From the Darlington & Stockton Times of June 8, 1918

RUMOURS circulating in Richmond 100 years ago that the town council was being defrauded by two of its own councillors had grown so strong that a special meeting was called to quash them.

In the 1820s, Henry Cooke had established a paper mill in a former stocking mill at the west end of Richmond (presumably where Mill Lane is now). This became known as the Whitcliffe Paper Mill, and it thrived so much that 50 or so years later his son, James, converted the derelict cornmill beside the waterfalls into a second paper mill.

However, that was destroyed by flood in January 1883, leaving the Cookes to concentrate on the Whitcliffe mill. However, by the start of the First World War, with the Cookes dying out, the council had taken ownership of the mill and leased it to a new operator.

The new operator failed and put all of the mill gear up for sale. When the matter was put to the councillors on the Finance Committee, who acted as shareholders of the mill building, they decided they did not have the powers to buy the gear – although they knew that their property could be badly damaged if the equipment was taken away.

With the sale date looming, something had to be done, and in stepped two members of the committee, aldermen Robinson and Ringrose, who bought the mill gear privately – and altruistically, according to the D&S, who said their actions had “thus saved an old established business from disappearing from the borough”.

However, before they risked their own money on the purchase, they asked their own committee for a lease on the mill so they could operate the gear. It hurriedly granted a 50 year lease on the mill, which it valued at £7,156, at rent of £100-a-year, the same as the previous tenants.

“A very ugly construction” was put on the deal by the rumour-mongers. They reckoned that the market rate for the rent of the mill, which they valued at £15,000, was at least £300-a-year. They alleged that the aldermen had inspected the property, spotted a “gold-mine”, and had then got to rent it for as little as possible.

The controversy increased when it was discovered that the previous tenant had been paying 25% tax on the rent, whereas the aldermen were only paying £75-a-year with the council covering the £25 tax bill.

These rumours, said the D&S, “reflected very seriously on the honour of the members of the council”.

Ald Robinson said he had acted at all times with the best of intentions for Richmond. “He asked people not to say that he was a defrauder, but to give men credit for being honourable and straightforward, and not to insinuate that they were not, or that they came to the council in a backstairs way and concealed things from it,” said the D&S.

The special meeting of the council was intended to approve an official statement explaining how everything had been above board.

But, said the D&S, “on a vote being taken, the proposal to enter the statement on the minutes was rejected by seven votes to six”. The rumours cannot have been quashed. In fact, they must have been strengthened.

YOU be the judge: two boys, Abraham Ward, 10, and William Barker, 13, were found guilty of sneaking into the manager’s office at the Vale of Mowbray brewery, at Leeming Bar, and stealing three Treasury notes and a postal order from a locked drawer.

Barker was employed as a bottle-washer at the brewery and was paid from a tin locked in the manager’s drawer. It was alleged that he had seen where the money was kept and had removed it by extricating the drawer above the locked one in the desk with the help of his young accomplice.

Barker said he had spent the money on “sweets, a watch and other things”, and his mother found two £1 Treasury notes in his pocket, which she returned.

The ten-year-old said he had received 5s 11d for his part in the heist, and his mother immediately paid back six shillings.

Bedale Police Court, chaired by Sir Henry Beresford-Peirse, sentenced Ward to be bound over for 12 months under the supervision of a probation officer, which may well be fair enough.

But ringleader Barker felt the full wrath of the law. The 13-year-old was “ordered to be sent to a training ship or a reformatory school for three years, his father to pay 2s-a-week towards his maintenance”.

FINALLY from 100 years ago, the D&S reported on the annual meeting of the Darlington Women’s Suffrage Society, which was the town’s leading group that had been successfully agitating for women to get the vote.

It was, of course, the first meeting since the passing of the Representation of the People’s Act which gave the first women the vote.

The meeting was presided over by Clara Curtis Lucas, a renowned suffragist who had become Darlington’s elected female councillor in 1915, and the main address was by Helen Baynes, the Headteacher of Polam Hall school.

“She remarked that it was an historical occasion as they were meeting for the first time as citizens,” said the D&S.

The meeting continued to press for sexual equality. “It was resolved that women t4achers should be paid on the same basis as men, that where women did the same work and had the same qualifications they should be paid at the same rate as men teachers,” said the D&S.

It may be 100 years since women got the vote, but they are still waiting for equal pay.

June 6, 1868

“IN the beautiful dale of Wensley, there is a village called Preston,” said the D&S 150 years ago this week.

It had a population of 430, and was to the west of Leyburn “situated on the north side of the deal, ear an eminence erected by nature, which thoroughly protects it from the chilly blasts of northern winds”. This would be the rock formation which allows the Ordnance Survey map to call the village Preston-under-Scar, and its large population – today’s is about 170 – was made up of many leadminers.

But it was not a healthy village. In fact, in the last three years, there had been about 70 cases of diphtheria, 11 of which had proved fatal.

“Recently, malignant scarlet fever broke out, and has been doing its work,” said the D&S. “Already there have been 12 cases, and seven of those proved fatal.”

Leyburn Board of Guardians had sent three doctors to Preston to investigate.

“Their report points out minutely certain localities where stagnant drains and sludgy filth in pools are producing noxious gases. In some instances, this is oozing through the walls of inhabited dwellings.

“The village has two supplies of water – one at each end of the place. One of these, in its course, skirts a privy, and the water from this well, after standing over night, is said to “stink”.”

The D&S concluded: “The medical gentlemen have pointed out how these accumulated nuisances may be remedied, and the board are taking measures to deal with them.”

THE Tees Valley Railway opened on May 12, 1868, connecting Barnard Castle with Middleton-in-Teesdale, and the D&S reported how large numbers of visitors were arriving daily, including a party of more than 60 ladies and gentlemen from Barney.

They’d hired five coal carts to take them up to High Force. The carts, of course, had been “properly cleaned out” and equipped with seats. “Being pretty well packed, the gay plumage of the ladies was well shaded from the sun, and soon the Yorkshire side of the river echoed with the merry laughter of the excursionists,” said the D&S.

It looks as if the carts had been deliberately placed outside the town to avoid paying toll duties, but this meant they had to travel up the “Hollerwick-road” to Holwick on the south side of the river.

At Holwick, the road ended, and the party got out. “The good folks of the village turned out en masse to witness such a site as they had not seen for years, parties very rarely taking this route to High Force,” said the D&S.

They continued on foot and, says the paper, the outing would have been unremarkable “had it not been for misfortune, which is so apt to occur to parties who act recklessly when away from home.

“Three gay Lotharios, more venturesome than the rest, were endeavouring to become the heroes of the day and thus win the smiles of their fair partners. But oh! horror of horrors, sad to relate, they incautiously stepped too far and with a sudden splash went headlong into the water.”

They were fished out, soaked to the skin. “A fire was lighted in a field close by, which admirably answered the double purpose of drying clothes and boiling the kettle, in true Gipsy fashion, where tea was served up, half-and-half,” concluded the D&S.

June 8, 1968

IN March, we looked back on how, 50 years ago, Cadbury’s was building a factory at Catterick Bridge to make Smash, a newly-invented “instant potato”.

The £1.5m factory was to employ 60 men and 40 women, and it would extract 130m gallons of water a year from the Swale to wash the potatoes before smashing them. But by June, a new problem had come to light.

“What can be done with 3,000 tons of potato peelings?” asked the D&S.

This was going to be the annual by-product of creating Smash.

“Eventually they hope to use them for animal feeding, but first they have to find a way of removing the caustic chemicals used in the peeling process,” said the paper. It is a rather worrying sentence as it appears that the caustic chemicals were not good enough for animals but perfectly fine when mashed in with Smash for humans.

Anyhow, Richmond Rural Council was “trying to help in finding a means of disposal”.