From the Darlington & Stockton Times of... November 4, 1967

TIME might march on, but some headlines remain the same. “Village meeting vote against possible 2,000 houses plan”, said the D&S Times of 50 years ago this week.

The village in question was Thornton-le-Moor, midway between Northallerton and Thirsk, where farmers Austin and Howard Bosomworth were seeking outline planning permission to build on 170 acres of their land. The farmers did not attend the meeting because, according to their agent, “there was really no point…because they understood…they would have been permitted only to state their case and not to have taken part in any debate”.

The agent then stated that with new factories employing up to 800 people being constructed in north Northallerton, there was a need for more houses locally and that Thornton-le-Street was “admirably situated”.

The public meeting in the village school voted by 50-1 to object to the planning application.

The D&S finished: “The village meeting decided unanimously that while it has no objections to its debate being reported in the press, it would prefer that the names of the speakers were not printed.”

The D&S also reported that rainfall records from Burtersett Weather Station, near Hwaes, showed that October 1967 had been the wettest October for generations. It said that 16.16 inches had fallen in comparison with 4.24 inches in October 1966, which had been about average. It had rained on 28 days out of the 31 in the month.

November 3, 1917

AN inquiry was held at Hipswell into the death of a member of the Royal Flying Corps whom the D&S called “Lt H Pierce Stuttgart” “who was killed whilst flying in the vicinity of North Cowton” five days earlier.

The unfortunate flier’s proper name appears to have been 2nd Lt Harold Pierce Stuttard who is now buried in Whitworth Cemetery near Rochdale in Lancashire – Whitworth presumably was his home.

One of his colleagues told the inquiry that he had been flying alongside Lt Stuttard, 21, for about 20 minutes when they plunged into clouds.

“On his emerging from them in about three minutes, witness noticed that his machine was spinning downwards, which it continued to do until it crashed to the ground near Pepper Arden,” said the D&S.

Lt Stuttard’s commanding officer, Major Smith, said he “was a good pilot and a man of good sense, who was sufficiently trained in the use of the machine, which was of a type that had done excellent service in France”, said the report.

“In his opinion, deceased had lost control of his machine while passing through the clouds and in trying to right himself had set the machine spinning by some too quick movement, such as trying to pull too quickly.”

The Commonwealth War Graves website reveals that Lt Stuttard’s brother, Flight Corporal Frank Studdard, was killed while serving in the Royal Flying Corps in Basra, which is now part of Iraq.

November 2, 1867

JOHN ANDERSON had called a public meeting in the new seaside resort of Saltburn-by-the-Sea to discuss his idea to build a “promenade pier” out into the North Sea.

Mr Anderson is a hugely important figure in the history of Saltburn. He came from Norton, near Stockton, and engineered the railway which connected the Saltburn clifftops to Redcar and Middlesbrough in 1861. He immediately saw the potential of the place and bought the most prominent clifftop from Lord Zetland. On it, to the designs of Darlington architect John Ross, he built the palatial terrace of townhouses – Marine Parade – that still dominates the town and the beach.

The terrace ended in the Alexandra Hotel, which Mr Anderson owned and in which he held his public meeting.

Around the walls, Mr Anderson hung drawings of his proposed £6,000 pier: 1,500ft long, 20ft broad, made of iron and timber, with six small refreshment shops halfway along and “a grand saloon” at the end, 70ft by 50ft.

“A long discussion arose as to the probable success of the undertaking, the revenue likely to accrue therefrom and other etceteras,” said the D&S 150 years ago. “There appeared to be but one feeling in the meeting, and that was one of gratification that the scheme had been contemplated, and certainty of its being carried out.”

The meeting agreed to form the Saltburn-by-the-Sea Pier Company Limited which would have 1,500 shares at £5 each. “In a very few minutes, a trifle under £2,000 was subscribed,” said the D&S.

Mr Anderson didn’t hang about: the first pile for his pier was sunk on December 30 and it was opened in May 1869.

Elsewhere 150 years ago, the entertainment halls were full of people listening to curious lectures. At Richmond Town Hall, Mr Burns, from London, had enjoyed a week-long run talking about phrenology. Phrenology was a fashionable concept that said that the lumps on top of a human skull were indicative of the character of the person inside the skull – if you had a bump, say, behind your left ear it meant you had a devious character.

Mr Burns, said the D&S, was playing in Richmond to “large assemblies who evidently were well satisfied with the gentleman’s abilities”.

Meanwhile in Darlington, a chap called Parallax had run a series of lectures at the Mechanics Institute insisting that the earth was flat. Parallax had been touring the country with these lectures for at least 20 years, insisting that the earth “does not move, and that the sun revolves round it at a distance of about 2,500 miles”.

The D&S said: “His extraordinary doctrines have excited some attention, as he makes it his duty to endeavour to overthrow every theory connected with the Newtonian philosophy, which is almost universally believed in by scientific men.”

At the other end of the social scale, the D&S carried news that Darlington’s head banker, Edmund Backhouse, had finished six months of work on his home at Middleton Lodge in Middleton Tyas.

The lodge, which is now a hotel and wedding venue, was built in 1780 but Mr Backhouse had had Darlington’s finest architect, GG Hoskins, extend and restore it. With work complete, Mr Hoskins was guest of an honour at a dinner given for the workmen.

“The rooms in which the dinner was held were beautifully adorned by monograms, laurel wreaths, flowers and words of welcome, as well as reminders that ‘none but the brave deserve the fare’,” said the D&S. “But perhaps the most agreeable ornament was the table heavily laden with viands both substantial and luxurious, and of which the 100 persons who sat down showed their appreciation in a most unmistakeable manner.”

After speeches and toasts, the D&S said that “dancing, songs, recitations formed an agreeable entertainment which terminated at a late hour in a most satisfactory manner”.

THE 2,000 houses planned for Thornton-le-Moor in 1967 appear not to have gone ahead – in the 2011 census, the village population was just 383.

So it remains an attractive little place with one of the most curious addresses anywhere in the area: Thiefhole Lane. This street name becomes even more delightful when you learn that there is a former police house in Thiefhole Lane.

We are indebted to Ian Woods, who lives in the village, for providing two theories about the derivation of “Thiefhole”.

Number 1: The A168, beside which the village sites, is a Roman road and there is still a thicket of trees at the top of Thiefhole Lane. Apparently here, thieves holed up, waiting to rob passing travellers.

Number 2: In medieval times, gibbets were erected at prominent roadside locations in the manner of a billboard today. The sight of a criminal’s corpse swinging in the breeze was meant to advertise to all travellers that a life of crime did not pay.

The corpse usually hung around for weeks on the gallows to make sure the message got through. When it was eventually cut down, the criminal’s family could take it away for burial – if they could be bothered, if they existed, or if they had the money.

If the corpse was unclaimed, it would be rolled into a nearby hole to rot away – a thiefhole.

MANY thanks for all the correspondence about our vintage vehicle in Skeeby. We shall try and come back with a definitive answer next week. If you have any comments or anything to add to today’s Looking Back, please email