To the north of Eaglescliffe in the well wooded Tees valley near Stockton, is Preston Park and Preston Hall Museum. Preston on Tees is mentioned in The Boldon Buke, County Durham`s equivelant of the Domesday Book in 1183, when the land was farmed by Adam son of Walter de Stockton, Orm son of Cockett and William son of Utting. Later owners included the Setons, Sayers and the Withams.
The History of Preston Hall Museum
In 1722 Preston became the property of Sir John Eden of Windlestone, County Durham and in 1812 the property of David Burton Fowler. It was David Burton Fowler who commenced the construction of Preston Hall in 1825. This was also the year of the opening of the famous Stockton and Darlington Railway, which ran close to the grounds of Preston. On the opening day of the railway, a famous race between a stagecoach and the Locomotion Number One is thought to have taken place along this particular stretch of the line. The victor is unrecorded.
Preston Hall was sold to the local shipbuilder Robert Ropner in 1882 and in the following century passed into the hands of Stockton Borough Council, who opened the hall as a museum in 1953. The museum has an outstanding collection of weapons, furniture, toys, costumes and armour but is best known for its Victorian period rooms and a period street which are surprisingly not as well known as those at York or Beamish. The shops in the museum street include a Grocers, Tobacconist, Taxidermist, Confectioner, Draper, Pawnbroker, Ironmongers, a Chemist and a Bank.
The most outstanding exhibit is the beautiful atmospheric painting by the French artist Georges De La Tour (1593-1652) entitled The Dice Players. The Dice Players was purchased by the avid collector Edwin Clephan, the son of a baker in Silver Street, Stockton. Mr Clephan later moved to Leicester but in a deed of 1911 his art collection passed to his daughter Miss Annie Elizabeth Clephan. In 1930 the entire collection of paintings was left to the people of Stockton by Miss Clephan in memory of her father. The paintings were stored at Preston Hall for many years and it was only during a routine inspection of the collection in 1972 that the importance of the painting came to light. This was a remarkable discovery and is one of only two examples of De La Tour`s work in this country, the other is at Hampton Court.
The Haunted History of Preston Hall Museum
- There is nothing officially recorded about the paranormal activity within Preston Hall, other than the witness reports of the staff members who have worked at the museum over the years.
- At the front porch area and outside the front of the museum, a man dressed as a Highwayman has been seen numerous times. It`s possible this man may have `worked` the Stockton/Darlington railway line which ran just behind the trees which ring Preston Park.
- There is a `Grey Lady` who has been seen walking down the staircase in the main lobby. Her details aren`t certain, but its believed she was once a family member who lived within the hall and who became pregnant by one of the staff who worked at the hall – maybe the Groundsman – but it is believed she later lost the baby.
- In the area of the museum which is known as the dungeon (it is in fact an old wine cellar) a lady and a dog have been spotted walking through the wall and along the corridor. People visiting this area often speak of their unease and discomfort and like to vacate the `dungeon` at the earliest possible time.
- There is also a sense of being watched within the Toy Gallery (previously a stable) and there are reports of a lot of activity within this area and the main corridor which leads back to the museum proper. Again, the Grey Lady is said to be seen walking along the corridor.