Exploring the History of Lake Lodge

As part of Gosforth Nature Reserve’s centenary celebrations, North East Nature Archive Volunteer, Maureen Flisher, explores the history of Lake Lodge, home to NHSN’s Reserve Warden

Lake Lodge formerly known as Gothic Lodge sits at the entrance to the Gosforth Nature Reserve and has an interesting history.  The lodge is on land that was formally owned by the Brandling family.  Research indicates that the property was built in 1858*/1859** and therefore after the entire Brandling Estate was sold by Rev Ralph Henry Brandling in 1852.  The buyer of the Manor House, outbuildings, lake and pleasure gardens was the existing tenant at the time, Thomas Smith.  In 1880 the Manor House was sold with 807 acres (3.3 km2) to High Gosforth Park Ltd, a company formed to establish a racecourse on the estate; Lake Lodge was used to house various of its employees.

With access to the reserve through the garden of Lake Lodge the last employee of the High Gosforth Park Company, Mr Oliver, did for a small annual gratuity, act as a reserve warden providing the nature reserve with round-the-clock security until the property became vacant in the Autumn of 1967.

With the property standing empty, trespass, vandalism and poaching often by armed individuals began to increase threatening the wildlife and their habitat and damaging the conservation work that had taken place on the park over the years.  NHSN decided to act and approached the company to see if they could lease the house and its grounds with a view to engaging their own on-site Warden.  By 1969, when a way forward could not be found that would suit both parties, the company decided to sell the property on the open market. Mindful of the impact that could have on NHSN and it’s conservation work, the company agreed to sell the property to NHSN, if it agreed to match the highest bid received.  At an extraordinary meeting of members on 4 of May 1970 it was agreed to purchase the property for £2,200.

By this point, the property had stood empty for three years and due to its age and extensive vandalism it was estimated that a further £2,000 would be needed to make this a modern, secure home for any future wardens and their families.

With the aid of a local authority grant, generous donations from the Conservation Appeal and World Wildlife Funds and an equally generous, but sad, private donation of £500.00 from Mr and Mrs Keyes in memory of their daughter Diane (an associate member of NHSN, who tragically died in the COMEX coach disaster), work was able to commence.***  

The lodge became home to its first dedicated warden Mr Howard in June 1972.  

Owning a historic building is a challenge particularly in a coal mining area when unexpected issues can and often do arise; in 1977 an underground stream was found running under the back of the house that had to be stopped.

Essential maintenance and improvements have subsequently taken place approximately every decade the house has belonged to NHSN,  which the Society are unquestionably committed to, to ensure this historical house has a long and secure future and our Wardens a safe and secure home.        

* Sanderson, Townend & Gilbert’s Survey of Lake Lodge dated 1968

** Tony Tynan and David Noble – Rollin – History of GPNR 1929 -1993

***Grace Hickling – The Natural History Society of Northumbria 1929 – 1979

Maureen Flisher
Archive Volunteer

Maureen is a retired Civil Servant, currently volunteering in the NHSN’s North East Nature Archive transcribing the Curators’ handwritten monthly diaries from the 1900s into Word for research purposes.