A Short History
of West Layton Manor
The present manor was built by the architect John Johnson. It sits on the site of an old hall, once the seat of the Lords of Rokeby but this was pulled down in 1872 to build the current house. Born in Scotland, J Johnson is credited with some of the first industrial dwellings in London. In the early 1840’s he became Clerk of Works for George Gilbert Scott who famously designed St Pancras Station. By 1855 Johnstone had settled in Newcastle. He was elected President of the Northern Architectural Association in 1875 and was commissioned to build West Layton Manor by the owner John Easton who made his fortune in coal mining in the North East of England. John Easton died not long after in 1880 and left the manor to his sister Miss Emily Easton. This included 700 acres, two farmhouses and a few cottages for the employees of Miss Easton. She died on Christmas day 1913 aged 95 and left just over one million pounds in her will, roughly £68 million pounds in todays money.
Miss Easton was born on 18th November 1818 and died aged 95 on Christmas Day, 1913. She had income from coal mining (the Oakwellgate Colliery in Gateshead among others was owned by her brother James and her elder brother Thomas – Thomas Easton & Co). She owned West Layton Manor in addition to Nest House on Tyneside.
In 1901 she lived at West Layton Manor with her niece, Emma Embleton, her companion, Edith Parkes and five servants. These included a cook/housekeeper, a parlour maid, a housemaid, a kitchen maid and a coachman.
Her death merited a piece in the New York Times saying she left over 5 million dollars, with generous legacies to her servants as well as to various educational and charitable institutions, including Newcastle Medical College and Armstrong College of Science (both now part of Newcastle University). Her lady’s companion of many years Edith Parker received over £8,000 and her gardener Jonathan Milner, £3,000.
Miss Easton never married and she founded the Emily Matilda Easton Trust in 1908, still in existence today, set up to help single women over 60 who are baptised in the Church of England and on basic state pension.