Emily Matilda Easton (1818–1913)
Emily Matilda Easton (1818–1913) by Alan T. Shiers. Image: Newcastle University
St Chad's Church, Bensham.
St Chad's Church, Bensham. Image: Spirit in Stone

Emily Matilda Easton was born in Gateshead in 1818 at ‘Nest House’ in Felling. Her brothers James and Thomas Easton, of whom little is known, owned Oakwellgate Colliery, which provided Emily with an income. Oakwellgate was a moderately sized pit near the present-day Sage and was operated by the Eastons between 1842 and 1858 before water flooded it.

The colliery was only one part of interconnected enterprises established by the Easton family in Gateshead. James owned Oakwellgate and other pits and Thomas founded Thomas Easton & Co. When another brother, John, died in 1880, Emily inherited the West Layton Manor in North Yorkshire and she moved with her sister Emma to take up residence there.

Emily never married, and after her sister died in 1883, she mostly lived a solitary life in Layton Manor. She died on Christmas day in 1913. On February 11th 1914 the New York Times reported:

‘Miss Emily Matilda Easton, of West House, Felling, Durham, and of Layton Manor, near Darlington, Yorkshire, largely interested in the Bedlington Colliery and the Wallsend and Hebburn Colliers, who died on the 25th December last, aged 95 years, leaving estate of the gross value of £1,079,780 of which the net personality has been sworn at £986,303.

Emily is most fondly remembered by her Alan T. Shiers portrait and her generosity as a philanthropist. In 1908 Emily established ‘The Emily Matilda Easton Benefaction’, a trust which during her lifetime was used to support unmarried elderly women. The trust continues to operate in Durham and Newcastle and nationally. Emma had a particular interest in education and made large donations to Newcastle Medical College and Armstrong College of Science. Easton Hall in Jesmond, originally built for women students, still bears her name. The church of St. Chad’s in Bensham, Gateshead, built on land gifted by Lord Northbourne (1846-1923), the liberal MP for Gateshead, was financed by Miss Easton. Opened in 1903 in the Arts and Crafts style by architect William Searle Hicks, the church is visible to anyone approaching Newcastle via Gateshead by train.


Charity Commission. (2016). The Emily Matilda Easton Benefaction 1908. Available here (Accessed: 04/07/2018).

Church of St. Chad, Bensham. Available here (Accessed: 04/07/2018).

Cotterill, S. (2017). Emily Matilda Easton Biography. Available here (Accessed: 04/07/2018).

Cresswell, A. (2004). James, Walter Charles. Available here (Accessed: 04/07/2018).

Emily Matilda Easton Benefaction. Available here (Accessed: 04/07/2018).

Manders, F.W.D. (1973). A History of Gateshead, Gateshead: Gateshead Corporation, pp. 58.

Recent Wills. Financial Times, 11 February 1914, p. 5, Available here (Accessed 04/07/2018).