August 4, 1917

IT was, noted the D&S Times in its editorial 100 years ago, three years to the day that Britain had entered the Great War, and the paper was able to report that the “greatest battle of the war” had just begun. Of course, back then, the war didn’t have a name – in 1917 terms, it was an offensive in Flanders, near Ypres. Today we know it as the Third Battle of Ypres or, as the armies got bogged down in the quagmire of mud, the Battle of Passchendaele.

“The war this week has reached another of its most critical stages and all the world is breathlessly awaiting the issue of the most tremendous conflict ever waged,” began the D&S report. “It may well be that we have reached the deciding battle of the whole struggle.”

It was, it said, “the greatest effort yet to be put forward by any armies the world has ever known”.

The paper quoted with pride a special correspondent from the Times newspaper, who paid “a well deserved tribute to the gallantry of the Durhams in the great battle now raging outwards from the Ypres salient. The Durhams, he says, had a difficult task in reducing a nest of dugouts in front of the main line of the advance. It was. A dashing piece of work admirably done. Another report says that they won their objective "though almost every officer was hit".

This must refer to the work of the 20th Durham Light Infantry, a Wearside regiment, which had gone over the top at 3.50am on July 31 and after continuous fighting, at nightfall on August 1, had suffered 431 casualties. Almost every officer was indeed hit, including Lt TM Fletcher, from Chester-le-Street, who suffered a head injury before zero hero, but, as his company’s commanders fell, he returned to lead the frontline, with his head bandaged, until he was killed.

The 20th DLI’s war diary notes that it was in the afternoon on July 31 that the rain began, and the D&S carried a report from the Press Association’s man on the muddy battlefield. “When I say that the weather since midday has become worse than it has yet been this week and that the whole of the battle area is a veritable quagmire, I think I have about exhausted the current news,” he wrote. “One shirks even contemplating what existence is like in the lagoons and brimming rivulets which were once shell craters and trenches.”

But the war wasn’t confined to one front. The D&S 100 years ago also carried the news that Lt Ingleby Stuart Jefferson, 24, of Ripon, had been killed when his submarine, C34, had been torpedoed by a German U-boat in the North Sea.

Lt Jefferson, a former Aysgarth School pupil, had passed out from Dartmouth in 1910 and had boarded his first submarine in 1914. In January 1915, he been awarded the Royal Humane Society’s bronze medal for saving a soldier who had fallen into Immingham dock, and in March 1917 had become the youngest submarine commander of the war. Tragically, he lasted only four months at the helm of C34, and only one of his 19-man crew survived the torpedo.

His grandfather had been a canon at Ripon Cathedral, and his father, Dr William Jefferson was for 50 years the city’s Chief Medical Officer. The D&S reported how tributes even from the king and queen in Buckingham Palace had arrived at his parents’ home of North House.

One was from his former commander on HMS Maidstone. It said: “He was quite the best type of officer, universally liked, keen at all games, always cheery whatever turned up and his work was thoroughly well done.

“Instead of the success that I know would have been his, he has been called to give his life for the country. Man can give no more, but I am sure it is not in vain.”

August 5, 1967

BEDALE'S £70,000 telephone exchange was opened 50 years ago, and it seems to have signalled the end of the manual operators.

"Mr James Mason, the chief telephone superintendent, said while they would miss the personal service of the local operators, there would be operators at Darlington to call if needed.

""You've got to do more for yourselves," he advised subscribers,", which sounds a lot like today's improvements where you have to swipe your own goods in order to get out of the supermarket more quickly. But he did point out that "while there were some criticisms of std, it was a lot better than some people made out".

There were 544 lines connected to the new exchange, which had capacity for 800.

The GPO was unable to say when Bedale was first connected to the telepresence network, but the first exchange opened in 1906, with Miss Maud Trotman, the first operator. "We thought she was a magician," reminisced Coun Tom Hall, chairman of Bedale Rural Council.

Elsewhere, Spectator was commenting on the changing face of Darlington town centre. He said that the first stages of the inner ring road had required the clearance of the slums along the banks of the Skerne, and the view from the Market Places area was "a very great improvement on the shabby old half derelict streets which cluttered up that part of the town".

He noted the great holes which had been torn from Northgate through to Commercial Street as the construction of the Queen Street shopping precinct began.

"Perhaps the most spectacular change at the moment is that caused by the demolition of the shop and office properties at the corner of High Row and Bondgate to make way for redevelopment," said Spectator. This was the run of buildings which included the site of the first Dressers stationery shop and also, on the corner, an attractive Pearl Insurance office.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The Pearl Assurance building on the corner of High Row, Darlington – here in 1958 – was demolished 50 years ago, with Spectator hoping something good would replace it. Picture courtesy of Darlington Centre for Local Studies

The Pearl Assurance building on the corner of High Row, Darlington – here in 1958 – was demolished 50 years ago, with Spectator hoping something good would replace it. Picture courtesy of Darlington Centre for Local Studies

"In a sense," continued Spectator, rather dismissively, "Darlington is fortunate in that whatever buildings have to disappear in the process of modernising the town centre, none will be much of a loss architecturally. Most of the town centre is old and indistinguished property, much altered and patched up and in need of complete renewal.

"Whether what we shall get in the place of the old buildings will be any more pleasing to the eye remains to be seen."

Darlington and Stockton Times: The corner of Darlington's High Row and Bondgate today – would Spectator of 1967 have approved?

The corner of Darlington's High Row and Bondgate today – would Spectator of 1967 have approved?

Spectator's remarks are a precursor to the schemes that tried to demolish all of Horsemarket, the Covered Market and Tubwell Row with appalling 1960s concrete and glass boxes – schemes that we're finally thwarted by a public inquiry in 1973.

He must also have been disappointed in the building called Kenneth House, currently occupied by the Santander building society, which replaced the Pearl Insurance building and drags all of High Row down.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

EXACTLY 50 years ago, the D&S Times was perplexed by a new traffic warning sign that had been installed in Eaglescliffe, and everyone that it showed a picture of it to was also “utterly confused” by it.

“Danger! Indian reservation ahead,” it suggested. “Beware – flying tomahawks. Or is it door hinges, or possibly a hammer throwing contest?

“A traffic warden hadn’t a clue and even the police Road Safety Department were hazy.”

It is a most peculiar sign, unlike anything to be seen today.

The D&S explained: “It indicates a continental type of short barrier at a level crossing which covers only half the width of the road and is worked automatically by approaching trains.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: An Edwardian postcard of Barnard Castle School – then known as the North-Eastern County School

An Edwardian postcard of Barnard Castle School – then known as the North-Eastern County School

IN recent weeks in this space, we’ve been talking about the Darlington architects Frederick Clark and William Moscrop who, between 1882 and 1924, built hundreds of buildings in our area.

We were particularly interested in the very distinctive red brick stationery shop they built in about 1890 on the corner of Finkle Street and Richmond Market Place, and they also built in that town the Congregational Church in Dundas Street.

They were responsible for Aysgarth School at Newton-le-Willows and, according to the Listed Buildings schedule, Barnard Castle School.

But Malcolm McCallum has gone back to more contemporary sources which suggest otherwise.

Barney School is, in fact, a “county” school. These were different from the likes of Eton and Harrow, which sons of the upper class attended, as they were aimed at the merchant class – on the original curriculum were hands-on subjects like shopkeeping, engineering drawing, metalwork and "the science of agriculture".

The county school movement had only opened two similar premises, in Devon and Norfolk, when it was attracted to the southern edge of County Durham because it could access local charitable funds. While the school in Barney was being built, its first 74 boarders were educated at Pemberton House which still stands in Middleton St George, and on February 2, 1886, moved over to their new home: the North-Eastern County School.

But who had designed the new premises?

Malcolm says: “The Teesdale Mercury reported on September 8, 1882, that the governors had invited three architects to compete: Messrs Giles and Gough, London; Mr Armfield, Whitby; and Mr Johnson, of Newcastle, and at the meeting of April 10, 1883, those of Mr Johnson were selected.

“In its report of the laying of the foundation stone on November 6, 1883, the Mercury said: "The architect of the buildings is Mr RO Johnson of 3, Arcade, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne; the sole contractor is Mr Joseph Kyle of Barnard Castle and Newcastle upon Tyne.”

Mr Kyle, of course, was also building the Bowes Museum next door, and he had 200 men working on the school.

Malcolm concludes: “Mr Moscrop was certainly the architect of the first science laboratory at the School, the Mercury recording him as such in its report on the luncheon which followed the lab’s opening in November 1900, and he may also have been the architect of the sanatorium and swimming pool, both built between 1890 and 1900.”

LAST week’s D&S included a letter from Judith Rushby of Ripon concerning the murder of 15-year-old pantry boy, Clive Green, at Sutton Hall, Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe, in July 1942 – a report of the incident appeared on our Looking Back Special supplement. The guilty party was a 16-year-old who also worked at the hall. He was not named at the time, due to his age. When he was tried in November 1942 at York Assizes, the D&S described him as being “dull, apathetic and listless” and it was decided that he was unfit to plead. He was sentenced to be detained indefinitely. The documents relating to this case are due to be released on January 1, 2018.