John Dobson (1787 - 1865)

John DobsonJohn Dobson was a 19th centaury architect in the North of England. He had a prolific career, designing over 50 churches and 100 houses. He is best known for designing Newcastle Central Station and for his work with Richard Grainger in developing the centre of Newcastle in neoclassical style.

Some of John Dobson's work includes:

Not an exhausive list:

Building Completed Location Notes Extant / Listed?

Belsay Hall

1817 Belsay Built 1810-1817. Dobson was assistant to Sir Charles Monck. Grade I listed (1001042)
Scottish Presbyterian Church   North Shields Later, Salvation Army hall Extant
Newbrough Hall 1812      
North Seaton Hall 1813 Ashington   Demolished 1960
Prestwick Lodge 1815 Ponteland Later Prestwick Hall  
Sandyford Park 1817 Newcastle Later Nazareth House l
Doxford Hall 1818 Embleton    

Morpeth Gaol

1822 Morpeth   Grade II* listed (1303244)
Newcastle Gaol 1823 Newcastle Carliol Square  Demolished, 1932

Church of St Cuthbert

1828 Greenhead Built 1826-8 Grade II listed

Angerton Hall

1842 Hartburn Rebuild of an earlier house Grade II listed (1371034)
Mitford Hall 1823 Mitford Built 1800-1823, largely by John Dobson Gtade II* listed (1042650)
Eldon Square 1826 Newcastle

Built 1824–26. Later 'Old Eldon Square'. Partially demolished 1969, east terrace remains

Grade II* listed (1355254)
Nunnykirk Hall 1825 Netherwitton    
Church of St Thomas the Martyr 1825 Newcastle   Grade II* listed (1024952)
Dobson's own house 1820s Newcastle 49 New Bridge Street West Grade II* listed (1024815)

Lying-In Hospital

1826 Newcastle New Bridge Street Grade II listed (1104908)
Scotch Church 1827 Sunderland North Bridge Street Demolished, 1891
St Mary’s Place 1827 Newcastle    
Longhirst Hall 1828 Longhirst  

Grade II* listed (1303132)

Benwell Towers

1831 Benwell   Grade II listed (1186255)

Royal Arcade

1832 Newcastle Built 1831–32, Pilgrim Street. Demolished, 1963
Meldon Park 1832 near Morpeth    

Holme Eden Abbey

1837 Warwick Bridge, Cumbria Built 1833-7 Grade II* listed (1087685)

Grainger Market

1835 Newcastle   Grade I listed (1024866)
Nos. 18 - 96 (even) Grey Street 1836 Newcastle    

Beaufront Castle

1841 Hexham Built 1835–41 Grade I listed (1043009)
Newcastle General Cemetery 1839 Jesmond later Jesmond Cemetery  
Carlton Terrace 1840 Jesmond    

Market Keeper's House, Cattle Market

1842 Newcastle   Grade II listed (1355279)

Lilburn Tower

1842 Wooler   Grade II* listed (1233174)
Church of St James 1843 Benwell    
Collingwood Monument (base and plinth) 1845 Tynemouth    

Royal Station Hotel

1850 Newcastle Built 1847-50. Nb. much of the current building by architect Thomas Prosser, based on earlier drawings by John Dobson; later extended by William Bell (see list entry).  Grade II Listed (1104900)

Flax Mill

1848 Ouseburn Valley Later The Cluny public house Grade II listed (1355264)
Church of St Cuthbert 1850 Shotley Bridge Built 1849-50 Grade II Listed (1240381)
Newcastle Central Railway Station 1850 Newcastle Built 1849–50 Grade I listed (1355291)
Elswick Dene 1850 Newcastle    

Barber Surgeons Hall

1850 Newcastle Later St. Paul's Church of England School (north part).  Grade II listed (1145914)
Dobson Wing of Newcastle Infirmary 1855 Newcastle 1852-1855 Demolished, 1954
Warrington Museum & Art Gallery,  1857 Warrington 1855-1857  
Hartlepool Cemetery 1856 Hartlepool Later Spion Kop Cemetery Local Nature Reserve  
Clayton Memorial Church 1858 Jesmond Later Jesmond Parish Church Grade II listed (1115542)
Church of St John The Evangelist 1858 Otterburn   Grade II listed (1370514)
Church of St Edward the Confessor 1860 Sudbrooke    
Banqueting Hall, Jesmond Dene 1862 Jesmond Ruins managed by TWBPT Grade II listed (1024855)

John Dobson (1787 – 8 January 1865) was a 19th-century English architect in the neoclassical tradition. He became the most noted architect in the North of England. Churches and houses by him dot the North East - Nunnykirk Hall, Meldon Park, Mitford Hall, Lilburn Tower, St John the Baptist Church in Otterburn, Northumberland, and Beaufront Castle among them. During his career he designed more than 50 churches and 100 private houses. However, he is best known for designing Newcastle railway station and for his work with Richard Grainger developing the centre of Newcastle in a neoclassical style.

Early history

Dobson was born on 9 December 1787 in High Chirton, North Shields, in the building that is now The Pineapple Inn. He was the son of an affluent market gardener, Dobson, whose wife was Margaret, and young Dobson was educated in Newcastle. As a young child he had an exceptional gift for drawing. Aged 11, he executed designs for a local damask weaver. At the age of 15, he was placed as a pupil with David Stephenson, the leading architect-builder in Newcastle, designer of All Saints Church and the Theatre Royal that stood in Mosley Street. In 1810, aged 23, Dobson completed his studies. He then decided to go to London to study art and became a pupil of John Varley the watercolourist. He was strongly encouraged by friends to stay and work in London, but by 1811 he was back in Newcastle and assisting Sir Charles Monck to design Belsay Hall. Monck was a passionate devotee of Grecian art and architecture, and it is thought that it was he who strongly influenced Dobson to adopt that style of architecture in so many of his future works. At that time, apart from Ignatius Bonomi in County Durham, he was the only practising architect between York and Edinburgh. It is not known beyond doubt what was Dobson’s first building, but Dobson’s daughter maintained that it was North Seaton Hall, near Ashington, built in 1813 and demolished in 1960.

Dobson married Isabella, eldest daughter of Alexander Rutherford of Warburton House, Gateshead, a lady of great artistic talent, being an excellent painter of miniatures. They had three sons and five daughters. His youngest son, Alexander, inherited his father’s artistic genius, gaining first prize in architecture at University College. He had just returned to his father’s office full of enthusiasm to work when he was killed in the great explosion on Gateshead quayside on 4 October 1854.

Country houses

Although Dobson was very versatile, and was able to build houses in Gothic or Tudor style if his clients so desired, his preferred style was Georgian. His country houses are too little known, mainly because they are not so large that they are open to the public, and are often still in private hands hidden away behind parkland and trees. The outstanding characteristics of his houses are his use of beautiful golden sandstone, Corinthian or Ionic pillared entrance porticos, elegant staircases with beautiful ironwork balustrades leading to an upper gallery with an iron balustrade of the same design, and the hall's having a domed ceiling and glass centrepiece. Often, as at Nunnykirk Hall and Longhirst Hall, the ground-floor design includes a curved or bow end at one side of the house. In all of the houses that Dobson designed, the quality of the stonework is superb, and it is believed that he used the same team of stonemasons again and again. It is also thought that this applied to other craftsmen whom he employed.

Plans for Newcastle

In 1824, several years before Grainger did, Dobson put forward plans to the council for the purchase and development of Anderson Place in the centre of Newcastle. Dobson proposed a Mansion House as a ‘civic palace’ and grand squares linked by wide tree-lined streets. If Dobson’s scheme had been accepted it would have led to a city centre even more elegant than Grainger’s. However, Dobson’s plan was hugely expensive and he lacked financial backing. Grainger proved to have more business acumen in putting forward his own plans for Newcastle and getting them accepted.

Church of St Thomas the Martyr

In 1820 the council decided to demolish the Chapel of St Thomas the Martyr at the north end of the Tyne Bridge. To replace it the council decided to erect a new chapel at Barras Bridge on Magdalene Meadow, which belonged to St Mary Magdalene Hospital. Dobson designed the new chapel in 1827 in the modified Gothic style. Construction was completed by 1830. A novel feature is the hollow tower. Incidentally, the demolished chapel was replaced by the Watergate Building, Sandhill, also designed by John Dobson.

Central Station

In 1849 the High Level Bridge was built over the River Tyne, bringing the railway to Newcastle and north to Scotland. A suitably impressive station was required for a thriving town such as Newcastle, and Dobson provided it in his plans. His original plan of 1848 showed an ornate façade with a huge portico having double colonnades and an Italianate tower at the east end. Behind this was an enormous train shed made up of three arched glass roofs built in a curve on an radius. This design won an award at the Paris Exhibition of 1858. Unfortunately, Dobson was forced to alter his plans to produce a much less substantial portico and remove the Italianate tower. The station was completed in 1850 without the planned portico and it was not until 1863 that this was added.


John Dobson argued for the role of the architect in building railway stations, and his Newcastle Central is regarded by many as the finest in England. According to Gordon Biddle and O. S. Nock in The Railway Heritage of Britain: ‘Undoubtedly it would have been one of the finest 19th century classical buildings in Europe had it been completed... Even so, Newcastle Central today is magnificent inside for its spectacular combination of curves and outside for its sheer size and length.’ The train shed at Newcastle, the authors state, was the first of the great arched roofs and represented a bold step forward which was copied by others.’ It was the first use of malleable rolled iron ribs - indeed the first large glass and iron vault in England.

The Royal Arcade

In 1830 Richard Grainger proposed to the town council the erection of a corn exchange on a site at the bottom of Pilgrim Street, opposite Mosley Street. This plan was rejected but Grainger decided to go ahead and build a shopping arcade there instead. John Dobson produced the design based on an elegant London shopping arcade and it was completed by 1832. It was designed as two office blocks, one facing Pilgrim Street and the other facing Manor Chare. Connecting the two was a narrow block forming the arcade itself. The front façade had six fluted Corinthian columns. The interior of the arcade was long with an arched ceiling decorated in the Grecian style and with several domed skylights. The whole design was intended as an elegant shopping experience. However, Grainger had sited it in the wrong position away from the developing areas of the town and so it was never a success. Although demolition was considered as early as the 1880s, the arcade survived until the 1960s.

Eldon Square

In 1824 Dobson was commissioned by Richard Grainger to produce designs for Eldon Square. The design was for three terraces facing a central square, each terrace being of two and a half storeys. The east and west terraces consisted of 27 bays of windows, whilst the north terrace had 39 bays. The first floors had continuous cast-iron balconies with Grecian honeysuckle decoration. Beyond this and the giant Doric pilasters at the end of each terrace there was no other decoration so that the whole effect was very simple and clean. The terraces were faced with finely cut ashlar, which was a marked improvement on the stucco used extensively in London architecture of the time. It is a great pity that most of this magnificent work was destroyed in the 1960s in the name of progress.

Grainger Market

Grainger’s plans for the development of Newcastle town centre involved the demolition of the existing flesh market. Grainger therefore offered to build a new meat market and vegetable market. The meat market was placed between two of the new streets, Grainger Street and Clayton Street, and the vegetable market was placed on the west side of Clayton Street. Both were designed by Dobson. The meat market had pilastered arcades, 360 windows, fanlights and wooden cornices, and four avenues each long. It contained 180 butchers’ shops when it opened. The vegetable market was given an open-plan layout, long, wide and high, with a fine timber roof. In 1835, to celebrate the opening of the markets, a grand dinner was given in the vegetable market, with 2,000 guests and presided over by the Mayor. Surprisingly, in the after-dinner speeches no mention was made of Dobson.

Grey Street

The crowning piece of Grainger’s plan for the development of Newcastle was to be a new street leading up from Dean Street to intersect with Blackett Street. Originally called Upper Dean Street, it was eventually renamed as Grey Street. Dobson was originally given the credit for the design of the whole street (by Pevsner for one), possibly due to his daughter’s assertions, but it is now believed that Dobson was responsible only for the east side of the street from Shakespeare Street to Mosley Street, and that architects from Grainger’s office, John Wardle and George Walker, designed the west side.

Break with Grainger

In 1841 Grainger, unknown to Dobson, was in serious financial difficulties. He owed Dobson a large sum of money for work done and he tried to reduce this amount by charging Dobson £250 for a staircase and painted ceiling removed from Anderson Place. Dobson was furious at what he considered an underhand trick by Grainger and expressed his indignation in various letters that have survived. It is believed that this brought about the final breakdown of their professional relationship.

Contribution to Grainger Town

Dobson contributed much to the townscape of Newcastle, but not as much as many think.

The overall plan for Grainger Town was Grainger’s. Grainger also exercised close control over the quality of the work. John Dobson is given much of the credit for the detailed design, but other architects made significant contributions, especially Thomas Oliver and John and Benjamin Green. In addition much work was done by two architects in Grainger’s office, John Wardle and George Walker. The latter two designed the west side of Grey Street, as well as Grainger Street, Clayton Street and Market Street. Much confusion was caused by Dobson’s daughter, Jane, who often claimed the credit on his behalf for work done by other architects. For instance, she claimed that Dobson designed Leazes Terrace and Leazes Crescent when in fact they were designed by Thomas Oliver.

Later life

Dobson’s wife, Isabella, died in 1846, aged 51. In 1859, when he was 72, he was elected first President of the newly formed Northern Architectural Association. He retired from active work in 1863 after suffering a stroke, from which he never fully recovered. He went to live for a time in Ryton. He died on 8 January 1865, aged 77, at his home in 15 New Bridge Street. He left a comfortable fortune of £16,000. The house where Dobson died still stands but subsequently became the Oxford Galleries, a dance hall, and since has been a series of nightclubs.

He is buried in Jesmond Old Cemetery where there is a memorial erected in circa 1905.

List of major works with dates

  • Belsay Hall (as assistant to Sir Charles Monck), Belsay (1810-1817)
  • The Scottish Presbyterian Church, North Shields (later a Salvation Army hall)
  • Newbrough Hall (1812)
  • North Seaton Hall near Ashington (1813) (demolished 1960)
  • Prestwick Lodge (later Prestwick Hall), Ponteland (1815)
  • Sandyford Park (later Nazareth House), Newcastle (1817)
  • Doxford Hall near Embleton (1818)
  • Morpeth Gaol (1822)
  • Newcastle Gaol, Carliol Square (1823), (demolished 1932)
  • Angerton Hall, Hartburn (1823)
  • Mitford Hall, Mitford (1823)
  • Eldon Square, Newcastle (1824–26), (partially demolished 1969, nos. 1-4 remain)
  • Nunnykirk Hall, near Netherwitton (1825)[10]
  • Church of St Thomas the Martyr, Barras Bridge, Newcastle (1825)
  • Numerous houses, villas and terraces in the New Bridge/Pandon area, Newcastle (1820s) (of these only Dobson's own house at New Bridge Street West survives)
  • Lying-In Hospital, New Bridge Street, Newcastle (1826)
  • Scotch Church, North Bridge Street, Monkwearmouth (1827)(demolished 1891)
  • St Mary’s Place, Newcastle (1827)
  • Longhirst Hall, Morpeth (1828)
  • Benwell Towers, Newcastle (1831)
  • Royal Arcade, Newcastle (1831–32), (demolished 1969)
  • Meldon Park, near Morpeth (1832)
  • Holme Eden Abbey, Wetheral, (1833-1837)
  • Grainger Market, Newcastle (1835)
  • Nos. 18 - 96 (even) Grey Street, Newcastle (1836)
  • Beaufront Castle, Sandhoe parish, near Hexham (1835–41)
  • Newcastle General Cemetery (later Jesmond Cemetery) (1839)
  • Carlton Terrace, Jesmond, Newcastle (1840)
  • Market Keeper's House and Office of Cattle Market, Newcastle (1842)
  • Lilburn Tower, near Wooler (1842)
  • Church of St James, Newcastle, (1843)
  • Collingwood Monument (base and plinth), Tynemouth, (1845)
  • Royal Station Hotel, Newcastle, (1847-1850)
  • Flax Mill (now the Cluny public house), Ouseburn Valley (1848)
  • Church of St Cuthbert, Consett, (1849-1850)
  • Central railway station, Newcastle (1849–50)
  • Elswick Dene, Newcastle (1850)
  • Barber Surgeons Hall, Newcastle (1850)
  • Dobson Wing of Newcastle Infirmary, Newcastle (1852-1855) (demolished 1954)
  • Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, Warrington 1855-1857
  • Hartlepool Cemetery, now known as Spion Kop Cemetery Local Nature Reserve (c.1856)
  • Clayton Memorial Church (Jesmond Parish Church), Jesmond, Newcastle (1858)
  • Church of St Edward the Confessor, Sudbrooke, (1860)
  • Jesmond Dene Banqueting Hall, Newcastle (1860-1862), (now derelict and a controlled ruin)
Text from Wikipedia, available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License (accessed: 14/03/2018).
Visit the page: John Dobson (architect) for references and further details. You can contribute to this article on Wikipedia.
from Newcastle libraries (flickr)
011463:Neville Street Newcastle upon Tyne Unknown c.1900

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068635:Grey Street Newcastle upon Tyne Unknown 1905

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St. Thomas' Church by John Dobson, 1827

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St. Mary's Place, Newcastle upon Tyne. Row of houses designed by Johh Dobson in 1829 to complement his church of St Thomas (opposite).

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John Dobson Centenary Plaque, Grainger Market, Newcastle upon Tyne

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Grey Street

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Lying In Hospital by John Dobson

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Lying-in Hospital
- The former Lying-in Hospal was a charitable asylum for poor married pregnant women. Located on New Bridge Street, Newcastle, the building was completed in 1826 on land given by the ...
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018692:John Dobson Street Newcastle upon Tyne Signey J. 1970

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048785:Grainger Market was opened in 1835 and was designed and built by John Dobson and Richard Grainger.

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a101:Royal Arcade Newcastle upon Tyne; T. Allom;1833

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050409:St. Nicholas Church Church Road South Gosforth Unknown c.1900

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010184:Jesmond Parish Church Jesmond Road Jesmond Unknown 1937

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058418:St. Thomas' Church Barras Bridge Newcastle upon Tyne Unknown c.1890

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011909:Grainger Market (Green Market section) Newcastle upon Tyne Unknown 1841

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John Dobson

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Cattle Market, Newcastle
- "Sheep and cattle markets were first held here on 27th July 1830. Before, and even after that time, Newcastle butchers bought their cattle at Morpeth Market. Newcastle's cattle market soon ...
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Church of St Thomas the Martyr
- Overview About the Church Map Street View St Thomas The Martyr's Church is located on the junction of Barras Bridge and St Mary's Place in Newcastle. The present church was ...
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Newcastle Central Station
- Overview History Map Street View Newcastle Central Station on Neville Street was designed by John Dobson and was opened by Queen Victoria on the 29th August 1850. Replacing three earlier stations, it ...
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Grey Street, Newcastle
- History Street View Grey Street is one of the main streets in Newcastle and runs from Grey's Monument down to the junction with Mosley Street after which it continues as Dean Street down to the Quayside. ...
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Jesmond Cemetery
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Gateway and chapels, Jesmond Road, Newcastle

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Centurion Bar, Newcastle Central Station
- The Centurion Bar was originally built in 1893 as a grand waiting lounge and bar for first class passengers, designed by John Dobson as part of Newcastle Central Station (Grade 1 ...
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Benwell Towers
- Benwell Towers is a large house in Benwell, Newcastle. It was built in 1831, designed by John Dobson for Thomas Crawhall. A chapel was added in 1887. The building on ...
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Church of St. James, Benwell
- Overview Map Street View St James’ Church in Benwell first opened as a Chapel of Ease in 1833. The church was extended in 1864 by addition of chancel and south aisle, designed ...
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Linden Hall Hotel
- Overview About Map Linden Hall is located just over a mile to the north east of the village of Longhorsely in Northumberland. It was built as country house for Newcastle merchant ...
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Manor House, Brinkburn Priory
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Church of St Andrew, Winston
- The Church of St Andrew in Winston, County Durham dates from the Mid 13th Century. It was restored in 1848 by John Dobson. The church is a Grade I listed ...
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Old Vicarage, Embleton
- Overview Map Street View The former Vicarage and pele tower, is located next to the Church of the Holy Trinity in Embleton.  In 1332 Merton College, patron of Embleton, agreed to ...
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Church of St Cuthbert RC, Cowpen, Blyth
- Overview Map Street View The Roman Catholic church of St Cuthbert in Cowpen, Blyth, Nothumberland, is located off Cowpen Road (A193). The Sidney Family came to Cowpen Hall in 1804 ...
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Salvation Army Citadel, North Shields
- Overview Map Street View The Salvation Army Citadel is located on 28 Howard Street, North Shields. It was originally built in 1811 as Scotch Church, designed by John Dobson. The Scotch Church ...
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Bolam Lake Country Park
- Overview Map Bolam Lake Country Park is located near Bolam, Northumberland and is about 9 miles west of Morpeth and is signposted off the A696 from Belsay. The lake was constructed ...
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Guildhall, Newcastle
- Overview Map Street View "The east end of this complex building is a neo-Grecian remodelling of a medieval building, completed by Dobson in 1823-5. The main structure was built in ...
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Haughton Castle
- Overview About Haughton Castle Map Haughton Castle is a privately owned country house in Northumberland located a mile north of Humshaugh and on the south side of the River North ...
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Church of St John Lee, Acomb
- Overview Map Street View The Parish Church of St John Lee, in Acomb, Northumberland, is a Grade II* listed building.
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Lilburn Tower
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Church of St Andrew, Bywell
- Overview Map Street View  
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Bywell Hall
- Overview About Bywell Hall Map   Bywell Hall is a privately owned 18th-century country house situated on the north bank of the River Tyne at Bywell, Northumberland. It is a ...
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Drill Hall, Northumbria University
- Overview History Map Street View Drill Hall at Northumbria University is located on Northumberland Road. It was originally built as the Army Riding School in 1849, by John Dobson, for ...
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Church of St. Nicholas, South Gosforth
- Overview Map Street View St. Nicholas' Parish church is located on Church Road in South Gosforth. It was built in 1799 by John Dodds after the demolition of earlier church. ...
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Church of St Joseph, Birtley
- Overview Map Street View St Joseph's Church in Birtley was desigened by John Dobson and was opened by 1843 to replace the Birtley Roman Catholic Mission, which had moved to ...
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Longhirst Hall
- Overview Map Street View Longhirst Hall near Morpeth in Northumberland was built in 1824. It was designed by John Dobson for the land owner, William Lawson, who became wealthy from ...
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Hebburn Hall
- Overview About Hebburn Hall Map Hebburn Hall (aslo known as Ellison Hall) is a 17th century manor house in Hebburn, largely rebuilt in 1790-1792.[1] It was built on the site ...
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Church of St Gregory the Great, Kirknewton
- Overview Map Street View St Gregory's is the parish church of Kirknewton in Northumberland. There has been a church on this site since at least the 11th century. The church ...
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Court House, Morpeth
- Overview Map Street View The Court House in Morpeth was built in 1822, and designed by John Dobson in the style of a medieval castle.[1] It was originally part of ...
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Church of St. Peter, Newcastle
- St. Peter's was a gothic style church, designed by John Dobson, on Oxford Street and New Bridge Street in Newcastle. The church was built from 1840 to 1843. It was later given ...
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Beaufront Castle
- Overview About Beaufront Castle Map Aerial View Beaufront Castle is an extensive privately owned country house, located about a mile and a half north-east of Hexham, situated between the villages ...
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Church of St Michael and All Angels, Ford
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Sunderland Minster
- Overview About Sunderland Minster Map Street View The Minster Church of St Michael and All Angels and St Benedict Biscop (commonly referred to as 'Sunderland Minster') is located on Church ...
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Hawthorn Towers (demolished)
- Hawthorn Towers was a gothic county house in Hawthorn Dene, to the east of Hawthorn, built in 1821 by John Dobson.  The Pemberton family bought the property in the late ...
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Dobson's House, 49 New Bridge Street West, Newcastle
- Overview Map  
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The Cluny, Ouseburn
- Overview Map Street View The Cluny is a live music venue and cafe at 36 Line Street, Ouseburn, Newcastle. It was originally built as a flax mill in 1848, designed ...
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Church of St Cuthbert, Shotley Bridge
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Barber Surgeons Hall, Newcastle
- Overview Map Street View Houston Street
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Mitford Hall
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Church of St John The Evangelist, Otterburn
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Angerton Hall
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Church of St Cuthbert, Greenhead
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Holme Eden Abbey, Warwick Bridge, Cumbria
- Overview Map Holme Eden Abbey is located by the River Eden at Warwick Bridge in Cumbria. It was originally built 1833-1837 by John Dobson as a coutry house for Peter Dixon, ...
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Cheeseburn Grange
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Bellister Castle
- Overview Map Street View Bellister Castle is a ruined tower house dating from the 13th century with an attached occupied house which is dated 1669.[1] It is located about half ...


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