From the Darlington & Stockton Times of July 30, 1871

THERE was a hint in the Darlington & Stockton Times of 150 years ago this week of what would become the greatest society scandal that Teesdale and Bedale has ever seen.

The D&S recorded that William Harry Vane Milbank, son and heir of Sir Frederick Acclom Milbank of Barningham Park, and grandson and heir of Lord Barnard of Raby Castle, was facing bankruptcy, owing £77,070 (about £9m in today’s values) in a case in which the most famous high class prostitute of the day was involved.

The creditor, said the D&S, was Madame Ochsey, “a modiste of Piccadilly” – a modiste was a fashionable milliner – who had supplied Mr Milbank with goods worth £500.

Madame Ochsey’s solicitor said “he believed it would turn out that they were supplied for the use of the notorious Mabel Gray, who was at that time living under the protection of Mr Milbank”.

Mabel Gray, real name Annie King, was a “demimondaine” – a lady living on gifts from her wealthy lover or, in Mabel’s case, lovers. She was stunningly beautiful, the most photographed woman in the country, and Mr Milbank was infatuated with her.

He wanted to marry her, but his horrified father and grandfather had prevented it, so, earlier in 1871, Mr Milbank had married the former wife of the Marquis de Belleroche with whom he was living an extraordinarily expensive life in Paris, funded by his great – enormous – expectations of inheritance in Teesdale and North Yorkshire.

However, he could not escape his from the debts of his London life, although, said his solicitor, he completely denied them. “What has been said in respect of Mabel Gray is utterly incorrect,” said his representative. “I therefore submit, in the first place, that the mode in which this claim is sought to be impugned is perfectly irregular.”

The chief judge in the London Bankruptcy Court agreed to an adjournment to iron out the irregularities, but the whole area must have been agog.

In due course, Mr Milbank was forced to accept the debts. So dissolute was his lifestyle, that his grandfather spent £1m on legal fees to disinherit him although when he died, aged 42 in Switzerland of morphine addiction, he had accidentally managed to lose the Thorp Perrow estate near Bedale.