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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Teesside

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Bastion and ha-ha wall at Kirkleatham
© Copyright of English Heritage
What's so funny about a ha-ha wall?

The ha-ha wall at Seaton Delaval Hall
What's in a wall? A simple structure, built to serve a purpose - surely that's all there is to say? Not so in the case of the quirky breed of walls called ha-has, built in the 17th and 18th Century on country estates of the landed gentry.

Ha-ha walls typically formed a boundary between the estate's gardens and grounds. These walls were constructed so as to be invisible from the house, ensuring a clear view across the estate. Ha-ha walls consist of a sunken stone wall-its top level with the garden, with a deep ditch on the far side: an effective barrier to livestock.

Now you see it, now you don't

The Toasting Gate at Kirkleatham
© Copyright of English heritage - NMR
The unusual name is believed to have derived from the exclamations of surprise uttered by those who encountered these hidden walls. Exactly why ha-ha walls became so popular provides a surprisingly rich historical insight into the social landscape of the 18th Century. Cartoon of ha-ha walls

The Turner Estate lies three miles south of Redcar at Kirkleatham and has on its grounds a ha-ha wall. In 1954, Kirkleatham Hall was demolished; however a map of 1900 shows the position of the ha-ha wall in relation to the Hall. As expected the wall lies directly in front of the estate house, dividing the gardens and the estate grounds.

Kirkleatham's ha-ha wall was built in the time of Cholmley Turner in the early 18th Century. Cholmley inherited the estate from his great Uncle, the renowned philanthropist, Sir William Turner.

To a lesser degree, Cholmley continued in the philanthropic tradition of his great Uncle, building the Free School which now houses Kirkleatham Hall Museum. Gifted with great wealth, Cholmley went on the Grand Tour around 1710, absorbing the cultural and architectural highlights of Europe.

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