Horsley is the little valley on the south side of the river Wear between Eastgate and Stanhope. It gives its name to the small burn and to three farms as well as to Horsley Hall.
Horsa is an Anglo-Saxon personal name and Lea is a field hence the derivation Horsley.
The Hildyard family who always took a great interest in the goings-on in the life of Eastgate owned Horsley Hall. On 22nd October 1887 the then occupant, John R.W. Hildyard MA.JP laid the foundation stone for the village church and subsequently built the church and rectory at his own expense.
The Hildyard Estate covered most of the southern side of the Wear from Westernhope Burn west of Westgate to Unthank east of Stanhope, a distance of approximately 5 miles. Between the Wear and the moor land on the south it embraced farmlands including Westernhope Burn, Westernhope Close, Hagg Gate, West Newlandside, Unthank and Snowsfield. Unthank Hall, Stanhope came within the Estate also. On the northern side of the river a dozen or more farms including Larkseat, Thrushnest, Golden Lands etc. also belonged to the family.
Shooting rights on the surrounding moors of Bolihope Common, Stanhope Common and Pikestone, between Stanhope, Frosterley and Wolsingham were their entitlement.
As well as income from farms the estate also claimed 1d (one penny) per ton on every ton of limestone quarried locally, quite a considerable amount particularly during the second world war when so much stone was needed in the making of steel for armaments.
The last Hildyard residents at Horsley Hall were John A. Hildyard Esq.JP, his wife and their son Edward, the later taking over the Estate on the death of his father. Edward married Miss Pauline Mansell Morgan from Menai, Anglesey in the early 1940's and remained at the hall until death duties within the family over the years took their toll.
As well as Horsley Hall, the Hildyards also had residences at Hutton Bonville between Darlington and Northallerton and Kirbymoorside in North Yorkshire. At certain times of the year the family and most of the staff left Horsley Hall to spend time at either of the above homes returning in time for the Glorious 12th shooting, when they accommodated other notable families and also for Stanhope Agricultural Show of which Mr Hildyard was the President.
Over the years all three estates have passed out of the Hildyard hands. Hutton Bonville is no longer there - only 2 small stone pillars at the drive entrance remain near to the small church that the family attended when in residence.
Kirbymoorside has also gone.
Horsley Hall has seen several owners of differing standing. There was a time when it fell into a state of great dilapidation, some of the building being used to house sheep and cattle. The out buildings such as the garage and stables have now become private residences separated from the main hall structure. Outside, the gardens have been re-arranged on the front, the lawn being re-shaped and the outer wall being lowered to afford a much better view of the south pasture land. To the rear the tennis court and rose gardens have disappeared and a new building has been erected where the laundry and vegetable larder once stood.
At Stanhope, Unthank Hall is under new ownership and the kitchen gardens which totally supported the needs of the hall by way of every fruit tree and vegetable one could imagine (as well as flowers) is totally overgrown by grassland.
Inside Horsley Hall much has been done to change the living quarters and it is good to see the newly formed rooms tastefully decorated and furnished to make the building into a beautiful venue.
It is no more than Horsley deserves.