SCRUTON, between Bedale and Northallerton, has at least two claims to fame: it is one of only 52 "thankful villages" in the country, whose soldiers all survived the First World War, and it has one of only five churches in England dedicated to St Radegund.

She was a 6th Century princess who ran away from her bellicose husband to a monastery in Poitiers in central France from where she managed to convert him to a Godly way of life.

In the 12th Century, soldiers from Scruton were fighting with the English king near Poitiers, discovered Radegund's story and brought her home to their church.

February 12, 1966

THERE was a full agenda before Bedale Rural Council which gives as insight into life exactly 50 years ago.

The headline in the D&S concerned the “appalling conditions at Bedale Church of England School”. Nowadays, such a headline is more likely to refer to the findings of an Ofsted report, but back then it was about the physical state of the school.

“There was overcrowding and some classes had to be accommodated in the WI hall,” said the report. “Facilities for lighting and ventilation were all wrong.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: Scruton Hall, built in 1705 by Roger Gale, MP for Norhallerton, and demolished in 1956 although its Lebanon cedars remain in the field behind the church (55062527)
Scruton Hall, built in 1705 by Roger Gale, MP for Norhallerton, and demolished in 1956 although its Lebanon cedars remain in the field behind the church

The school was due to be rebuilt in 1967-68, but the council agreed to demand that the construction should be brought forward.

In the village of Scruton, there was more construction under way: two bungalows were due to be completed which would take the number of council houses in the council’s area to 500. “It was agreed to mark the occasion with an appropriate ceremony,” said the report.

However, while the construction was welcome, it brought new problems with it, and so the council heard how a “new sewerage and sewage disposal scheme” was needed to allow the village’s present of 300 to be increased to 496. This was to cost £49,915, although there was a potential for the second phase of the scheme to increase the population to 834. In the 2011 census, Scruton’s population was 424, so perhaps the second phase has never been needed.

The council then granted permission for Bedale Hall to be used for a social evening to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Savings Movement, which had been formed during the First World War to help the Government raise funds for the fighting.

And finally, the Bedale headpostmaster informed the council that “the stamp vending machine in Aiskew is to be taken away, and the council, after hearing that it was only taking 2d a day, agreed”. As even the smallest postcard cost 3d to send, the machine wasn’t even selling a stamp a day, and the postmaster said there were two shops in the village that were licensed to sell stamps.

February 12, 1916

H TOMLINSON of West Tanfield had a letter published in the D&S Times headlined: “To keep down wood pigeons.”

Mr Tomlinson began: “I have noticed during March of the years 1914 and 1915 an attempt was made in the Northallerton area to reduce the number of wood pigeons. The movement, in my opinion, lacked organisation, hence the result was insignificant.

“If not every covert has a gun in it, the birds will quickly find sanctuary in those gunless woods. Wood pigeons easily direct the flight of their brethren to safe quarters.”

Mr Tomlinson believed that these pests needed to be eradicated, and he told how, when he lived in Lincolnshire, the rural community successfully organised itself so that for six weeks from the end of every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 4.30pm to half-an-hour before dusk, a gun was placed every wood, forcing the birds to keep on the wing until they were too exhausted to evade the bullets.

Mr Tomlinson said that if this were put in operation in a 15 mile radius of Northallerton, “thousands of birds would be destroyed”.

He concluded: “There would be no difficulty disposing of the slain as the villagers would only be too glad to receive presents of three or four birds. This would reduce the meat bill and leave a greater margin for our brave soldiers.

“H Tomlinson, The School, West Tanfield.”

February 10, 1866

“SHEEP stealing at Barnard Castle,” said the headline in the D&S Times 150 years ago.

“At a special meeting of magistrates held on Monday last, a lad named Mason, was brought up charged with killing a sheep and afterwards selling the skin.

“From the evidence it appears that on Saturday, Mr John Hedley Jnr discovered the carcase of a sheep, skinned, in a field in his father’s occupation near Westwick. Enquiry was made of Mr Capstick, fellmonger, when it appeared that he had that morning received a sheepskin from the prisoner. The skin was produced, and from the marks on it, Mr Hedley immediately identified it as having been taken off the dead sheep.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Sheila Fawcett was running Scruton post office in her wash-house when this picture was taken in May 1981 (55062529)
Sheila Fawcett was running Scruton post office in her wash-house when this picture was taken in May 1981

“The prisoner, in his defence, said that he saw the sheep from the road lying as if dead. He at once went to it, and as it was nearly dead, killed it, and took the skin.”

Westwick is a little to the east of Barnard Castle, and it probably gets its name from the old English word “wic”, which meant “dairy farm”.

A “fell” was an ancient word for an animal hide, so a fellmonger was a person who dealt in skins.

The report ended by saying that the lad Mason was committed for trial at Durham.