The Toy maker
Preston Park and Hall, Eaglescliffe
I took the children down the A19 from South Shields for an afternoon out recently, it was a reasonable short drive on a Saturday and we ended up at Preston Park and Hall Museum in Eaglescliffe near Stockton.
With 100 acres of parkland overlooking the River Tees, a range of permanent attractions and an exciting programme of special events & activities, a visit to Preston Park offers a great day out for all the family.
At the centre of the Park is the Preston Hall Museum with displays of art, armour and social history. Visitors can discover life in the home since the hall was built in 1825 and stroll back in time along a typical local street of the 1890s.
To the north of Eaglescliffe in the well wooded Tees valley near Stockton, is Preston Park and Preston Hall. Preston on Tees is mentioned in The Boldon Buke, County Durham’s equivelant of the Domesday Book in 1183, when the land was farmed by Adam son of Walter de Stockton, Orm son of Cockett and William son of Utting. Later owners included the Setons, Sayers and the Withams.
In 1722 Preston became the property of Sir John Eden of Windlestone, County Durham and in 1812 the property of David Burton Fowler. It was David Burton Fowler who commenced the construction of Preston Hall in 1825. This was also the year of the opening of the famous Stockton and Darlington Railway, which ran close to the grounds of Preston. On the opening day of the railway, a famous race between a stagecoach and the Locomotion Number One is thought to have taken place along this particular stretch of the line. The victor is unrecorded.
Preston Hall was sold to the local shipbuilder Robert Ropner in 1882 and in the following century passed into the hands of Stockton Borough Council, who opened the hall as a museum in 1953. The museum has an outstanding collection of weapons, furniture, toys, costumes and armour but is best known for its Victorian period rooms and a period street which are surprisingly not as well known as those at York or Beamish. The shops in the museum street include a Grocers, Tobacconist, Taxidermist, Confectioner, Draper, Pawnbroker, Ironmongers, a Chemist and a Bank.
The most outstanding exhibit is the beautiful atmospheric painting by the French artist Georges De La Tour (1593-1652) entitled The Dice Players. The Dice Players was purchased by the avid collector Edwin Clephan, the son of a baker in Silver Street, Stockton. Mr Clephan later moved to Leicester but in a deed of 1911 his art collection passed to his daughter Miss Annie Elizabeth Clephan. In 1930 the entire collection of paintings was left to the people of Stockton by Miss Clephan in memory of her father. The paintings were stored at Preston Hall for many years and it was only during a routine inspection of the collection in 1972 that the importance of the painting came to light. This was a remarkable discovery and is one of only two examples of De La Tour’s work in this country, the other is at Hampton Court.
Amongst the buildings at the end of the 1890s street were a couple of workshops, and this one was the place used by the toymaker to produce his goods for the toy shop, (they actually have a visiting craftsman who comes along regularly to produce goods for sale in the museum shop). We found the museum to be very interesting and the grounds also included a well sized childrens play area, large aviaries and a small pets corner which the children also enjoyed.
The photograph was taken from behind glass, and converted to black and white in Photoshop, a little dodging and burning has been utilised to assist contrast.
Camera details: Pentax K100D, 60 mm lens, 1/20 second, f4.5, iso 800 (hand held)