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The Lord Crewe Arms is a building synonymous with history and with the advantage of age-old hospitality oozing from its very foundations. The home built for pious Canons in the eleven hundreds has over time hosted monks, miners, and merry-makers, alike. And now the job is ours…
In 1165 Blanchland Abbey and thus Blanchland itself was founded as a Premonstratensian priory by Walter de Bolbec 11 (or to us every day folk; the White Canons of the Roman Catholic order’s priory). The Lord Crewe was built as the Abbot’s lodge, guest house, kitchens and the Abbot’s dining room and its gardens served as cloisters for the monks of the Northumbrian moors who famously dressed in white. Purpose-built to feed, care and provide a place to be ‘at home’ for the canons inhabiting its walls, the Abbot’s Guest House together with the Abbey saw four hundred years of self-sufficiency, piety, and kind hospitality, until finally and sadly the Abbey was dissolved in 1539.
When the Forster line came to an end with a scandalous assassination and a bankrupt estate, Dorothy Forster along with her nephew Tom Forster (famed for his role in the Jacobite rebellion and his hiding hole at the Crewe), were forced to sell the Blanchland estate to Dorothy’s husband; Lord Nathaniel Crewe, 3rd Baron Crewe and Bishop of Durham in 1708. Here is where the Lord Crewe legacy began as the eighteenth century bishop set about building a Blanchland that would last, with the Manor House remaining at the heart.
It was when this revival began that the lead miners arrived and the Manor House took its next steps into hospitality; becoming ‘The Lord Crewe Arms’ the perfect place for a pint after a shift in the pits. And so the rest, as they say, is history. The Abbot’s Guest House built as a sanctuary for the pious white canons has hosted Northumberland’s elite, North Pennine miners, and village merry-makers, providing all, however humble or extravagant, a place to eat, sleep and most importantly enjoy.
The monks fled the moors, leaving behind the parting gesture of the name ‘Blanchland’ (Blanche meaning white in French) and indeed the heart of the village; the Abbot’s Guest house. The estates and buildings were bought firstly by the Radcliffe family and then, in 1623, the Forsters of Bamburgh, and so, with time and change, the former Abbot’s Guest House became the Village’s Manor house. Used in the main as a hunting box, it hosted all the noteworthy Northumbrian families of old, remaining as hospitable as it began, with just a touch more grandeur.
In 1721 Lord Crewe died leaving his estates, including Blanchland, to the ‘Lord Crewe Trustees’. From the estates income the Trustees were to (and still do) make annual payments to various colleges, the University of Oxford, Alms houses, schools, and so on. They also set about maintaining and driving forward our village in the moors, helping build the Blanchland we love today!