The White House

I normally try to avoid taking photos of private houses but I must have walked, run or cycled past this cottage on Dikes Lane on the outskirts of Great Ayton a thousand times. Probably more come to think of it, it’s on my usual route up Capt. Cook’s Monument. But the other day, an observant member of the Cleveland Mining Heritage Society noticed the bell in one of the cottage’s chimney stacks. The actual bell is still there and the pull wire can be seen so presumably it’s still works.

The cottage, formerly known as Ayton Cottage, dates from the 18th-century. It is thought that it was built for the manager of Capt. John Liddell’s alum works below Hunter’s Scar higher up Gribdale. The works was opened in 1766 but a building is not shown on Jefferys map of 1771 although that doesn’t actually infer it was not there1Pearce, Ian. “White House, a brief history”. Page 4. Great Ayton Community Archaeology Project. [online] Available at: http://greatayton.wdfiles.com/local–files/individual-houses/White-House.pdf [Accessed 12 Oct. 2021]..

Perhaps Liddel built his house here so he could keep an eye on the comings and goings of his 30-40 strong work force, and on coal deliveries on their way up to his alum works and a bell was useful as a warning.

But by 1771, the alum works had closed down owing to a fall in the price of alum and Liddel was bankrupt2o’Sullivan, Dan. “Great Ayton: A history of the village”. Page 69. 1983. ISBN 0 9508858 0 0..

The house then went through a variety of occupancies until around 1874 when George Dixon moved in3Pearce, Ian. “White House, a brief history”. Page 7. Great Ayton Community Archaeology Project. [online] Available at: http://greatayton.wdfiles.com/local–files/individual-houses/White-House.pdf [Accessed 12 Oct. 2021].. Dixon was the land agent for the Cleveland Lodge estate and the son of the first superintendent of the North of England Agricultural School, latter to be known as The Friends’ School. At this time his elder brother, Ralph Dixon, was the superintendent of the school4Alston Watson, G. “Ayton School — The Centenary History 1841-1941″. Page 64 et seq.  1941. Headley Brothers.”.

It is known that George Dixon carried out extensive repairs prior to moving in to the White House so the bell could have been added at this time5Pearce, Ian. “White House, a brief history”. Page 7. Great Ayton Community Archaeology Project. [online] Available at: http://greatayton.wdfiles.com/local–files/individual-houses/White-House.pdf [Accessed 12 Oct. 2021].. Perhaps he was influenced by the bell that his father had had installed in the school in 1861 which had proved “a great advantage to the school family but to the village of Great Ayton6Alston Watson, G. “Ayton School — The Centenary History 1841-1941″. Page 19.  1941. Headley Brothers.”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *