The house was rebuilt for Sir Andrew Noble, a pioneer in gun development (he claimed that all the Japanese guns which sank the Russian fleet at the crucial battle of Tsushima in 1905 in the Russo-Japanese War had been manufactured at his plant). He used to entertain prospective weapons purchasers at the house and could then eavesdrop on their private conversations.
In 1940, Jesmond Dene House was used as the Headquarters for the 80 men of No. 2 Company of the 12th Battalion Northumberland Home Guard, where volunteers would be trained in the tactics they would use in the event of an invasion. However, the house soon proved unsuitable for training, and so the Home Guard HQ was transferred to Heaton Secondary School.
The house had another wartime role, as the headquarters and control room for the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) network in Newcastle. It would have been here that the police, RAF Fighter Command, and ARP wardens’ posts would send reports about bomb damage during a raid. Attached to the house is a series of tunnels, with one entrance inside the main building, and three others (now well sealed) at the bottom of a cliff to the north in Jesmond Dene. Each tunnel entrance is marked by either one or two decorated stone pillars, all of identical design. The tunnels, exits and marker posts seem to have been constructed at the same time as the house, in the early 19th century, presumably as cold stores or cellars or servant’s entrances. However, the interior of the tunnels have a distinctly 20th century appearance, being reinforced with concrete. It is no surprise that while the house was in use during the War, the Home Guard or more likely the ARP made use of the tunnels, which were ideal as air raid shelters and control rooms.
Near the tunnel entrances is a small, square, brick hut with a heavy concrete roof, described as a pillbox by the Ordnance Survey. Although it does not have as many ‘embrasures’ or firing holes as a normal pillbox, there is one hole on the eastern side which has now been bricked up. It is possibly better described as a warden’s post. Also nearby is a concrete structure, almost totally buried, with a slit in the front, possibly a firing window. It is thought that this may have been a sentry box or similar. Both structures were positioned to defend the tunnel entrances. Jesmond Dene House is listed grade 2 and has been converted into a hotel
Visit by kind permission of Jesmond Dene House Hotel