Chester-le-Street Heritage Group

Charles Rollo Barrett JP

Found in a Skip.

The Heritage Group receive regular requests for information on numerous subjects about our town through the Group’s websites. Many of these requests refer to people and places, where their ancestors lived or where graves may be located. However, occasionally there are the offers of information, images and documents which surprise us all.

One such offer came from a lady living in Derbyshire, who asked if we would be interested in some photographs and documents which had been recovered from a skip in a village called Marple near Stockport, Cheshire some ten years ago and included references to Pelaw House, the Barrett family and a gardener called Murray, all associated with Chester-le-Street.

A parcel arrived a few days later and the contents provided a collection of family photographs which we suspect must have been discarded during a house clearance and possibly due to the death of a surviving relative.

Research was then carried out into the people and places shown in the photographs, which revealed some interesting facts and helped put faces to people we had heard of or knew about, but had no photographic record.


Charles Rollo Barrett.

The most notable person in the collection was Charles Rollo Barrett JP, who resided at Whitehill Hall.

Charles Rollo was the son of Captain Samuel Goodwin Barrett (who in 1861 is listed with the Royal Perthshire Militia) and Susanna Maria Barrett and Charles was born at Kenton Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on 26th May, 1854.

Charles was educated at Rossall School in Lancashire and by the age of 26 years he is listed as a Mining Engineer in the 1881 Census and living at 21, Post Office Street, Seaham Colliery. At this time he is listed as unmarried, but has a housekeeper called Mary Gibbon.

1891 sees Charles aged 36 years, a mining engineer still living at 21 Post Office Street, but now married to Mary Delmar aged 30 years, daughter of Alfred Barry from Sevenoaks, Kent, their marriage having taken place in 1882.

In 1892, Charles visited his brother-in-law Sir Lindsay Wood, of The Hermitage, Chester-le-Street, in connection with the colliery interests of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in the North, and it may have been at this time that he was introduced to the Cookson family at Whitehill Hall.

In 1894 the Barrett’s move from Seaham Colliery, to Whitehill Hall, Chester-le-Street upon purchasing the property from the Cookson family.

1901 and Charles 46 years and Mary 40 years, are listed at Whitehill Hall and have two sons and two daughters, Kenneth Age 14, Dulcibella Mary age 13, Lindsay Alfred Age 9 and Brenda Age 5.


Charles Rollo the Person.


Charles was related to Elizabeth Barrett Browning who was married to the poet Robert Browning

Charles was made a County Magistrate in January 1894 a position he held for nearly a quarter of a century. He was the Chairman of the Chester-le-Street Bench having been appointed on the 11th August, 1915, he was also Chairman of the Chester-le-Street Divisional Conservative Association and Chairman of the County Recruiting Committee. He became involved in private work for the Government at the beginning of the First World War. He took an active part in the affairs of Chester-le-Street Parish Church and was for a time the Church Warden. He was said to be of a very genial disposition, he took a keen interest in many matters to do with the town and the surrounding area and was well liked by all that he came into contact.

The 1911 Census shows Charles age 56 and Mary age 50, still living at Whitehill Hall with their son Rollo Samuel Barrett age 27 and Ducibella Mary age 23 and six ‘living in’ servants. There were other workers living elsewhere on the estate, such as the Coachman and his family living at The Stables and the gardener’s living in the Gardener’s cottages, indicating that these were prosperous times for the Barrett family.

Mrs Barrett for her part, started the Nursing Association in Chester-le-Street and was active in its organisation and promotion.


Major Lindsay Alfred Barrett.


At the outbreak of the First World War, Charles’ son Lindsay Alfred Barrett born 8th July, 1891,  was already a soldier in the Northumberland Fusiliers, listed as 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion. He served for a time in India and on the 14th August 1914 was posted to France, being promoted to Captain and then temporary Major of the 4th (Service) Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. He was mentioned in dispatches in 1915 and in January 1916 awarded the Military Cross.


Deaths of Lindsay Alfred and Charles Rollo.

Lindsay was reported as ‘killed in action’ on the 17th March, 1916 age 24 years having been shot in the head by a sniper and was buried the next day at Poperinghe Military Cemetery, Belgium. He is also commemorated on a glazed window along with his father in Chester-le-Street Parish Church.

The shock of the death of Lindsay Alfred Barrett, may have been a contributory factor for the health of his father, as Charles Rollo died a year later on 29th September, 1917 age 63 years at Whitehill Hall. His death occurring just two days before the family was due to move to Pelaw House. Seemingly, Charles died sitting in his chair while changing for dinner.

Charles Rollo Barrett’s funeral was impressive, with the cortege being met at the North End of Chester-le-Street by a posse of Durham County Police and the Choir (in surplices) from the Parish Church and a number of notable gentlemen who proceeded as far as the Hermitage. This was witnessed by large crowds who lined the route. The journey to Heighington for the funeral and interment was made by motor and the service was conducted by the Rev. C. Eade, the Vicar of Aycliffe.



Portrait of Charles Rollo Barrett J.P.

The Barrett Family

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who was married to the Poet Robert Browning.

Major Lindsay Alfred Barrett M.C.  Killed in action 17th March, 1916.

Whitehill Hall Servants, photographed in front of the Hall. George Murray the Head Gardener, is standing on the left with the cap and watch chain.