Stalwart men from rural Marwood

Miners strong from distant Harwood

Troops from Staindrop merrily come

Marching lightly to the beat of the drum

And stoutly with the foe will cope,

Old Boldron, Gilmonby and Hope,

Startford and Bowes with lion heart

Will firmly act their lion heart.

IN February 1804, a beacon blazed high on Langley Fell above Barnard Castle so that all Teesdale was aware that Napoleon Bonaparte and the feared French had invaded and now was the time to send brave young men and boys to defend the dale.

And, as this performance poem shows, every community in every remote cranny rallied and sent their youth marching into Barney to see off Boney. Indeed, the poem is practically an A to Z of all the scattered settlements in the dale, and it features, appropriately, in a new book, A-Z of Barnard Castle & Teesdale, which is published today and officially launched next Saturday.

So we’ve picked three letters between A and Z – beginning, middlish and end – to see what the book tells us.

A is for Architecture

NEAR the foot of The Bank are three very different shop fronts: a low, blue bow window of an art gallery; a classic Victorian plate glass front of a hardware store and then, across the entrance of Wycliffe Chapel Yard is a window filled with discreet blinds behind which works a “profit improvement expert”.

But look up, and you see this is one building – made of substantial stone blocks, with grand architraves around the windows and dormers jutting boldly out of the eaves. This was once a manor house, the home of the Shuttleworths who were appointed by Sir Henry Vane of Raby Castle to oversee the dismantling of the castle.

Inside is a fireplace dated 1621, and on a lintel is the same date and the initials MS and AS – probably the Shuttleworths charged with the dismantling.

Their manor house was split into three in the 1750s, with a part of it becoming the Punchbowl inn.

The Old Manor House at the bottom of the bank in Barnard Castle

The Old Manor House at the bottom of the bank in Barnard Castle

Everyone knows the architecture of Blagraves a little further up The Bank – this ancient treasure has four quirky musicians in its stonework and a tunnel in its cellar that leads to Egglestone Abbey – but between Blagraves and the Old Manor House is an elegant building, now a guesthouse.

It has “RD 1742” written over its front door, and it was built as a pub – originally, known as the Hat and Feathers but by the time it closed in 1955, it was The Shoulder of Mutton.

But it is known locally as the Bucket of Blood.

This was because the landlord once lowered a pail down his well, expecting to draw up some fresh water, but instead he pulled up a bucket of blood.

This naturally concerned him, and on investigation, he discovered a regular had toppled down the well and died.

The Bucket of Blood is now said to be haunted – perhaps, ding dong bell, by the customer who fell down the well.

A to Z of Barnard Castle & Teesdale is published today

A to Z of Barnard Castle & Teesdale is published today

G is for Gallows

GALGATE is the broad street that runs into Horse Market and it is said that here, on the gallows, the town’s miscreants were hanged.

Trials were held in the castle, and the felon was executed outside – perhaps at a place called Cripple Hill, which has now been lost.

Executions were held in Barney until the “26th year of King Henry VIII” – which would be about 1535. Trials, and hangings, were then concentrated on Durham so that the judges didn’t have the bother of coming out to Barney.

Up on the A66, near its summit near Boldron – and so quite near the bink – is an old road called Gallow Hill. This may have been the location of another gallows, or gibbet, designed to warn travellers to stay on the straight and narrow.

Y is for the Young Volunteers

IN February 1804, nearly 1,200 young men of Teesdale answered the alarm sent out by the burning beacon and mustered in the Market Place in Barney, ready to see off the French. It was such an impressive turn-out that a long poem, recording their arrival from all corners of the dale, was performed in the Old Moot Hall later that month by Mr Prudah, of Deepdale Mill.

It was impressive, because the population of Barney in 1801 was only 2,966.

However, Napoleon had not invaded. The beacon had been lit by accident. There was not a single Frenchman in sight, not even a monkey.

“The false alarm did not worry the volunteers as, with great relish, they took to the inns and taverns of Barnard Castle instead,” say the authors of the new A to Z of Teesdale, Andrew Graham Stables and Gary David Marshall.

Their alphabetical romp through the dale’s history is published on Friday, May 21, by Amberley for £15.99, and on Saturday, May 29, from 7pm to 9pm, they will be signing copies and discussing their stories over a glass of wine and nibbles at McNabs Books in the Market Place. All are welcome.