TONY SEVERS, of Northallerton, is seeking information on a Spitfire that crashed between Brompton and Northallerton – near the North Northallerton development – on July 27, 1941.

A couple of weeks ago in this space, we told of how Captain Evelyn Sharples, 19, the son of the vicar of Finghall, near Leyburn, had died 100 years when his flying machine had disintegrated over Kent while he was doing aerobatics training.

The same seems to have happened to Sgt Stephen Vavasour-Durrell, 24, who was stationed at Catterick in 1941. He took off at 11.35 on July 27 for some aerobatic practice at 15,000ft, but at 11.47, his starboard wing broke off, and he crashed into the ground near Brompton, killing himself and creating a "reasonable size crater".

From Hampstead in London, he was buried in Catterick. It is believed that his crater was marked by a stone memorial, although this seems to have disappeared. If you have any information on the location, we'd love to hear from you: please email

The next edition of the D&S Times, on August 2, 1941, after Sgt Vavasour-Durrell's death appears not to have mentioned the tragic accident, although it does contain a report of the funeral of Flt Lt Oliver Morrogh-Ryan, 26. He had been killed while on night-flying training when he crashed into The Wrekin, in Shropshire.

Although his home was Dunboyne Castle in Ireland, in 1940 Flt Lt Morrogh-Ryan had married Marguerite, the daughter of the Vaux family who lived at Brettanby Manor, near Barton (between Darlington and Scotch Corner). He was buried in the Catholic cemetery at Brough, near Catterick, and all his Barton family and the Brettanby tenantry attended his funeral, no doubt in sympathy for poor Marguerite who had given birth to his son less than two months earlier.

From the Darlington & Stockton Times of…

February 20, 1968

“IT is a queer place is Bedale,” said Cllr AE Corps at a meeting of Bedale Rural Council, which agreed that a “get tough” policy should be adopted against “rent dodgers”.

The council was hoping to appoint a bailiff with powers to seize tenants’ goods if they fell seriously into arrears.

The meeting heard that of the 43 rent defaulters in Bedale, 16 had paid up in the last month due to the council’s increasingly harsh threats, but that still left more than two dozen who must have been fearing a knock on the door from the new Bedale bailiff.

There was also news that Teesside Airport was “back to normal” two years after its first airline, BKS, had stopped flying. The D&S reported that you could now fly three times weekly to Jersey, and Belfast and Dublin, and twice weekly to Glasgow and the Isle of Man.

Meanwhile at Stokesley, emotions were running high. “It has taken seven long years for the North Riding County Council to build a £¼m road that still leads to nowhere,” began the D&S.

The A172 had been built from Nunthorpe out to the village cricket club – a stretch that is known as Pannierman Lane.

But the rest of the route to Bense Bridge, over the River Leven, was still mired in land ownership issues.

“Many residents despair of ever seeing the costly Stokesley by-pass ever materialising,” said the D&S. “Locally this new road is described as a most expensive piece of official blundering.”

February 17, 1918

TO curb the dangers of drunkenness at a time of war, the Government had shortened the hours that pubs could open, increased tax on alcohol, and had introduced laws like the 1915 No Treating Order which made it illegal to buy another person a drink.

In the D&S of 100 years ago were reports from the “Brewster sessions” which were responsible for licensing public houses in each locality. And each locality was vying to outdo its neighbour in terms of its sobriety.

In Bedale, magistrates serving a population of 12,500 heard that there were 59 licences – one per 212 people – and there had only been five convictions for drunkenness in the previous 12 months (one female).

In Richmond, where the population was 6,817, there were 35 licences – or one per 189, making it the most pubbed place in the area. Yet, even with Catterick camp in its domain, there had been only one conviction for drunkenness compared with 78 in 1916.

In Stokesley, there were 38 licences to keep the population of 8.760 refreshed – or one per 230 people. There had been five convictions for drunkenness (one female) in the past year.

And in Barnard Castle, which covered the Teesdale population of 19,776, there were 71 licences, or one per 278 people. All 11 drinkers convicted of drunkenness in the last year had been men, a fall from the 26 males convicted in 1917.

Possibly in need of a strong drink was the rector of Middleton-in-Teesdale, William Rooker, who had just been declared bankrupt owing £2,000. He was promising to borrow £400 from friends as an immediate down payment and then was offering to pay back £200-a-year, although it would only leave him £229-a-year to live on.

February 15, 1868

LONGEVITY, concluded the D&S 150 years ago, “is most prevalent in districts where the inhabitants are inured to daily labour, and are accustomed to simplicity of diet and regularity of habits, where the pure oxygen air is comparatively uncontaminated, and where the alterations of motion and rest, sleep and watching are habitual”.

It continued: “In other words, that while the hard fare and steady-going industry of a village life conduce to the maintenance of good health and the prolongation of life, the luxury and refinements of a city existence tend to destroy both.”

Coming at last to the point, the paper pointed to Neasham, the village on the outskirts of Darlington on the banks of the Tees, where despite the small population, there were 14 women who had been on the planet for a total of 1,070 years – average 77 – and 13 men boasting a total of 1,076, average 83.

“The oldest male is in his 94th year, and the second, who is in his 92nd, attends to his daily employment with wonderful ardour and vigour,2 said the D&S.

“The majority are neither decrepid nor broken-down, but hale and hearty, and the visitor who passes through the hamlet is pretty certain to meet several of them enjoying their ‘constitutional’, or performing their usual labour.”