From the Darlington & Stockton Times of...

April 11, 1868

NOWADAYS, we just think of horse-racing taking place at the established courses of Catterick, Sedgefield and Redcar, but in days gone by, practically every town or village had its own racecourse.

So 150 years ago this week, the annual Sadberge Steeplechase was held in the small village on the outskirts of Darlington.

“Numbers of persons interested in sporting events were seen on their way from Darlington towards the scene of the steeplechases, either taking advantage of the numerous descriptions of vehicles which left the town, or enjoying the benefits of a four mile walk,” said the D&S, suggesting that quite a crowd gathered.

The horses were to race twice round the 1.5 mile course. “It comprises nine leaps, one of which, near a place called White Waters, is apparently not entirely devoid of danger,” said the D&S.

The main event of the day was the Hunters’ Stakes, with a first prize of £25, for horses which regularly hunted with foxhounds.

There appeared to be five entrants.

“Although Whitesmocks was walked about in the ring as if with the intention of making her one of the competitors, this was all the part she took in the proceedings,” said the D&S. “No sooner did it become known that she was not to start than Topsey held undisputed possession of public approval.”

She set off as 6-4 favourite in front of Bob Brunton (3-1) and The Colonel and Yeoman (both 5-1), and she soon hit the front.

“Maintaining a good lead, she went gaily along till the water leap was to be faced, and here a refusal threw her into a line with Bob Brunton and placed Yeoman in front,” said the D&S. “The Colonel had bolted at the second fence and never had a chance afterwards.”

Yeoman, though, was soon outpaced as Topsey and Bob Brunton tore across the bean fields. At the dreaded White Waters for the second time, they both refused, but were coaxed over for the chase for home.

“A fine race followed, every nerve being strained by the two animals and their riders to gain a victory,” said the D&S. Topsey appears to have been ridden by her owner, John Harrison, and Bob Brunton was owned by J Thompson and ridden by Mr Leng.

Recounting the final stages, the D&S offers a morsel which suggests that the Sadberge Racecourse was more than just a gathering in a field. “Nearing the stand for the last time, Bob Brunton here made a tremendous effort and succeeded in passing the favourite when about 100 yards from home,” said the paper. “It was an exciting race, and the cries of the partisans grew loud and vehement.

“In taking the last fence, Bob Brunton stumbled, and the game was decided; Topsey won by about half a length.

“The race was scarcely concluded before the day became overcast and drenching showers of rain succeeded each other in rapid succession.”

April 13, 1918

TWO Ripon farmers appeared in court 100 years ago because his burning of a heather moor had breached the Defence of the Realm Regulations.

PC Flint was in the hamlet of Mickley, near Grewelthorpe, at 11.30pm when he saw a large heather fire on Carlsmoor, some three miles away.

His inquiries led him to farmers William Close and William Umpleby.

Umpleby’s solicitor, Mr FS Gowland, said he “and his forefathers had resided at Carlsmoor for generations, and it was a part of the country where the orders issued by the authorities were not so well know as they were in more populous districts. This practice of burning the heather had prevailed from time immemorial, and the month of March was the only time that it could be successfully carried out.”

He said his client, a man of much heather-burning experience, had set a blaze which he expected to last for two hours, but he had been surprised by a sudden change in the wind direction which caused the flames to spread to the rest of the moor.

The regulation was read to the court which forbade anyone to display a light or burn any fire “in such a manner as to serve as a signal or guide to a landmark”.

The D&S reported: “So far as burning the heather was concerned, Mr Gowland thought the magistrates would agree that it would scarcely be the means of giving any information to the enemy or anyone else.”

The farmers were fined £1 each.

Given the continual modern controversy about people riding bikes on pavements, it may be interesting to note that 100 years ago, the mayor of Ripon, Mr FW Hargrave, said that as chairman of magistrates “he would like to express the opinion of the Bench in regard to a little form of amusement that children seemed to be taking up – the practice of riding what were termed “scooters” on the footpaths. It was a very dangerous business, especially in hilly streets, and the Bench wished to warn all those concerned that they were liable for obstructing the footpaths and the police had instructions to cause the nuisance to cease as quickly as possible.”

April 13, 1968

“COPS can’t catch The Thing, the mysterious invader that has turfed a police sergeant and his family from their home and defies identification by the experts,” said the D&S of 50 years ago. “But what is certain is that the living accommodation at the police station at Wath in North Yorkshire stands empty while top brass and brains of the county constabulary and the health services try to repel an audacious assault on the private lives of the police.

“So bad is the smell in the seven-roomed house that is part of the ancient building that also caters for court, cells and office, that nobody can live there in comfort.”

A little bit of hyperbole from the D&S as the “ancient building” was built in 1872. It contained three cells, a police inspector’s house and a courtroom where petty sessions were held every month.

Sgt James Hamilton told the paper: “It started in a cupboard and gradually spread over the whole house. It is definitely the strong smell of petrol.”

With tears forming in his wife’s eyes, and an inspector warning against lighting any fires due to the density of the fumes, Sgt Hamilton’s family had been forced to move out. The authorities had cleaned out the drains and pulled up the floorboards to try and find the source, without any success.

Over the road, said the D&S, Tom Dodds of the agricultural machinery firm Kay & Backhouse, said the smell was due to “unusual climatic conditions which work on the carbide gas waste which in the past was mixed with lime in the district’s building operations”.

Mr Dodds said: “Carbide waste is probably in the foundations and that is what is causing the smell.”

And he added: “It is definitely not a petrol leak from our 500-gallon tank.”

ANSWER: “Have an affair with a foreign model” was published in the D&S in 1984.