From the Darlington & Stockton Times of October 18, 1873: In Barnard Castle 150 years ago, there was growing concern about what should be happening to the town’s sewage, which was all jettisoned into the River Tees.

A dozen miles downstream at Darlington, the Tees Cottage Pumping Station was extracting water – and whatever might be in it – and pumping it into people’s homes for them to drink and bathe in.

The Darlingtonians were becoming increasingly suspicious of the brown-coloured Tees water coming out of their taps, and in the D&S Times’ letters column, Dr JW Eastwood, who was probably in the pay of the Darlington water board, was moved to repeat his assurances that the water was safe.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Tees Cottage Pumping Station

“The colour strikes persons more strongly than any other quality, yet nearly the whole of the peat can be removed by a good filter,” he wrote, endorsing the Atkins Carbon Filter.

“I can only recommend the inhabitants of Teesland towns to filter as much water as possible, and to make every use they can of rain water for domestic purposes.”

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He also said: “The wholesomeness of the water cannot be improved until measures are taken to prevent contamination up the river.”

The same paper 150 years ago also reported on Barney’s Local Board of Health meeting.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The River Tees at Barnard Castle

One speaker thought that because Barney had been dumping its sewage in the river long before the Darlingtonians started drinking the riverwater, “the town had acquired a prior right to the river”.

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Another speaker suggested that the town’s sewage should be spread on a flat field near Abbey Bridge and left to dry, but the chairman said “the first shower of rain that fell would wash the noxious matter into the Tees”.

The meeting must have finished quite gloomily because there were no other suggestions about how the town might clean up its act even though practically everyone knew it had to.

The D&S said: “One and all of the speakers said that the day could not be far distant when the sewage of Barnard Castle would be compelled to be taken to another destination than the Tees.”