From the Darlington & Stockton Times of September 21, 1968

FIFTY years ago, the D&S reported that the “age-old custom of the First Fruits of the Harvest” ceremony had been performed in Richmond Market Place watched by a large crowd.

Indeed, this age-old ceremony was performed on Saturday, with the grandson of one the men involved in 1968 playing the same role as his grandfather.

First Fruits is effectively a harvest festival, but it is believed to be the only civic harvest festival in the country – every other town has an ecclesiastical harvest festival.

In Richmond, for centuries the mayor, in his capacity of Clerk of the Market, has rewarded the first local farmer who brought to market a “respectable sample” of the new season’s wheat.

Fifty years ago, the farmer was Robert Dowson, of Eppleby. Before he could receive his award, though, the mayor offered the sample to an expert witness – in 1968, Bill Meynell, a corn merchant from Ravensworth – who had to test its respectability.

In 2018, the farmer was Malcolm Metcalfe of Gilling West, and the expert witness was Mark Meynell, a director of Lloyd’s Animal Feeds at Piercebridge, three generations of whose family have been involved in the ceremony since the Second World War.

As in 1968, Mr Meynell accepted the respectability of the crop, and the farmer was asked to give a harvest report. “It’s been better than expected,” said Mr Metcalfe on Saturday, “but not good by any means. The grass and the forage crops have suffered – there will be a lack of feed this winter.”

Said the D&S 50 years ago: “A barrel of beer, sandwiches and sweets had been provided by the mayor for the occasion.” Perhaps austerity still bites, as plastic thimbles of sherry and orange juice were handed around on Saturday as mayor Jonathan Preece toasted the harvest as centuries of mayors have done before him.

The D&S of 50 years ago also reported on the celebrations in Wensleydale where St Matthew’s Church in Leyburn was 100 years old. “At first sight this may appear rather odd, but in fact until 1956, St Matthew’s Leyburn was a chapelry within the parish of Wensley,” explained the D&S.

It continued: “Leyburn itself became a market town in 1684 but weddings, baptisms and funerals were performed at Wensley in what was for a further nearly 200 years the parish church. In 1868, the new church at Leyburn was built and on September 18 of that year, the then Bishop of Ripon consecrated the new building.

“The church was designed by a Mr Christopher George Wray, a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, whose address was in London. The name Wray, it is interesting to note, is a very old Leyburn name, although whether the late Christopher George had any connections with the town other than designing the church is not known.”

The Oxford dictionary of surnames suggests that Wray is a Yorkshire name from an Old Norse word meaning “nook” or “recess”. However, it also says that there are Wrays from Devon, where the name comes from an Old English word “awry”, meaning someone who was a criminal. Indeed, someone called Wrayford would have lived next to a ford where it was legally permissible to drown a wray, or criminal, for his crimes.

Interestingly, last week’s D&S Times reported that a Mr GW Wray had paid for the oak communion rail in 1868, so perhaps the architect did have local connections. Leyburn is the only church in this country the architect designed, although he apparently did some work on St Anne’s in Catterick Village, and he is most noted for his work abroad: he was in the Public Works Department in Calcutta, where he designed a church, and he created the Palace Hotel in Cairo.

September 21, 1918

JAMES and Ann Duffield, of Leeming, had appeared before Bedale Police Court charged with neglecting their three children, aged eight, six and four.

“The male defendant,” said the D&S, “was a steady, hard-working labourer, who generally earned £2 a week, but his wife was a dirty, idle, negligent woman who left her house in a most deplorably filthy condition.

“The children were filthy. The bedding was rotten and filthy and consisted of rags and old clothes… The woman would not get up in the morning and she made no attempt to keep the house clean.”

Mr Duffield claimed he worked from 5am to 6pm and never touched a drop of beer and so couldn’t look after the children.

But the D&S said: “If there had not been such a shortage of labour, the magistrates would have considered sending the male prisoner to gaol. He was responsible and could not get out of his responsibility. If his wife did not do her duty, he should make her.”

Everyone accepted that Mrs Duffield was unwell. “The best thing for her and the children, the magistrates thought, was that she should go to prison for three months’ without hard labour.” The children were taken into the Workhouse and Mr Duffield was ordered to pay 6s-a-week towards their upkeep.

Also in the edition of 100 years ago this week, the D&S reported that “the blackberry crop is of phenomenal abundance”.

“Under the Ministry of Food’s scheme of organised collection, the fruit is being picked by schoolchildren, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides,” reported the D&S of the war-time efforts to make the most of all of Nature’s offerings. “The collectors are being paid at the rate of 3d a pound. There are in each county 100 receiving depots, mostly schools, to which the fruit is brought, and thence despatched to licensed jam-makers free by rail. The jam-makers are to pay 4.5d a pound for their supplies.”

All of which leads us to the word that you don’t hear very often these days: “brummelkites”. Apparently it was North Yorkshire and County Durham dialect for blackberries or brambles, and those born during or just after the Second World War remember it being used…

September 19, 1868

A TRIO of “card sharpers” had been prosecuted in Richmond of illegal gambling. John Hewes and John Robinson had been arrested in a scuffle at the Turf Inn by a couple of constables. Hewes was found with cards on him plus “a raffling box, three dice, an oil cloth, eight glass balls and 3s in money”. The two were sentenced to one month hard labour in Northallerton House of Correction.

Edward Bredley had been arrested while playing on his knees at the racecourse. He too was sentenced to a month’s hard labour, and he pleaded that the 11s that had been found on him – the fruits of his illicit labours – should be sent to his wife and family.

“The justices told him that could not be done,” said the D&S. “The prisoners were all removed, and appeared anything but satisfied with their sentences.”

Meanwhile, a stationmaster on the Tees valley railway had received an anonymous letter from a very anxious man from Baldersdale, pleading with him to search a field for a hat that had been lost out of a train on Wednesday night.

The sober consequences of a high-spirited jape were now being felt…

“thay Are gouing to get to Law About if it is not Fond,” the D&S accurately reported the bumpkin’s writing. “I Will pay Any thing there is to pay that got on of Larking in the carage And the window was open And the men said he did not see…”

The hat had been found, but, said the D&S, as the letter was anonymous it was unknown to whom the hat should be sent to be prevent the law from being involved.