From the Darlington & Stockton Times, January 27, 1917

A MILITARY man laid into a new-fangled form of transport as “the evolution of laziness” and predicted that children would one day be born with wheels for legs if it wasn’t stopped in its tracks.

The strange intervention came exactly 100 years ago at Bishop Auckland tribunal, said the D&S Times, when three omnibus drivers were applying for exemptions from military service.

Colonel Wardle, the military representative, said that omnibuses “were not essential to the public need, and that people had been able to walk their journeys before the introduction of the bus and they would be able to walk again. If the evolution of laziness were to be continued, it would be found, a million years hence, that children would be born with wheels instead of legs (laughter)”.

The report concluded: “Members of the tribunal were inclined to disagree with the colonel and pointed to the great usefulness the omnibuses were to the community, being almost as useful as the railway.” The applications were adjourned.

Elsewhere, Mary C Jolliffe of Newbus Grange, near Neasham, wrote to the paper to say that the Darlington Hospital Couch Fund had raised £63 1s.

“We have bought three invalid couches, two cots with mattress for the children’s ward, and three very comfortable easy chairs,” she said.

Mrs Cicely Gardner wrote from Alverton, Northallerton, to thank everyone who had sent her old gloves, fur and leather which she had turned into waistcoats for “the minesweepers and soldiers etc”. She said she had acted very quickly to help the servicemen stuck in Mesopotamia and Salonika during the cold winter.

And Edith Thompson and Bessie Walton wrote from the Northallerton Egg Depot which had collected 52,986 eggs since it had opened in April 1915 in Durham House (near the Town Hall). These eggs were immediately sent by train to the National Egg Collection headquarters in London from where they were forwarded to hospitals in France.

The ladies said that in the previous year, the village of Ingleby Arncliffe had given 3,077 eggs, Harlsey 2,441, Thornton le Moor 1,579, Thornton le Beans 863, and Thrintoft 469.

January 28, 1967

IN Sedgefield, the 940th playing of the annual Shrove Tuesday football match was in danger “because no one seems to be willing to organise the game”.

For the previous 100 years, the church verger had provided a specially-made leather ball, but, said the D&S, there was no longer a verger and the rector, Canon H Hancock, “disclaims responsibility” for the game.

Said the paper: “Perhaps someone will come forward at the last moment in an effort to save the game. Opinion is divided whether in this day and age the game should be allowed. The heavy increase of traffic passing through Sedgefield presents a great danger to life and limb.”

Richmond Civic Society held its inaugural meeting 50 years ago this week, “and it’s first action was to decide to ask the town council to postpone action over the proposal to build public conveniences at the entrance to Richmond Castle”.

Instead of toilets, the society’s first 35 members suggested that “the existing cottages could be used to establish a civic museum which, situated outside a place visited by 60,000 people a year, could prove beneficial to the rates”.

Meanwhile, in Northallerton, the urban council was desperately trying to progress its plans to knock down the Town Hall and build a £200,000 civic centre on Russell’s fields next to the Applegarth car park. One councillor said: “The quicker we get started the better.” They never began.

January 26, 1867

HENRY KING SPARK, the maverick owner of the D&S Times, was trying to maximise the discomfort of the Quaker families who thought they ruled Darlington 150 years ago this week.

On the Tuesday, he was chairing an enfranchisement committee that was persuading the Government to replace the barely democratic Board of Health (the membership of which was almost exclusively members of the Pease and Backhouse families and their acolytes) with a more democratic council. Suddenly, he told the committee, he’d received applications from the Peases and the Backhouses to join, and he pointedly said that the only reason they hadn’t been on the committee before was because of “their having no part, or taking no part, in the movement”.

On the Wednesday, Mr Spark chaired a meeting to discuss alleviating the distress among the working-classes during the economic recession. The meeting agreed to send placards around the town calling another meeting on the Thursday.

This, too, Mr Spark chaired, but this time the Peases and the Backhouses turned up mob-handed, fearing Mr Spark was getting ahead of them in the altruistic stakes.

Arthur Pease, of Hummersknott, said he had already begun a soup kitchen which would go live in the morning.

But Mr Spark, speaking heroically despite suffering badly from bronchitis, told them “the distress is much more deeply seated and more widely spread” than they appreciated. In Trump-like language, He said that “for days during this inclement weather” the poor of the town “had not had clothes to stand up in or beds to lie down upon”. A meeting was proposed for the following day to take the matter further.

Mr Spark was again in the chair. The Peases opened by proposing to give the destitute free soup and bread, and charging the only-slightly-destitute 1d for a quart of soup and 1d for bread (this was the going rate – Northallerton, where times were also tough, agreed this week to charge the same).

But, as reported heroically in his own paper, Mr Spark trumped them once more, by announcing he was giving away 50 coal tickets to poor people, each ticket allowing the bearer free delivery of five hundredweight of coal. What a guy!

Mr Spark got was successful in getting Darlington its own council – the town should be celebrating the council’s 150th anniversary is later this year – and by courting popularity by giving away free coal, he hoped grateful folk townspeople would return him as their first mayor.