The Marton Curse – Stewart Park

The Marton estate is a fascinating stretch of land with an eclectic history. From tenanted farm land to the park we know and love today, the changing of hands and developments made to the land have been vast. We’ve blogged in the past about the spirits of the Central Lodge being unhappy with the recent restoration, but looking back at the history of the estate, it seems that the workers may not be the only ones upset by transformations…

One of the most famous aspects of the estate’s history is that it is the birthplace of Captain James Cook. The estate was originally tenanted farm land and in 1728 Cook, the son of a farm labourer, was born in one of the estate farm cottages.

In 1786 the Marton estate was purchased by Bartholomew Rudd, a gentleman farmer from Marske. He enclosed and improved the land, introduced new farming practices and bred shorthorn cattle on the estate. As part of the improvements, Rudd built a manor on the estate called Marton Lodge. Cook’s birthplace cottage was demolished in the process and the only marker for his presence on the estate was a quadrangle of flint stones in the stable block courtyard, where the cottage once stood.

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Captain Cook’s Cottage (Image: Captain Cook Birthplace Museum)

Perhaps the demolition of such a heritage feature was a mistake on Rudd’s part, as in 1832 Marton Lodge was destroyed by fire. After this the rest of the estate fell into disrepair. Could Cook, who was killed in Hawaii in 1779, have been unhappy with the demolition of his birthplace cottage?

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Marton Lodge (Image: Linda Polley)

Shortly after Marton Lodge’s destruction, the Rudd family sold the estate on to Reverend Park. In 1853 the estate was bought by Henry Bolckow, who built his own manor – the well-known Marton Hall.

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Marton Hall (Image: Teesside Archives)

Bolckow replaced the flint stones with a decorative vase, set on what he believed was the sight of Cook’s birthplace cottage. Bolckow was an avid Cook collector, purchasing Cook’s journals and portraits of the voyager and displaying them proudly in his art and history collection within Marton Hall. During this time Marton Hall thrived as visitors from industry, politics and even royalty paid visits. The Central Lodge and the rest of the working estate created a mainly self-sufficient estate and Bolckow’s career in industry and politics thrived.

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Cook’s Memorial Vase (Image: Linda Polley)

Unfortunately, after Bolckow’s death the iron and steel industry entered its first recession. His nephew Carl, struggling to keep the Marton estate running, began to sell off parts of the estate and its possessions, including Bolckow’s Cook collection. England’s lack of Cook memorabilia may be due to Carl, as many of the items he sold went to Australia and New Zealand.

These quick fixes were unsuccessful and eventually the Bolckows were forced to sell the estate to Middlesbrough Council, helped by Thomas Dormand Stewart. While the estate, transformed into a park, thrived, Marton Hall began to deteriorate. Eventually, in 1960, the decision was made to demolish the manor. Unfortunately, history repeated itself and in June 1960 Marton Hall burned down during demolition. Whilst the fire brigade drained the park’s pond dry in an effort to extinguish the flames, they were unsuccessful and only a stone loggia still remains.

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The Marton Hall Fire (Image: Teesside Archives)

In both 1832 and 1960 an act of disrespect towards Cook – the demolition of his cottage and the selling of his artefacts – led to estates in disrepair and buildings destroyed by fire. While this could usually be chalked up to pure coincidence, the supernatural tendencies of the Central Lodge experienced by Askham Bryan College staff recently have left us second guessing.

The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum has stood proudly in the park since 1978, sharing Cook’s story with all who visit. Hopefully this is enough to keep the voyager happy – although we’ll keep the extinguishers on hand just in case.

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Related posts: The Ghosts of the Central LodgeCarl Bolckow and The Downfall of Bolckow-Vaughan

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