SAMUEL Hieronymus Grimm was a late 18th century Swiss artist whose patron sent him out around Britain with the instructions to record “everything curious”.

He passed through Northallerton in 1773 and what was the most curious thing that he set eyes on in the town? It was, of course, the vine growing across Vine House – later known as the Rutson hospital – at the north end of the High Street.

As we told a fortnight ago, this was once one of the finest vines in the country. Its roots went back to before 1600 and its limbs stretched out at least 100ft.

And so Samuel sketched it, and his picture is among the 2,662 drawings of his curiosities in the British library – he also had a look at the font in Northallerton’s church and Ripon’s Market Place obelisk before moving on to Durham City. We are extremely grateful to Phoebe Newton of Northallerton Local History Society for drawing out attention to it and providing further information about it.

Grimm may have seen the vine at its finest, because two years later, it suffered an injury to its trunk. The poor plant – which may have been planted by the Carmelite friars who owned this corner of town until Henry VIII dissolved them in 1539 – is said to have “bled copiously”.

But, fortunately, travelling along the Great North Road to his home at Alnwick Castle was Sir Hugh Smithson, the Duke of Northumberland. Sir Hugh had been born in Northallerton and obviously had a soft spot for the plant, which once bore “great quantities” of grapes, and so, when he got home, despatched his head gardener to stem the flow.

The head gardener would have identified the variety of the vine straightaway: it is a Black Hambro, also known as the Black Muscat of Hamburg, which is nicknamed “the Bleeding Vine” because of its propensity to weep.

The vine pulled through, and in 1790, Grimm’s drawing appeared as the frontispiece illustration to William Speechly’s Treatise on the Culture of the Vine. Speechly was an eminent horticulturist – the Alan Titchmarsh of his day – who had spent part of his career at Castle Howard and who specialised in the “pine apple” and the grape.

His four volume treatise is the most important book on viticulture of the 18th Century, and he wrote: “At Northallerton, in Yorkshire, there is a Vine now (1789) growing, that once covered a space containing 137 square yards; and it is judged, that, if it had been permitted, when in its greatest vigour, to extend itself, it might have covered three or four times that area. The circumference of the trunk, or stem, a little above the surface of the ground, is three feet eleven inches. It is supposed to have been planted 150 years ago, but from its great age, and from injudicious management, it is now, and has long been, in a very declining state.”

Speechly concluded: “There are many other Vines growing at Northallerton, which are remarkable for their size and vigour. The soil is light and rich, of a dark colour, and inclining to sand.”

Speechly, for all his expertise, talked the vine down, because it thrived well in to the 20th Century – our picture a fortnight ago from 1931 showed it in fine fettle.

It did all but disappear in the 1970s, but there do now appear to be a collection of vine-like twigs creeping hopefully up it, and former mayor John Coulson is, quite rightly, trying to get a Tree Preservation Order placed on them before the Rutson is redeveloped.

February 25, 1967

“AS the figure of Cornel Wilde fades in the final moments of The Naked Prey at the Regent Cinema, Thirsk, late on Saturday night, Mr Tom Kidd, standing in the shadows, will draw the final curtain as Thirsk loses a well liked place of pleasure,” said the D&S Times 50 years ago. “For him, as for hundreds of other people, it will be a moment of pleasant memories, and regret.”

The Regent opened in about 1935, although it had a complicated beginning. It had been built on top of Mr Green’s pot shop by the businessmen behind the Kino and Gaiety Cinema in Long Street, but they struck a spring which kept filling up the basement.

Then the roof arrived, but did not fit, and so the building stood roofless for several years.

After its closure, the Regent was used as a bingo hall until it was demolished in 2006.

Just a minute’s walk away, noted the D&S in 1967, was the Ritz Cinema, which was managed by Mr Kidd’s wife.

February 23, 1867

EXTRAORDINARY scenes in Northallerton 150 years ago as a crowd of onlookers gathered around the Market Cross to see a sample of butter that had been posted there by the victim of the “butter and lard dodge”.

The D&S said: “It soon became known that Mr Thompson, a dealer in butter from Leeds, had bought about 40lb of what seemed nice butter of a female who regularly attends the market, and on Mr Thompson arriving at Leeds, he found that in the centre of each roll of butter there was ingeniously inserted a beautiful roll of lard, and apparently there was as much lard as butter.”

Mr Thompson is understood to have been the originator of the phrase “I can’t believe it’s not butter”.

Darlington and Stockton Times: IN our Looking Back special (D&S Times, Feb 10), we carried this picture of Richmond Market Place in 1962. Alan Gilpin has kindly been in touch to help us name the shops. From the left, Spencer's stationers, Haywards' shoes, Stabler's newsagen

In our Looking Back special (D&S Times, Feb 10), we carried this picture of Richmond Market Place in 1962. Alan Gilpin has kindly been in touch to help us name the shops. From the left, Spencer's stationers, Haywards' shoes, Stabler's newsagents, CH Hodgson's clothes shop, Timothy White, Taylor's the chemist, Moore's grocers, Spence's hardware, and far right, Burton's the tailors