From the Darlington & Stockton Times of…

January 4, 1868

THE event of the season 150 years ago appears to have been the Hurworth Hunt Ball held at the Croft Spa Hotel on Boxing Day, where the landlady, Mrs Winteringham, had been spent the previous weeks decorating the rooms in readiness.

“The decorations of the ballroom comprised a border round the walls, of the Greek key pattern, in evergreens, over which, at intervals, were gracefully-formed vases filled with tastefully-arranged flowers,” said the D&S Times. “Alternating with these were brackets, each comprising three gas burners, in addition to an array of chandeliers depending from the ceiling, together affording abundant light for the effective display of the elegant and varied toilets.”

Dancing began at 10pm, to the music of Mr Woodhams’ popular band, with Col Scurfield, of Hurworth House, and Mrs Wilston Todd, of Halnaby Hall, leading off the first dance. The D&S was so taken by the proceedings, it published a list of all the dances.

At midnight, the 120 guests sat down to supper. “Here it would not be fair to the hostess to pass by the viands without enumerating a few of the many appropriate and elegant dishes provided,” said the paper of record. “Amongst them were a variety of forms and sizes of most skilfully designed game pies (the largest of which could not weigh less than 20lbs), a boar’s head, pates (sweet and savoury), jellies, truffles, bon-bons etc, all tastefully relieved by fruit and flowers.

“After heartily partaking of the sumptuous repast, dancing was resumed with renewed animation, and continued long into the succeeding day.”

Mr Woodhams’ band also played at the Barnard Castle Catholic tea party, held in the Music Hall on December 30. “The programme was appropriately drawn up and a very pleasant evening was spent,” said the D&S. “The tea was of a sumptuous character, and in every way creditable to the ladies who so liberally provided it.”

Meanwhile, over in Guisborough, on New Year’s Eve 150 years ago a lecture on “the best means of reforming the drunkard” was delivered in the Mechanics Institute by the Rev J Warne.

“The attendance was very good considering the fact that numbers of friends of the temperance cause were engaged as singing parties, connected with various churches, perambulating the town,” said the D&S.

January 5, 1918

“IT is with feelings of pride that the people of Darlington learned on New Year’s Day that another honour had come to the town, and that Mr Thomas Putnam, managing director of Darlington Forge, had been singled out for a knighthood,” began the D&S Times of 100 years ago.

The Forge had begun on Albert Hill in 1845 to make forgings for locomotives, and in 1860 Sir Thomas’ father, William, had moved from Carlisle to take charge of it.

Sir Thomas was born in Darlington in 1862, and had followed his father into the forge. The two of them skilfully moved the business away from railways and into shipping, perhaps most famously in 1909 making the supersize rudder and stern frame for the largest liner on the planet that Cunard was building in Belfast – it was, of course, the Titanic, and these Darlington-made pieces now lie at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

During the war, the Forge employed 1,300 men – the town’s second largest employer – who were making munitions.

As 1918 dawned, Sir Thomas, who lived at Greylands in Coniscliffe Road which is now the home of Clive Owen accountants, was involved in important war work with the Admiralty in London and in many servicemen’s charities in Darlington.

Sir Thomas declined to serve on Darlington council, although he took a keen interest in many of the town’s other affairs – for instance, he was chairman of the cricket club for many years.

It can surely be no coincidence that in late 1918 when football was restarting after the year, seven North-East clubs, including Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Durham and Hartlepools, were commencing a Victory League, but Darlington FC were so in debt they couldn’t be resurrected. Therefore, the name of Darlington Forge Albion was entered into the league and this humble works team paid the almost bankrupt cricket club £500 for the “goodwill of football on Feethams” so that it could play on the ground which Darlington FC had graced since 1883.

It looks like Sir Thomas was the unseen guiding hand who used the forge’s works team to bale out the cricket club and to ensure that Darlington still had a worthwhile football team.

Sir Thomas remained in charge of the forge until it was mothballed and then nationalised in 1932, and he died four years later.

Also 100 years ago, the D&S reported that an honour of a different kind – a Military Cross – had been awarded to Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) George Dudley Gardner, the son of a Northallerton solicitor.

Lt Gardner had been studying law at Leeds when war broke out and had joined the Yorkshire Regiment, but in 1915 he’d transferred to the Royal Flying Corps.

“As an airman, he has found a sphere of adventurous daring suited to his temperament,” said the D&S.

Lt Gardner received the award for his brave work in Egypt and Macedonia. More astonishing, this pioneer aviator appears to have survived the war.

January 6, 1968

“Car parking may kill Ripon’s chief tourist attraction”, said a headline in the D&S of 50 years ago as the Hornblower Cyril Hawley resigned and the council was struggling to find a replacement.

“Mr Hawley blew his last blast and hung up his fawn uniform coat and black tricorne hat with great regret, for his resignation has severed a long family link with the job which his father held before him,” said the D&S.

“He commented: ‘I am sick of trying to maintain the dignity of the job against motorists who will park close to the market cross in spite of the parking restriction signs’.”

The D&S said: “For a long time he has been campaigning for enough space around the market cross in which the crowds of sightseers can gather to hear him tell the history of this old custom of blowing the horn, space which has been denied him by the increasingly heavy car parking on the square. On many occasions he has had to scramble around or over vehicles to reach the points where he has to blow the horn.

“It is a controversy which has earned space in newspapers in America, Europe and the Far East, but one to which the city council has failed to find a solution.”

The hornblower dates back to 886AD, but no one had applied to fill the vacancy left by Mr Hawley.

“‘If we can’t get anyone, the custom will have to fall into disuse,’ said the Town Clerk, Mr Arthur Berry.”

Ripon, though, was having trouble 50 years ago recruiting bodies to its historic positions. “In answer to many queries as to why the bells of Ripon Cathedral failed to ring out the old year and herald in the new, bellringer Mr Ted Hudson said: ‘It’s simply because we had not enough ringers to do it’.”

In other parts of North Yorkshire, there was more seasonal good will. “Before Masham Rural district Council began its monthly meeting, the chairman, Cllr ES Bulmer, following the custom of previous chairmen, presented each member with a cigar, including the Press reporters,” noted the D&S.

The first item on the agenda was to approve pay rises of seven per cent for the council’s chief officers.