also along the way, it has developed from being a 2-storey house (ground and first floor) to a 3-storey house when an additional floor was added in late 1890s.
Although we don’t know the exact date that the house was built, the Listed Building record states it is early nineteenth century, but others have suggested mid-18th century. A map of Alnwick, produced in 1769, shows an uninterrupted line of buildings along Bondgate Without corresponding to the position of The Plough and continuously along to and including 20. According to Alnwick solicitor, John Atkinson Wilson, in a talk in 1871, the house was built on the site of a stable belonging to 22 Bondgate Without (our next door neighbour) but gives no date for that. Recent stone restoration work, in December 2021, along the gable-side of the house found a deep channel cut into the stones forming the base of the wall and running its length towards the road, suggesting it may indeed have been a farm building before a house was built on the site.
Early 19th century to February 1877 – The Pringle Family.
The Pringle family were the first known inhabitants of this house comprising Dr Robert Pringle – a physician – his wife Grace, daughters Isabella and Margaret and William, his son.
All 3 of Dr Pringle’s children were born at a house in Bailiffgate and baptised in the ‘Scotch’ Church in Pottergate. Isabella, the eldest, was born on 11th March 1794; William was born 8th August 1796; and Margaret born 10th November 1798. None of the children married.
Dr Pringle first appears in Alnwick records in March 1788 with a report of Mr Robert Storer who fell from his horse on Clayport Bank and ‘was brought to Dr Pringle’. By 18th March 1788, the patient was ready to be moved and he went from Alnwick to his home in Rothbury, with Dr Pringle, by post chaise.
In May 1792, two months before his wedding to Grace Hall of Kyloe, his medical exploits were reported in the local newspaper when he successfully ‘cut the stone’ of a labourer. The kidney stone weighed 3oz and he was assisted in the operation by 2 surgeons – Mr Cockayne of Wooler/Bamburgh Castle and Mr Harriot of Belford. After the children were born, the family moved to this house on Bondgate Without, known at that time as 42, Bondgate Street.
In 1805, Dr Pringle treated Rev Joseph Cook of Newton Hall, Newton on the Moor, who believed his family were trying to poison him. Rev Cook fled the family home and travelled to visit doctors in Edinburgh before staying with a friend in Kyloe. More details about this strange case in [‘Medicine’ link]. How do we know about this now? Because Rev Joseph Cook did not pay Dr Pringle’s bills and Mrs Pringle, by 1815 a widow, had to take legal proceeding against him to recover the unpaid fees and expenses.
Dr Pringle stood surety for his son, William, entering articles with local solicitor Robert Thorp, to qualify as a solicitor. This was 1812. A little over a year later, in December 1813, the death was announced of Dr Robert Pringle, aged 53 years, ’deservedly lamented’. The house now was home to Mrs Pringle and her 3 children (19, 17 and 15 years old).
William qualified as a solicitor but by 1831, he had moved to work in London. Why did he move? A report in the local Newcastle newspaper in 1831 may hold a clue. The paper reported civil proceedings at the Northumberland Assizes (held in Newcastle) which reported a case, Wightman v. Pringle, to be held before a special jury. The newspaper report goes thus:
‘The plaintiff, a physician of this town, sought to recover £500, which, at his own request, and under assurance of security, he had sent to Mr Pringle, an attorney, to invest with a relation of Mr P.’s. at 5 per cent interest. The case was opened by Mr Pollock, but as he made no charge of fraud against the defendant, and as the learned judge expressed his conviction that the promise of security was made only to the best of the defendant’s belief, and not as a positive assurance of solvency that rendered him liable to the amount of the claims, Mr. P. submitted to nonsuit.’
William never married and, like his father, died relatively young, at the age of 57. He died in London and was buried there.
Isabella died in June 1876 and within a year her younger sister had also died, bringing to an end the Pringle family history in this house. A reading of Margaret’s will shows that the sisters had a wide circle of friends, from around the country. Those receiving bequests included:
– The Hall family in Edinburgh, mainly silverware which had passed down in the family from their mother’s (Grace Hall) side.
– Lady Charlotte Granville: ‘the silver medal with the likeness thereon of her grandfather, the late Hugh, second Duke of Northumberland presented by the tenantry of the Duke to my Mother.’ [I wonder what the story was there]
– Robert Bow of Edinburgh – the illustrated catalogue of the Great Exhibition of 1851
– John William Watson of Adderstone Hall and Berkley Square London (father of William Watson who inherited Bamburgh Castle and Cragside from his great uncle, Lord Armstrong). As well as being an executor of the will, John William Watson was also bequeathed ‘an Australian rug given me by my brother, six silver salt cellars and spoons, two blue china jars and a little book stand which belonged to his grandmother’.
– Lady Williams of Bodelwyddan, St Asaph, formerly Miss Wynn: ‘the timepiece given to my sister by the late Florence Duchess of Northumberland.
The most significant bequest, though, related to the house. Margaret Pringle bequeathed the house ‘to my friend Robert Wilson Esquire of Alnwick, MD’ if he was willing to pay the sum of £1300 to Miss Pringle’s executors. According to the will, the property comprised both the house (known as no.42 Bondgate Without, at that time) ‘together with the cottage adjoining and with their appurtenances’. The ‘cottage’ being what is now no. 22 Bondgate Without.
1877-1881 – Two Doctors: Dr Robert Wilson, then 1881-1886 – Dr Allan Wilson
Dr Robert Wilson took up Margaret Pringle’s offer and bought the house, the stable behind and next-door cottage for the sum of £1300.
Born in Inverneill, Argyllshire around 1829/1830, he belonged to a large family, having at least 5 younger brothers and 3 younger sisters. He trained as a doctor and took his medical degree at Glasgow in 1848. After working in Inverness for a short spell, he moved to and built up a practice in the coal industry in Castle Eden, County Durham, before moving to Alnwick in 1864 to take over the medical take over the medical practice of Dr George Wilson (no relation).
A local newspaper report in 1871 told of Mr Frank Hadnam, coachman of Dr Robert Wilson, who was badly injured when the doctor’s coach ran away. The coachman was waiting at Dr Wilson’s door on Bondgate Street when an itinerant started shouting and gesticulating, frightening the horse and it bolted. On reaching Hotspur’s Tower, the coachman was thrown out and one of the coach wheels ran over him. He was taken up and taken home and eventually recovered.
Dr Wilson was evidently of great help and comfort to both Misses Pringle since he appeared in Margaret Pringle’s will as a significant beneficiary with the words ‘I do so in acknowledgement of the kindness and attention shown to me by the said Robert Wilson in sickness or in any little trouble knowing the difficulty a Professional Gentleman has in obtaining a suitable residence in Alnwick’. Buying a property was obviously as challenging then as it is now.
Dr Wilson bought the house in 1877 and appeared in the 1881 census living here with a groom and a housekeeper. Like many new householders nowadays, Dr Wilson was keen to update and modernise his property, in particular he wanted to move the stable which was immediately behind the house to a location a little further away. After approaching the Duke’s land agent with a proposal to buy the land next door (to the east of the house) it was agreed the Duke would sell the land outlined in red in the plan below and move the lane (used by the Castle to access part of their garden) to run alongside the house currently no.14 Bondgate Without.
In November 1881 Dr Wilson had died due to ‘an illness caused by complication of maladies’. He was only 51 years old. His will required his executors to sell all his goods and chattels which included the recently bought land next door where a few years later the properties now known as nos. 18 and 16 were erected. Dr Wilson’s assets also included land along Wagonway Road next door to the Workhouse which had originally been owned by Dr and Mrs Pringle.
When Dr Robert Wilson moved to Alnwick in 1864, his practice in Castle Eden was taken over by his brother (Allan). Following Robert’s death, Dr Allan Wilson moved up to Alnwick and took over his medical practice and this house until it was sold to Dr Robson in mid/late 1880s.
1886/7-1915 – Another Doctor; Dr Robert Barker Robson
Robert Barker Robson was born in 1864 in Durham City. He was the youngest child in the family where his father and his elder brother were doctors. He took his medical degree at Durham University in 1886 (the Medical School was in Newcastle). On qualifying, he moved to Alnwick, after buying and taking over part of the practice of Dr Allan Wilson.
In 1888 he was offered the post of District Medical Officer and admitted as member of medical staff of Alnwick Provident Dispensary. He was also appointed surgeon at Alnwick Infirmary, at the age of 25 years.
His subsequent career included: Medical Officer for Shilbottle Colliery Company; Medical Officer for Alnwick Union (1890); Public Vaccinator; Medical Officer for Alnwick Urban District Council 1892; Medical Officer for 7th Northumberland Fusiliers.
Dr Robson initially lived here with his mother Margaret and then with his wife, Constance Beatrice, whom he married in 1892. She was born and brought up at Arncliffe Hall near Stokesley, North Yorkshire and was linked to the Mauleverer family. Their daughter, Constance Mauleverer Robson, was born in 1894. According to censuses, the family lived here with 2 live-in servants (a cook and a housemaid) and a groom also lived here at some point, probably in the stable behind the house (now the cottage).
Soon after he married his wife, Constance, the house was significantly altered: a second floor was built, raising the house to its current height and the front garden was built up from the road to form a pavement and a separate garden at the front.
In December 1914, Dr Robson dramatically resigned from his position of Medical Officer to the workhouses. In a newspaper report entitled ‘Medical Officer’s Protest to Alnwick Guardians’, there was a special meeting of the Alnwick Guardians (of the workhouse) to interview Dr Robson as to his reasons for resigning as Medical Officer of the Alnwick District and the Alnwick Union Workhouse.
Dr Robson told them that the reason was ‘red tapeism’ and
‘he was a doctor not a clerk and had not been used to red tape in any shape or form…. It seemed to him that as long as they did the writing, everything was alright, no matter whether they treated their patients properly.’ On top of this, ‘the last thing to break his back was being told by the workhouse committee what to do with the patients. If the Workhouse Committee could do so by themselves they could treat the patients.’
Mr George Tate said he thought ‘there had been undue interference with the officials entirely due to the lady Guardians and no professional man could stand that.’ Dr Robson was asked to withdraw his resignation.
Dr Robson died 18 Nov 1915, aged 52 years, having been unwell for a short time.
1916-1977 – Yet Another Doctor; Dr Trevor-Roper
Bertie William Edward Trevor-Roper was born on 25 June 1885, the youngest of 14 children. Bertie graduated in medicine at Manchester in 1908. From infancy he was severely asthmatic, and when in 1910 he tried to enter the Indian Medical Service he was refused because of his poor life expectancy. Instead he bought a practice in the village of Glanton, doing his early rounds on horseback and later on a motor-bike.
Before moving to Glanton, he married Kathleen Elizabeth Davison. They had 3 children: Sheila, Hugh Redwall and Patrick Dacre. Both Hugh and Patrick were very influential figures in the twentieth century and more information about each can be found in [??? Link to famous people of Alnwick].
On the death of Dr Robson, Bertie Trevor-Roper took over his Alnwick practice, adding it to his Glanton practice. Adam Sisman writes in his 2010 biography of Hugh Trevor-Roper…
‘The Trevor-Ropers lived in that part of the main street of Alnwick known as Bondgate Without…Their house was a substantial stone building…, large enough to be used as a surgery as well as a home. All four local doctors were clustered along a stretch of Bondgate Without, known locally as ‘the Doctors’ Mile’ and each worked in turn at the local Infirmary…. Bertie Trevor-Roper also served as a Medical Officer of Health. It seems he was successful in his profession, sought out by wealthy and titled patients, including the Percy’s. After the Duke, Bertie Trevor-Roper was the next person in the district to own a car, a black Ford. Poorer patients often turned up at the kitchen door, hoping to be treated free of charge. The Trevor-Ropers kept a housemaid who lived in a small room at the top of the house and who doubled as a receptionist for the surgery, answering the doorbell. To kitchen-door patients she offered a doorstep diagnosis, sending them away if she judged the problem to be a minor one, with the comment that ‘the doctor is too busy to see you’.
The suggestion of being first or second car owner in district is most likely apocryphal – there was at least 1 garage in Alnwick in 1906 – four years before the Trevor-Ropers even moved to Glanton, let alone to Alnwick. And whilst a servant ‘who lived in a small room at the top of the house’ feeds into a Victorian narrative of master and servant, the room in question is not small.
The front room on the right side of the house was the patients’ waiting room and a room at the back served as his consulting room and dispensary. Much of his time as a doctor in Alnwick was before the start of the NHS and his practice, like most doctors, was largely private. He was popular among his patients, including the Castle, and continued his practice in this house until the 1960’s. After retiring, lived here until his death in 1977.
1978-2002: The ‘Hotel’ Era
Over the next twenty or so years, the house functioned as an hotel – under the name Bondgate House Hotel. This was the first and only time the name ‘Bondgate House’ was used for no.20. Previously that name had been used by M. Dodds & Sons Ltd, a draper’s shop established 1798.
Becoming an hotel involved changes within the house and the stable behind. The stable behind became initially staff accommodation and, later, owners’ accommodation. As a hotel, the house had to add ensuite bathrooms although during this period there were 5 ensuite bedrooms and 3 bedrooms which shared a single bathroom – a situation unknown today where few will share a bathroom with strangers. In order to add another guest bedroom on the first floor, the blocked-out window in the centre was opened to make a window for the first time since the house was built. Originally, the blocked-out window housed the fire plaque from The Newcastle Fire Office, established in 1783 and the plaque was moved to the lintel above the new window. In 1990’s the cellar was developed into a good size bar and was known as The Bondgate Cellar when steps were added to the front of the house leading down to the Cellar bar offering both drinks, snacks and bar meals.