From the Darlington & Stockton Times of November 19, 1921

“IT has to be,” said Mr John Hildyard 100 years ago to a packed schoolroom in Lovesome Hill, to the north of Northallerton. “With the change and the new order, it has been apparent to me for many years, and the time comes when a decision has to be made. Times have greatly changed.”

He was standing in the schoolroom his father had built and in front of the people who, for 50 years, had been his family’s tenants.

But now, he was telling them, he had sold Hutton Bonville Hall, and St Lawrence’s Church beside it, and was moving on. His father, also John, who was a lawyer from Weardale, had bought the Hutton Bonville estate, which straddled the East Coast Main Line, for Sir Henry Beresford-Peirse of Bedale, in 1874.

“It was always difficult to make ends meet,” said the son. “Then came the war, and after it the heavy taxation.”

This was a sign of the changes society was facing after the First World War as the days of the great country estate, headed by a paternalistic lord of the manor, came to an end.

The Spectator column said: “The old order changeth – one fears, not always for the better. Certainly the snapping of the links that bound the Hildyards to Hutton Bonville will be regretted as an irreparable loss to the whole district.”

St Lawrences Church in Hutton Bonville in 2005

St Lawrence's Church in Hutton Bonville in 2005

The people of the area seemed to think so. Although many of the farmers had bought their land from the estate, forcing them to become their own bosses, they had arranged the event in the schoolroom to say their goodbyes. They presented Mr Hildyard with an album full of letters, notes and photos of appreciation, and three solid silver loving cups, the tallest of which was inscribed: “Presented to JA Hildyard Esq JP DL by past and present tenants of Hutton Bonville estate as a token of esteem during many years of kindly association and friendship, November 1921.”

It marked an immense change for the estate, whose lord of the manor could be traced back to the Norman Conquest. For 200 years, it had been the seat of the Peirses, 17 of whom were buried in a vault in the 11th Century church.

Mr Hildyard radically rebuilt the church in 1896, so that little of its medieval past remained, in memory of his father.

Without a traditional lord, Hutton Bonville Hall fell into decline and was demolished in 1962, leaving only its gateposts, and the isolated church was declared redundant in 2007. In 2020, it was taken on by the Friends of Friendless Churches and now it stands, on a quiet rise at the end of a long lane, overlooking the main line, wondering where its days of usefulness have gone.