Byline: LIZ LAMB
IT WAS once a house of grandeur that provided a roof over the heads of some of the North East's most well-known and historical families.
Today Old Hollinside has no roof, is a virtual ruin and has been desecrated by vandals.
The fortified manor house can be found nestled deep in woods on top of a hill on the edge of the Derwent Valley not far from Whickham Golf Club and has been deemed the best medieval house on Tyneside.
But time has not been kind. Most of the stone walls belonging to the 13th Century fortified manor house are crumbling, the roof disappeared long ago and graffiti has been daubed across the monument.
Empty beer bottles and cans litter a vaulted area of the site where groups of youths congregate at weekends, taking solace in its isolated location.
Vandals have also set fire to the vault roof.
Determined to preserve such an important piece of Tyneside history, Old Hollinside has been given the highest form of protection awarded to conservation sites.
Next month Gateshead Council will start work on apounds 50,000 scheme to preserve what is left of the ruin and implement measures to stop the vandals wreaking more damage. Stuart Norman, planning officer at the council, says: "It has suffered from vandalism.
'There is some graffiti and stones have been dislodged.
'Youths have been climbing up the walls, dislodging the stones and then rolling them down the bank.
'They get enjoyment from dismantling it.
'There's a vaulted area to the remains which is an attraction to youths because it provides them with some shelter.
"It's become a den they congregate in and it's used for drinking and lighting fires.
"We get cans and broken bottles in there and the roof of the vaulted area is charred from the fires."
Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most powerful members of society.
Old Hollinside, which is now Grade I listed, was first recorded in 1317, when Thomas de Holinside granted it to William de Boineton and his wife, Isolda, of Newcastle.
Later it passed to the Harding family, whose coat of arms, depicting three greyhounds, were carved on a stone panel which was removed to Winlaton but is now lost.
The Harding family held Hollinside until around 1700 when it became part of the Gibside estate of the Bowes family.
It is believed the property was then reduced to tenanted farm.
By the end of the 19th Century, the medieval house was abandoned and fell into ruin.
The monument was consolidated in the mid-1970s and in the early 1980s.
Archaeologists have pieced together how the house may have looked in its heyday.
An Ordnance Survey map dating back to 1858 shows the lines of the old foundations that seem to suggest the manor had an outside courtyard and a gatehouse with gardens beyond that went down the hill towards the present Hollinside Farm. Internally, archeologists believe the house was divided into five parts, the lobby, a hall, a south wing, an east wing and the western turret.
The walls have some plaster on them and the remains of an inserted fireplace survive on the first-floor level.
An assessment of the ruin for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, stated that fortified houses like Old Hollinside were usually associated with individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture often reflected a high level of expenditure. …