From the Darlington & Stockton Times of March 18, 1871

AT Heighington, to the north of Darlington, the D&S Times reported 150 years ago that two children under the age of 12 “in this usually healthy village” had gone down with smallpox.

“The disease is believed to have been communicated by a member of the family residing at Hartlepool, who is just recovering from an attack of this direful malady, and who, very indiscreetly, came to Heighington,” explained the D&S.

The working men of Richmond had held a meeting calling for Saturday to become a half-day holiday, but they “had met with refusals from a great many” of their employers.

“Still, there were some who appeared reasonable and thought the mechanics had a right to that great boon they have been enjoying most other towns for the last 20 years, and they would give it,” said the paper. “It is to be hoped that it will set an example to the other masters.”

Meanwhile, there was “a somewhat interesting case tried by special jury” at Richmond County Court between Mrs Simpson, of Earby Hall School, near Newsham, who sued Mr Bulman of Hexham for half-a-year’s board and lodgings. Mr Bulman had removed his 14-year-old son from the school after only five days because of the conditions.

The boy “complained that he had old or sour milk and mouldy bread for breakfast, fat bacon and beef with potatoes he was obliged to eat unpeeled to dinner, the mistress stating he should have a stick laid over his back for refusing”, said the D&S.

He had been told he could only have a nightshirt on a Saturday and that he had to wash in dirty water.

The jury decided that Mr Bulman should pay half of the fees, £6 16s 6d.

Twenty-five years earlier, Charles Dickens had visited Bowes and Barnard Castle researching these “Yorkshire schools” – boarding schools in large country farmhouses where pupils, a conveniently long way from their families, were harshly educated – for his 1838 novel Nicholas Nickleby. Perhaps not much had changed.

Earby Hall, which still stands off Dark Lane, had been run as a school since at least 1835.

If you can add to any of today’s topics, please email