From the Darlington & Stockton Times of... September 5, 1868

A LONG column was devoted to news of a dinner held at Forcett Hall to celebrate the “coming of age of Mr John Michell Jun”.

Forcett Hall is a property with ancient roots and a grand gatehouse which must intrigue everyone who passes through this dot of a village between Richmond and Darlington. The original hall was Elizabethan, and built on some of the lumps and bumps of the famous Iron Age settlement of Stanwick St John. That hall burned down in 1726 and was replaced by the existing structure which was designed by Daniel Garrett, who worked at Castle Howard and who is best known in our area for building Culloden Tower overlooking Richmond in 1746.

The Michell family owned Forcett Hall from 1785 to 1938, and 150 years ago were celebrating the coming of age of their eldest son. And boy did they celebrate.

On the Wednesday night, 150 people, including estate tenants, local militiamen and top friends of the family like Sir William Ffolkes, dined in a marquee on the lawns by the lake.

“The day was brilliantly fine; the usually quiet little village of Forcett was in great excitement,” said the D&S. “The church bells were ringing, flags were displayed in all available places, the entrance of the park was decked with flags and evergreens, and all seemed anxious to testify their esteem and attachment to Mr Michell and his family.

There were toasts and speeches, including a few self-effacing words from the young man himself, and one of the speakers pointed out that at that very moment, the tenants on the Michells’ Aberdeenshire estate were enjoying similar festivities “and perhaps at that very time drinking with all their heart the hearth of the young laird of Glassel”.

At Forcett, the following night there was a ball, which was followed on the Friday by an entertainment for “the estate cottagers and children”. The celebrations finished on the Monday with a servants’ ball.

Elsewhere, the D&S reported on the will of the Right Honourable Sarah, Countess of Tyrconnel, of Kiplin Hall, the attractive hall, now a visitor attraction, near Scorton. Sarah had died in January, aged 68, and now the D&S revealed she’d left just under £16,000 (about £1.7m in today’s values, according to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator).

Sarah, “a staunch Protestant”, left her estate to her relative, the Honourable Walter Cecil Talbot, the second son of the late Earl of Shrewsbury.

But there was a proviso – “on condition of his being and continuing a Protestant, and his not marrying a woman not a Protestant, and to his issue male in like manner”.

Over at Guisborough, there was good news of ironstone miner Robert Moore, whose life had been despaired of a couple of months earlier. “A large block of ironstone slipped down upon his foot, completely cutting through the boot, stocking, and foot, as if a large hatchet had done it,” said the D&S. “All the toes were cleanly cut off, except one joint of the great toe.

“The wound is quite healed, and the man says that in another week or two, he will be able to walk without much inconvenience.”

September 8, 1918

NEW housing is a vexed issue in the early 21st Century, and so it was 100 years ago. This week in 1918, the Government sent a planning inspector to Northallerton to discuss its need for new houses.

The local council said that the area needed 100 new homes, with places like Brompton and Romanby requiring “three or four”, and Kirkby Sigston and Birkby one each, but private house-building had collapsed.

However, there was a feeling that the end of the war was in sight, and the inspector was trying to persuade local councils to adopt a forthcoming Government scheme whereby central government paid 75 per cent of the cost of new houses and the council raised the remaining 25 per cent.

William Shout, of the Northallerton urban council, said “the scheme was very good, nice and desirable if we are catering for the settled inhabitants of the district alone, but it was not desirable if we do it for an influx of people from the cities and towns… Outside people now come into the district and take cottages for their own convenience, leaving the worst houses for those who have to live in the district.”

Today, this sounds like second home-owners stealing the most picturesque properties, but 100 years ago there were other causes.

The D&S said: “Dr Hutchinson said that from places like Hartlepool, threatened with enemy attack from the sea, people had come to Brompton and occupied houses, and the inhabitants had been thrust out. Three visitors were also at Appleton Wiske and Osmotherley.”

The urban council was miffed that the county council had allowed non-residential development at the south end of the town near the railway station – county hall, the Wensleydale Milk Supply depot, the police station and, most recently, “a pump factory” had all been built on the prime land.

As Northallerton didn’t have a tram system, it was said that “there was no demand for houses at the north end of the town as it was too far from the railway station, and a railway crossing stopped the traffic”.

A century later, the north end of Northallerton is being carpeted with houses – although a railway crossing still stops the traffic.

In other news, the D&S reported that a postcard had been delivered to an address in Upsall, Thirsk, having been posted in Loftus on January 1, 1907. The paper worked out it had “taken 11 years and eight months in doing the 37 miles between the two places”.

September 7, 1968

SAD news for the villages around Great Smeaton as postlady Miss “Daisy” Thwaites, 68, had died “when her red Post Office bicycle was involved in collision with a heavy lorry on the Darlington to Northallerton road, not far from the junction with the Entercommon road.

“She had been delivering mail to Entercommon families for 53 years.”

The story links two of our favourite overlooked places: Entercommon still has a petrol station beside a derelict toll cottage which we guess dates to the late 18th Century when a gate was put across the road here to collect road users’ fees.

And Miss Daisy lived at Halfway Cottages, which are halfway between Great Smeaton and Hornby and which even today have a large “½” on them, whereas most houses have a more conventional whole number.

“Her frail, bespectacled figure was deceptive,” said the D&S. “Over the years she battled through the harshest weather over rough farm tracks, some of them over a mile long, and always the mail was delivered. It is estimated that Daisy Thwaites must have pedalled almost 200,000 miles on her Post Office bicycle doing the job she loved and lived for.

“She had never thought of retirement.”

Stanley Kirby, Northallerton headpostmaster, said she had joined as an auxiliary postwoman in November 1915. “We are used to long service in the GPO but I think this is even exceptional,” he said.

There was another shock death at Northallerton hospital where Stephen Nuttall, 18, of Little Ings, Hawes, died of “toxaemia gas gangrene” caused by a deep wound sustained when he fell on a pair of sheep shearing shears.

A pathologist told the inquest that the cause “is very rare indeed in civilian casualties, and is associated with war time casualties where metal penetrated deep into a wound”.

Finally, Richmond Meet had been characterised by “the most unseemly behaviour ever witnessed” at the castle.

For 60 years, the castle had been a part of the Whit Monday Meet, but so appalling was the behaviour that the Ministry of Works was withdrawing access to the meet-goers.

It said that in 1966 “such scant regard for the accepted standards of behaviour that the monument was left as a complete shambles and it took three men approximately two days to clear up”.

And 1968, said the ministry, had seen “the most unseemly behaviour that has ever been witness at Richmond Castle”. As Richmond Castle was begun in 1071, this once-in-a-millennium behaviour must have been incredibly unseemly.

“The event was insufficiently organised and supervised with the result that the meeting degenerated into wanton rowdyism and a general free-for-all,” said the ministry.

Whatever could have gone on?