On Sunday May 4th, Acklam Hall in Middlesbrough threw open its doors to the public as part of Local History Month 2014. Modest expectations for the visitor numbers were spectacularly shattered when over 1000 people arrived to view the 17th Century building which for generations was the home of the eminent Hustler family, passing down through the generations in one of the longest periods of continuous ownership in history.
The building, which was sold to Middlesbrough Council in 1928 and has since offered its awe-inspiring surroundings for use as various schools and colleges, still retains all of its beautiful period features, including an ornately carved pine staircase. The building is Grade 1 listed – only 2.5% of all listed buildings can claim this status, and puts Acklam Hall in an enviable position alongside Westminster Abbey and York Minster.
Perhaps unusually for a tour, a large amount of time was spent looking up, rather than around, as some of the most spectacular features of the building were the beautiful ceilings.
Another of the features which gives Acklam Hall its Grade I status (as well as the staircase), is the magnificent ceiling above the staircase.
The ceiling bears the date 1683 and is another of the original features of the house. During the Victorian era, when another floor was added to house servants’ quarters, the entire ceiling was lifted from its original position to make way for the building work, before being installed in its new position, a floor higher, where it hangs to this day, supported by unseen hessian straps.
At this time, the staircase was also extended to serve the new floor, and it is possible to see subtle differences between the two parts of the staircase, including that the posts (or balusters) are only a single twist in the newer part, as opposed to the higher quality double twists in the original part.
With the project to restore the hall having just begun, it is reassuring to know that this jewel of Middlesbrough’s history, which bore witness not only to a family’s history, but also the growing up of Middlesbrough during the Victorian era, will be preserved for future generations to appreciate.