From the Darlington & Stockton Times of...

September 2, 1967

RIPON CITY COUNCIL was about to decide the fate of the Wakeman’s House, which the D&S Times described as the city’s “13th Century showpiece – the black and white, heavily timbered building in the Market Square”.

The second part of the description is accurate, but the Listed Building schedule suggests that the Wakeman’s House is, in fact, 16th or 17th Century. Still, it is very important – too important, it was argued back in 1967, for it to be allowed to become a retail outlet.

Local historian Douglas Atkinson was leading the fight. The D&S said: “Mr Atkinson considers that if the council decides to let the house as a shop, it might just as well take down the sign at the southern entrance to the city which asks motorists to ‘stay a while amidst its ancient charms’. Apart from the cathedral, he says, the only ancient charm is in fact the Wakeman’s House.”

The post of “wakeman” was created in 866AD when King Alfred the Great visited the city, urged it to be vigilant against Vikings, and presented it with a Royal Charter and a horn. Then he left.

The citizens had a long think about what he had said, and decided that a “wakeman” should stay awake throughout the night to keep them safe. The start of the wakeman’s watch was to be signalled by the blowing of the king’s horn at the Market Cross at 9pm. The wakeman was to be paid via a tax on people’s doors – if your front door faced into the market square or onto a main road, you paid more than if your door was down a back alley. Consequently, people redesigned their houses so their front doors opened into a side ginnell.

The wakeman employed a hornblower, to set the watch, and a couple of constables, to help him keep watch. This quaint system of law and order lasted until 1604 when James I granted Ripon a new charter which brought democracy to the city as the wakeman – the first citizen, or “mayor” – had to be elected annually by 15 of his peers.

Therefore, the last wakeman was Hugh Ripley who was also elected as the first mayor. It is said that he lived in what is now known as the “Wakeman’s House”, although it was probably only a wing of his property.

Since at least the 19th Century, the house had been the premises of all kinds of dealers, and in 1967, an antique dealer was hoping to persuade the council to let him move in. However, Mr Atkinson argued that a café would be a far better use which would complement the house’s little local history museum.

Today, the Wakeman’s House is indeed a tearoom, although the museum closed in 1987. And, of course, while the wakeman is no more, the horn is still blown each evening at 9pm.

September 1, 1917

LEYBURN magistrates were asked to adjudicate over what the D&S Times headlined as “a storm in a tea cup”. Roberta Camabage, of Middleham, was charged with assaulting a neighbour’s son, Ian Campbell, 12, by “throwing water over his face and shoulders”.

There was dispute over whether it was half a teacup of water or a full jug.

There appears to have been a long-standing neighbourly dispute stemming from the use of a communal ashpit, and it had escalated so that young Campbell “had been in the habit of coming on to the doorstep of the Cambages’ house, and in wet weather screwing his boots round on purpose to dirty the step”.

Mrs Cambage admitted throwing the small amount of water on the day in question to deter him. Her solicitor said “it was a storm in a tea cup, and he was sorry to have to waste the time of the Bench over such a trumpery case”.

Mrs Cambage was ordered to pay all the costs of the case.

The same day’s paper also included the claim that “a two-seater runabout electric car” would soon be on the market for £100. The D&S said: “The high price of petrol and the growth of electrical supply stations throughout the country have created an ever-growing demand for electric motor vehicles for both business and pleasure.”

Exactly 100 years on, electric motoring is still an aspiration that is said to be just around the corner.

August 31, 1867

SUMMER events were in full swing. Captain Chaloner had thrown open the doors of Gisborough Hall for a flower show which “caused a great influx of visitors into the town from Darlington and other places”, said the D&S. Among them were Elizabeth Beetham, of Codhill Junction, and her sister, Mrs Law, of Darlington, and James Taylor, a hawker “who refused to give his proper address” when he appeared before the town magistrates charged with “pocketpicking”.

The sisters were standing in Bow Street when Mrs Law “noticed prisoner with his hand in Mrs Beetham’s pocket. Mrs Law immediately struck him in the face, when he turned round and made off, but PC Wilcock coming up at the time gave chase after him, and after a smart run, caught him as he was entering the Apple Garth”.

Capt Chaloner was one of the two magistrates dispensing justice. “The prisoner had nothing to say in his defence, and was therefore committed to Northallerton gaol,” concluded the D&S.

Meanwhile, over at Barningham, on the southern edge of Teesdale,the annual Mechanics’ Institute gala and athletic fete was held. “The weather was exceedingly fine, and more than 2,000 people were present”, said the D&S.

Beyond the human races, there was “the pony race (a quarter of a mile handicap), for the Barningham Cup, which was run for three times, the winner having to come in first twice”. It was won by a grey pony, Saladin, owned by Mr S Milbank, of Barningham Hall.

“The arrangements for the racing were well devised and carried out, and reflect great credit on the committee,” said the D&S Times. “Besides the above racing, there was donkey racing etc. Tea was provided in the large tent of the Barnard Castle Horticultural Society, after tea dancing was started, and continued until about 12 o’clock.”