HISTORY OF SHORTFLATT TOWER
FOR ALL YOU HISTORY BUFFS OUT THERE...
SHORTFLATT IS AN ANCIENT ESTATE WITH A LONG AND FASCINATING HISTORY.
Built in 1257 with permission to crenellate (make battlements) being granted by the crown in1305, the Tower is an impressive example of the three storey Fortalis, slightly larger than a Peel Tower. These dwellings were built in Northumberland as strongholds during times of war to protect their owners and also their stock. The animals were brought into the ground floor during conflict and the family lived above them.
The building has an impressive Keep with an arched ceiling and 6 foot walls, supporting the stone first floor. Originally, the first floor was reached by an outside staircase on the west wall. With the exception of this staircase, Shortflatt Tower is much the same as it was then. A manor house was later added to the East side of the Tower, probably during the 17th century.
In the garden wall to the right of the front door, there is a cup and ring stone which was found in a field to the south of the Tower. It dates from 2000-1500 BC and is believed to be the lid of a tomb of a ‘very important person’. There is evidence of very early settlement of people in this part of Northumberland and it is accepted knowledge that the Romans made use of these early tracks and settlements and sites of worship.
The local village to Shortflatt was Bolam at that time, where the Saxons built a church, still the local church today. The village that now serves the area is Belsay. Under the Normans, the area from Belsay to Trewick in the south and Green Leighton and Harwood in the north was known as the Barony of Bolam. The Barony was created in the early twelfth century by King Henry I and it is within this Barony that Shortflatt is situated.
In April 1305 a soldier named Robert de Reymes, who came from a well established and wealthy trading family and fought at the battles of Stirling Bridge and Falkirk in 1298, rebuilt Shortflatt in stone after its original timber frame had been burnt down. He subsequently obtained a royal ‘licence to crenulate’ which established Shortflatt as a fortified building.
During the 15th and 16th centuries Shortflatt Tower was frequently targeted by Scottish raiders. This was a lawless and frightening time to live in Northumberland and as Shortflatt functioned as a fortalice it was regularly targeted, however the tower remained intact. Shortflatt was then sold to William Selby in 1607 and to Thomas Hayton in 1755, and finally toJohn Dent of Walker. He and his wife, Jane Dent, lived at Shortflatt and although they had a son, the son never married, so the house and estate passed to John’s sister’s family. John’s sister had married a Hedley and they had a son, Matthew Hedley. His son, Captain William Hedley, Royal Navy, inherited after changing his surname to Dent in 1831.
During William’s occupancy, he and his wife banished the stock from The Tower and made the vaulted ground floor into a sitting room. They also put in a new staircase. Their younger son, Edward Dent, then inherited. He was a famous greyhound trainer. Known as Neddy Dent, he lived at Shortflatt until his death in 1927. He really left his mark on Shortflatt and improved the stables and sporting facilities on the estate hugely. He is depicted in various pictures throughout the house with his famous greyhound Fullerton who won the Waterloo cup several times, including 3 times in a row. The equivalent in those days of winning the Grand National.
In 1927, his son William inherited the property. Lt Colonel William Hedley-Dent, known as Billy, served in both World Wars. His wife, Renee du Cros, remembered the incident of the bombs falling at Bolam. During the Second World War, her husband and their two sons were on away on active duty. Many Children from Newcastle were billeted at Shortflatt in order to escape the possible bombing of the city.
The Dent family crest
Accodring to an entry from Fairbairn's Book of Crests, 1905 ed.the Dent family crest dates back to Edward John, of Shortflatt Tower, Belsay, Newcastle-on-Tyne. The crest represents a panther's head erased, incensed, and affrontée, transpierced by an arrow barbed and flighted, the pheon towards the dexter, all ppr. (For Dent).
William and his wife made some changes to Shortflatt. Renee created the garden out of the surrounding fields and the kitchen garden of Victorian times was moved off the top lawn to the west of the Tower.
In approximately 1980, William and Renee’s son, Major Ronnie Hedley-Dent, inherited Shortflatt on the death of his father. His daughter still lives there today with her family.