From the Darlington & Stockton Times of January 14, 1871

LAST week in this space, we told how, 150 years ago, the region was experiencing its coldest weather for several decades with the Tees frozen 15 inches thick at Barnard Castle.

Of course, after the freeze comes the thaw, and this week in 1871 saw large parts of the region under water.

The most dramatic scenes were again at Barney, where a piece of ice, “perfectly circular, about 50ft in diameter” detached itself at the High Wheel – a whirlpool at the foot of Thorngate which the footbridge goes over – and got trapped there, slowly spinning.

“People gathered on it, amusing themselves by going round and round with the ice upon which they stood,” said the D&S Times.

The real drama began at 8pm on the Friday when much of the river was still covered in a great thickness of ice, but the river beneath it was swelling with meltwater from up the dale. This must have been the Tees bore – a wall of water that rolled down the river in pre-reservoir days.

“The frozen surface of the river heaved under the influence of the rising flood, and was rent in every direction, with a noise and suddenness of a discharge of musketry,” said the D&S. “Enormous pieces of ice were thrown one upon the other, and heaped in picturesque confusion against the pillar of the bridge, the sharp angles glittering in the moonlight.

“At 9 o’clock, there was a further splintering of the ice and then, with a deafening crash, the whole was floated, the masses of ice throwing the foam and spray high into the air as they were hurled over the rocks and swept away in fragments.

“The scene was grand and impressive, and hundreds of people assembled to witness it, and had also the privilege of beholding the eclipse of the moon at the same time.”