ON a seasonal cycle ride, we spotted that the Stanwick Arms in Aldbrough St John, between Darlington and Richmond, had joined the long, sad list of closed village pubs. It would be a great loss to the village if it were to disappear forever because it has been its hub since it forcibly became the only pub in Aldbrough in the late 1860s.

This was because of Eleanor, the Dowager Duchess of Northumberland, who was widowed in 1865 by the death of her husband, the Duke of Northumberland. They had lived in Alnwick Castle, but that was now wanted by the new duke, her husband’s cousin, so Eleanor was shipped out to the sticks of Stanwick Hall, a country retreat the family had built about 1740.

Eleanor was a young widow, only 44-years-old, and she would live at Stanwick for 46 years, immersing herself in the lives of the villages around her.

She had a profound effect on Albrough St John. In the 1870s, she enlarged the school and built the post and telegraph office; in the 1880s, she replaced the ford over the beck in the middle of the village with a substantial road bridge; in the 1890s, she built St Paul’s Church.

And when she arrived in 1865, she was disappointed to find the unruly villagers of Aldbrough drinking and carousing in the village’s three pubs throughout the Sabbath day. So she ordered that all three of the pubs should be closed, and she allowed the Stanwick Arms to start up – as long as it only served on six days of the week and that it would remain shut on the Sunday.

More than 150 years later, it appears be closed seven days a week.