Just off the A691. less than a mile from the centre of Durham City
stands the medieval manor of Crook Hall which is set in rural landscape gardens. The original Crook Hall was built around 1286 on lands belonging to Sydgate Manor. In the early years of the 14th century the property was eventually named after the owner, Peter de Croke.
Only the great hall and a screen passage remain from that early medieval building, but this is enough to give a good impression of the first Crook Hall. You can easily see where the old medieval doorways have been filled in. The screen passage leads to a Jacobean addition.There is an odd-looking set of wooden stairs, near the screen passage, which ascend to the ceiling where they come to a sudden stop. The upper floors are now gained by an outside tower staircase. The stairs are associated with the legend of a ghost, or “White Lady” who, it is rumoured, glides down the stairway on St. Thomas’ Eve (December 20), and other occasions.
There are pedestrian signs throughout the historic core of the Durham city making it well signedposted to Crook Hall. and it takes about 10 minutes to walk from the cathedral quarter to the Hall. There is a small parking area immediately beside the Hall if you prefer to drive there, and a paid parking lot a hundred yards away.
A wonderful example of a medieval hall house, it is eccentric, quirky and full of charm and redolent of history although the interior is not large it is a facinating structure. To one side is the original hall, which is left unfurnished save for a single trestle table and a few chairs. This allows you to make out the medieval architecture of the building. At one end of the hall is a large fireplace, above which rises a minstrel gallery. To one side of the table is a small round-headed niche, set into the end wall. Ghostly legends cling to this area; one story goes that a medieval soldier was murdered here in a fight over a woman, and some guests report an odd chill, or cold breeze when standing in the niche. Outside in the screens passage is a peculiar opening in the wall, like a lond, narrow tunnel. Apparently strange noises are sometimes heard at the end of this opening.
Surrounding the hall are 4 acres of gardens, a grass maze and a special Shakespeare Garden, also a secret Walled Garden, Cathedral Garden, and Silver and White Garden. In summer time, the delights of the gardens are very special and a slow stroll through is recommended to appreciate the abundance of colour. The silver and white garden was established in 1983 by Dr and Mrs Hawgood to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. The secret garden is over 700 years old and was visited by John Rusking and William Wordsworth. The georgian walled garden is planted on a cottage garden theme.
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