From the Darlington & Stockton Times, February 16, 1867

“LOUISA KAY YATES, aged only 16 years was present but she appeared so utterly prostrated by the sense of her position that she was altogether insensible of what was taking place,” began a report of an inquest in the D&S Times of 150 years ago this week.

A body of a young male baby had been found buried beneath about a foot of waste in the ashpit in the back yard of a house in Hurworth, near Darlington. The house was occupied by Miss Eales, although her neighbours had access to the yard as the water pump was located there.

The neighbours were the family of Joseph Poole, the master of the Wesleyan schools, whose servant, Louisa, had joined them about five months previously

“At the time she entered my service, I had no suspicion she was in the family way,” Mr Poole told the inquest in the Bay Horse pub. “I thought that she afterwards looked stout. I believe Mrs Poole challenged her with it (pregnancy) but she stoutly denied it.”

If he had known of her predicament, he said, he would never have taken her on.

He continued: “About a month ago I came down one morning about breakfast into the kitchen where Louisa Yates was in the habit of sleeping. I saw a large stain of blood on the carpet before the fire.”

The poor girl was dressed and going about her chores. Mr Poole asked about the blood, and she replied: “I did it while washing the hearth.”

He said: “She was poorly that day and she had a glass of gin given to her by us at night.”

The baby was found the next day, and Mr Poole concluded his evidence by noting how Louisa “has diminished in size”.

George Edmundson Cockcroft, the village surgeon, said the 7.5lb baby was well developed. During an autopsy, he had removed its lungs which had floated when put in a jar of water. He’d then cut the lungs up and tried the float test on each portion – some had floated, others had sunk. From this he concluded that the baby had drawn breath, but only briefly – he estimated 30 seconds to a minute – as the lungs had not been entirely inflated.

He said the child had died of obstruction to the airways, but could not tell whether this had been a “wilful act”.

“The coroner, having summed up and recapitulated parts of the evidence, the jury, after some deliberation, returned the following verdict: we are unanimously of the opinion that the deceased is the illegitimate child of Louisa Yates, and that it was born alive, but died during the act of self delivery,” said the D&S.

Lousia was kept in custody until her appearance a couple of days later at Darlington police court charged with concealing the birth of her illegitimate child at Hurworth. She pleaded not guilty and was committed for trial at Durham assizes later in the month.

February 17, 1917

A FORGETFUL Glasgow Highlander appeared in court accused of stealing a clock and cigarette case containing more than £5 from the King’s Head Hotel in Richmond.

George Gardner, 25, had arrived at the King’s Head at about 8.15pm and told the barmaid, Miss May Johnson, that he felt ill and needed a whisky – it was illegal to sell a soldier a drink after 8pm.

Even though Gardner had been drinking for some time at the nearby Fleece – “as a Scotsman he drank his national beverage (laughter)” - Miss Johnson considered that Gardner was perfectly sober but definitely ill, so she kindly took him to a rear parlour. There she left him to get a whisky and soda, which, on her return, he drank quickly and left. Then it was noticed that the mantelpiece was empty and a few hours later it was realised that a desk had been rifled and the cigarette case taken.

His solicitor, JF Latimer, whose name still graces a Darlington firm of solicitors, said that because of the amount he had consumed, “there was no doubt whatever that he took the clock, but he had absolutely no recollection of doing it”.

He said: “When he got to the camp, he pulled it out openly with other things in his pockets, including bottles of beer. He was so confused that he did not know where he had got the clock and took it to his own hut, intending to take it to Richmond the next day and go to the King’s Head hotel and inquire respecting it. But next morning the clock had gone - it had been stolen again. Every endeavour had been made to find it, but in vain. The whole thing was the result of a drunken freak.

“As to the missing money, Mr Latimer said there was not one particle of evidence on which the accused could be convicted...but his client felt it was his duty to make restitution to the manageress. He was as prepared to pay to her the money that was missing, as it might be regarded as an obvious inference that the man who took the clock also took the money.

“The prisoner, he added, was of very respectable parentage, had been wounded while serving at the front, and was expecting to go out again.”

Piling on the emotional pressure, Mr Latimer said that Gardner was due a promotion which would be rescinded should he be convicted.

The D&S said: “After lengthy consideration, the bench said they had come to the conclusion that the charge was the outcome of a drunken carousal. They found the accused had taken the clock, though not with felonious intent, but they did not wish to deprive the army of a good soldier. The case would be dismissed on the understanding that restitution would be made.”

So he was guilty, he admitted his guilt, he paid compensation for his guilt, but in those wartime days, the court decided he was innocent.

February 18, 1967

FIFTY years ago, the D&S reported that at the Blue Lion, East Witton, the Jervaulx estate held its annual rent dinner for the 150th successive year.

The tradition, said the paper, dated back to the owner of Jervaulx, “the Earl of Ailesbury who built the church to mark 50th year of George III (in 1810), remodelled houses around the village green, built a farmhouse called Fleets to mark Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar, and then Waterloo farm.

"The long dining room at the Blue Lion was used for the first time for the rent dinner in 1817 and the beautiful sectional mahogany dining table was made in the village at the same time to fit the room."