Located in the far north of England, the village of Patton belongs to the Royal Borough of Durham. This rural community is home to just under 10,000 people, and is a couple of miles from the borders with Scotland and Wales.
The village itself is rather unassuming, with a cricket green, a soccer pitch, and a few trees offering the only signs of green vegetation.
However, it is the neighboring town of Bishop Auckland that is the seat of the Duke of York – the Prince Andrew (second in line to the throne). The duke owns a 400-acre estate that he got from his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Since the property was deemed surplus to the needs of the Crown, the Queen purchased it with her own money, and has made it her summer residence. Known as Pattinson Dune, the Queen’s home is an eclectic mix of contemporary and traditional English architecture that blends in beautifully.
The Estate And The Project
Pattinson Dune is located on the west bank of the River Derwent, which is tributary to the Irish Sea. The site was originally a sandbank, which was first mentioned in writing in the early 13th century, and was owned by the Crown until the mid-20th century. In 1938, the then-head gardener of the estate, William Robinson, proposed the construction of a summerhouse on the dune. The Queen reportedly agreed, and so the foundations were laid. The remainder of the project was completed four years later, in the early summer of 1942.
The summerhouse itself is a masterpiece of English Ivy and Rubiaceae (such as Rhododendron) climbing up the side of the structure. The Queen reportedly enjoyed sitting in the building, sipping a cup of tea while admiring the scenery of the River Derwent. For the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012, the Royal Estate commissioned a local architect, Roger Williams, to renovate and extend the existing summerhouse in an effort to modernize the property and to make it more energy efficient. The result is another triumph of interiors design, incorporating a sense of warmth and grandeur that befits the Queen’s residence.
An Architectural Gem
The renovation of the existing structure was undoubtedly a labor of love for the Queen. As she herself noted: “I am very fortunate to have lived in this historic building for so many years and to have seen it evolve from a simple stone summerhouse to the wonderful building that it is today.”
Indeed, the interiors of the entire complex are magnificent, especially when one considers that the bulk of the furnishings were designed and made by craftsmen who were also employed by the Royal Household. A stroll around the property is like falling down the rabbit hole into a fantasyland of grandeur and beauty.
The Man Behind The Madness
However, as regal as the interiors of the palace might be, it was the garden that truly captured the imagination of the Queen. Known as the “Front Row”, the formal garden was laid out in the 17th century, and is bound by a dry stone wall. In addition to the Queen, the garden is still owned by the Royal family, and remains one of the largest private estates in England.
According to the Royal Parks website, “Since taking up residence at his newly purchased estate in the 1950s, the Prince and his wife, Princess Anne, have worked hard to make it one of the most important properties in the country, not just for its size but for its design and integrity. The garden, for example, is said to be the largest of its kind in Europe.” The gardens were not laid out in a regular rectangular pattern, but in an “undulating” style, with “bents and curves” that have become the hallmark of the royal garden. The result is a masterpiece designed by a renowned English landscape designer, George Stubbs.
George Stubbs (1766–1834) was an English botanist and garden designer who is widely regarded as the “father of English ryegrass” (Leymus mollis). The Royal Parks website states that Stubbs “proposed forming a ‘green wall’ along the top of the stone enclosure to draw color from the blossoms and provide a spectacular display in the summer.” To this day, the wall still stands, and is one of the glories of the garden. With this masterpiece in mind, it is no wonder that the Duke of York chose to reside at Pattinson Dune.
Of course, the Duke and Duchess of York are not the only ones who have enjoyed life at Pattinson Dune. The Royal Estate hosts numerous festivals each year, including an antiques market, and the gardens are open to the public.
In an effort to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2019, St. Paul’s United Church in Bishop Auckland held a special service in the gardens. According to a report in the Newcastle Chronicle, “over 20 people, many in period costume, processed from the church to the banks of the River Derwent to mark the beginning of the Reformation.” The event was hosted by Prince Harry and was focused on highlighting the contributions of the church and the role it plays in society. This being said, it is rather obvious that whoever resides at Pattinson Dune is more than willing to welcome visitors.
In addition to the residential property, there is also the adjacent Clarence House, which is the Queen’s London residence. This beautiful 19th-century building, which was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, is where the Royal Family spends most of their time during the week, and it is the largest London residence of any kind (40,000 sq. ft.). The walls are adorned with the works of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, an English painter who specialized in landscapes and seascapes. Tourists often seek out Clarence House to snap a selfie with a famous face and to add another tourist attraction to their list.
The Queen’s Links
It is rather amazing how much history surrounds the village of Patton and the neighboring estates of the Royal Family. In fact, many regard the village as the heart of the magnificent “Crown Estate” that was gifted to Queen Victoria in 1848, along with the rest of the county of Durham. What is more, the entire coastline from Hartlepool to Robin Hood’s Bay is backed by the Queen’s private forest, planted in the 18th century and named for her. Known as the “Queen’s Pine Woods”, this vast tract of woodland measures in at around 600 acres, and is one of the largest in Europe. During her reign, the Queen sponsored numerous projects in the area, including schools, villages, and colleges. In a speech given on her Golden Jubilee in 2012, Queen Elizabeth II stated that “my family and I are hugely grateful for all that the village and estate have done for us over the years, and we look forward to continuing to work with the community of Patton into the future.”
Besides the beauty of the estate and the Queen’s residence, the area is also rich in culture and history. Just outside the village, on the northern side, is St. Mary’s Church, dating back to the early 14th century, and with its white stone walls and lead-lined windows, it has an almost cathedral-like appearance. The church still maintains some of its original furnishings, including choir stalls, communion table, and the “sacristy door” (the one that leads to the priest’s chambers). Another church that has held a special place in the hearts of the Royal Family is St. Cuthbert’s in the town of Bishop Auckland, named after the 7th-century monk who is said to have given the Prince Consort, or King George, his walking stick, in the form of a cross. For centuries, the church has been linked to the Royal Family, and is the place where George IV was crowned King George IV in 1820. The Royal Arms and those of the Prince Consort adorn the spire of the church, which dates back to the 17th century.
Although the Duke and Duchess of York reside in separate residences, they are not completely cut off from one another. According to the Royal Parks website, the property forms part of a “Bric-a-Brac” that is linked by a cobbled pathway. This pathway connects the properties, and is lined with 20th-century sculptures of women, mostly nudes, created by the English sculptor Frederick Chapman Marsh. The sculptures were initially part of a fountain project for the Duke of York, but the work was terminated due to lack of funds. Despite the sculptor’s wishes, the pieces were relocated to the estate, and so the fountain’s remains can still be found dotted around the perimeter of the gardens.