Sir James’ sale of property in Heddon took place on 11th March 1924 by auction under Mr Robert Donkin at the County Hotel in Newcastle. It comprised 32 lots, including East Town Farm, Clayton Terrace, Blue Row, Garden House, W.A. Waugh’s house and shop, and adjoining houses on Hexham Road, Blacksmith’s shop (later Co-op store), and Three Tuns Inn.
Nathaniel George Clayton (1754-1832) was Town Clerk of Newcastle from 1785 to 1822, and bought the estate of Chesters from the Errington family. His son, John Clayton (1792-1890), followed him as Town Clerk (1822 to 1867), inherited Chesters, and pursued his antiquarian interests. Chesters estate was eventually sold out of the family in 1928.
On 31st July 1918, the Claytons sold by auction all of their property in Heddon including Bay’s Leap Farm, said by the auctioneer to be ‘one of the most desirable not only in the county of Northumberland, but in the whole of the North of England.’ Nathaniel Clayton had bought it from the sixth Earl of Carlisle in 1812.
Heddon Banks and Bay’s Leap farms were sold to Adam and James Hedley, although most of the village property, including East Town Farm south of the Throckley Road, was bought by Sir James Knott.
At the sale in 1924, Mr Donkin explained that the properties ‘were purchased by Sir James Knott in 1918, his idea being to promote a model village. Events had taken place which had prevented this, although Sir James had done a great deal for the different properties since he became the owner. In this sale Sir James Knott was anxious that his tenants should have every consideration, as they had had during the time in which he had held the properties. As showing the consideration Sir James Knott had for the tenants since he became the owner, not one of the rents had been increased from the original rents in 1918.’
In conducting the sale, Mr Donkin carried out the wishes of Sir James, giving the tenants the opportunity to purchase, even when others were anxious to bid higher.
Lot 1 was East Town Farm, on the site of the Roman Wall, including 38 acres of old grass land. Sir James Knott paid £3000 for the farm in 1918. It was sold for £2,800 to Messrs. Hedley Brothers, Bay's Leap. The small field containing Hadrian’s Wall was retained, and later gifted by Sir James to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Many of the properties in Clayton Terrace and Blue Row were purchased by the tenants, as directed. Details of the sale show that No.5 Clayton Terrace was a formerly rented by Northumberland County Police and the single-storey cottages, No.7 and 8 Blue Row, by the Throckley Colliery Company. These were later demolished to provide access to the Vallum estate.
Church House backing on to St Andrew’s graveyard, let at rental of £9 to Mr J Malthouse was sold for £300 to the tenant, with access reserved to the unenclosed hearse house. Garden House, let to Mr W C Jordan at rental of £15, was sold to Mr G F Bell for £800 for an unnamed client. The auctioneer announced that Lot 23, the Three Tuns Inn, had, on the instructions of Sir James Knott, been sold to Mr R Thompson, the present tenant. The adjoining Blacksmith’s shop (which later became the Co-op store), let to Mr George Armitage at £20 a year, was withdrawn at £340.
The tenant of West Cottage was Mary Ann Waugh who operated a shop, Post Office and the Roman Wall Refreshment Rooms from the premises. She had moved here from a small shop she ran for tourists on the Military Road from a window of her small cottage in Haddock’s Hole. She bought West Cottage at the sale for £300. The Post Office was in operation here until the death of Willie Waugh in 1968.
Other cottages on the Hexham Road were also sold and in order to provide recreational facilities for the miners and their families living in Heddon, the field between the Post Office and the Common was bought for the sum of £220 to Mr R F J Modlin, acting on behalf of the Throckley Miners' Welfare Committee.
Ownership of The Reading Room (Old Library) built by Messrs. Hunter between 1880 and 1882, as a gift to the village by Mr Richard Clayton of Wylam Hall, was transferred to a group of 13 village trustees on 15th October 1924.
A completion of their business in Heddon occurred in November 1925 when Major G E Wilkinson, on behalf of Sir James and Lady Knott, handed over the keys and deeds for the Memorial Park.
Lady Knott died aboard the Princess at Cannes in 1929. In 1932, Sir James (77) married Elizabeth Gaunlett (25) in Monte Carlo. He died on 8th June 1934.
The sale in 1924 was the end of his plan to develop Heddon as a model village and his ‘tenants preferred’ policy was a generous gift to the village. If events had been different and his sons and business had survived the First War, perhaps Sir James would have bought Close House and remained Heddon’s Lord of the Manor.