Kiora Hall, Ragpath Lane, Norton

 

The history of Kiora Hall is the history of two houses, both built on the same site within about 30 years of one another.

In 1877 (Jens) Christian Nielsen built a house for himself and his family on Ragpath Lane, Norton in what was then a field not far from Norton railway junction.  Nielsen, born in 1824 in Nordby, Fano, Denmark, had moved to Newcastle and then to Hartlepool, and in 1881 became a Naturalised British Subject.  Originally trading as a coal exporter and timber merchant, Nielsen formed a successful shipping company, Nielsen & Sons in 1872.  ‘He was Danish vice-consul, a consular agent for the USA, a Justice of the Peace, and Mayor of Hartlepool in 1870-71.  He was vice-chairman of the Hartlepools Shipowners Society, chairman of the Hartlepool Pilotage Board and a representative on the Port and Harbour Commission.  Nielsen was also a warden of St Hilda’s Church for many years’[1]

Nielsen had one son with his first wife Fanny, and after her death in 1866 he remarried in 1867 to Eliza Frances Taylor with whom he had two sons and two daughters.  In 1877 he started the construction of a new house in Norton, and not just any old Victorian villa but an extremely novel example in layout, building materials and construction.

‘It is constructed of timber – a double framework with a thick incombustible felt between.  There are half a dozen apartments on the ground floor, some of them spacious in their dimensions; and more than half a dozen above.  The kitchens are not in the main building, but adjacent thereto, in part of a range of brick erections, which include stable, coachhouse, etc.  There are some striking architectural features, of which I may mention a tower, or observatory, from which an extensive view of the surrounding country is obtained.

‘It was built for Mr Nielsen in Gothenburg, and when finished taken to pieces and transported to its destination.  Swedish workmen accompanied it to put it up, and they have now nearly completed their task.  Mr Nielsen calls his house Nordby, which is Norwegian for Norton, and the name of the place where the owner was born.’[2]

It may very well have been built as a second home.  Nielsen and his family continued to be recorded in the 1881 and 1891 census returns as living at 15 Cliff Terrace Hartlepool.  Electoral Registers for 1895 and 1897 list Christian Nielsen as owner of Nordby, a dwelling house at The Junction, Norton, but he died there in December 1896.  A sale of the ‘surplus furniture’ took place in 1897, and his wife left at about that time.[3]

Sadly for local (and national) architectural history, Nordby burnt to the ground in 1899, despite the specified ‘incombustible felt’.  Well-seasoned timber and a lack of water in enough quantity to deal with the rapidly spreading blaze also contributed to the total devastation. [4]  At the time of the fire Nordby was let to another shipping magnate from Hartlepool, Albert Frederick Trechmann.  ‘Mr Trechmann has tenanted the place during the last two years.  For the past three weeks the family have been residing at York, and painters and paperhangers were renovating the Hall when the fire occurred.’[5]

Albert Frederick Trechmann was the fifth son of Peter Otto Eduard Trechmann, a German-born entrepreneur who had also gravitated towards Hartlepool.  Trechmann Senior had established a successful cement manufacturing business in 1848 and in 1871 purchased his first two steamships.  Albert and his older brothers Charles Otto and Otto Kramer Trechmann joined their father in the shipping business; in 1895 the company became Trechmann Bros. and then in 1897 Trechmann S.S. Co. Ltd.  There were also other partnerships in which various members of the family were involved.

Albert Frederick Trechmann built (or possibly rented) a new house called Kiora on the site of Nordby by 1902.  The source of the name remains unknown, but Alfred’s older brother Charles Otto, a marine biologist by trade and a keen and nationally recognised amateur geologist and mineralogist, had spent time in New Zealand, and it may be that this Maori greeting kia ora, (literally meaning ‘be well’) caught Albert’s imagination.[6]

Nordby’s replacement was a plain, fairly typical red brick Edwardian villa, still recognisable as such despite later institutional additions.  The symmetrical south-facing garden elevation provides a pleasant composition, with its white woodwork contrasting against the red brick, obviously enhanced by its leafy surroundings. Two-storey bays are topped with mock timber-framed gables, now painted in red and cream, a motif which repeats that of the east-facing entrance façade.  Between the two bays on the first floor is an undecorated but well-preserved wooden balcony with a door perhaps leading to the master bedroom or suite.  Below the balcony may have been French windows or a door onto the garden, but this has been infilled with brick and new windows making it flush with the front of the balcony.  There are plain but effective wooden dentils under the eaves all around the house, giving a slightly vernacular appearance and overall perhaps some allusions to traditional German architecture.

Albert Trechmann and various members of his family lived at Kiora until he died in 1937.  Almost immediately, sometime in 1938, ‘ICI moved their pay and purchase section into (what was then known locally as) Kiora Hall. They were joined in the . . . 1940s by officers of the royal artillery who built a gun emplacement camp’ and battery there.[7]  Also during the 1940s Kiora was used to house first Italian and then German prisoners of war who were supplying manual labour for surrounding farms, market gardens and local businesses.

The fields encircling Kiora were built on by Stockton Council from 1949 as part of their post-war programme of social housing.  Named the Roseworth Estate, this ‘was to be the largest development to emerge from the Immediate post-war period and the generally good quality of the housing sets it apart even today as one of Stockton’s better and more popular estates.’[8]  Kiora has been relatively left alone, probably due to a quirk of ownership, and now serves as a community centre.

 

 

[1] Hartlepool History Then & Now, ‘Nielson & Sons’, https://www.hhtandn.org/venues/5046/nielsen-and-sons

[2] The South Durham and Cleveland Mercury, 23rd June 1877

[3] ‘Sales by Auction, Nordby, Norton, Stockton-on-Tees’, Northern Daily Mail, 12th June 1899

[4] Shields Daily Gazette and Shipping Telegraph, 20th May 1899 and Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough, Saturday 20 May 1899

[5] ‘A Hall Destroyed at Norton’, The Shields Daily Gazette and Shipping Telegraph, 20 May 1899.

[6] Interestingly, the little house we know locally as Kiora Bugalow on Junction Road was Nordby Bungalow on earlier maps and is therefore a much older construction than currently believed.

[7] According to Lee Coxon on January 19, 2014.  https://picturestocktonarchive.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/kiora-hall-roseworth-2002

[8] Vamplew, Clive (1992) Ragworth: The emergence and development of a disadvantaged estate: A study in

the residualisation of public sector housing in a de-industrialising conurbation, Durham theses, Durham

University. Available at Durham E-Theses Online: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/5612/