Thirteen places in the North East and North Yorkshire were added to Historic England’s Heritage At Risk Register last week.

These included four sections of the trackbed in south Durham of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, although it is hoped that the current improvement works will ensure these are removed in time for the bicentenary celebrations in 2025.

Most of the new additions are ancient, earthen sites in remote parts of Northumberland, although between Guisborough and Eston Nab on the edge of the Cleveland Hills, a Bronze Age bowl barrow has been included on the register.

There are about 10,000 bowl barrows across the country, and they are funeral monuments and burial places. Like this one, which is described as being near High Court Green, many of them are at risk of being ploughed out.

Darlington and Stockton Times: How Eston Nab Bronze Age settlement may have looked in 700BC in a painting by Andrew Hutchinson

What makes this one so interesting is its context: there is at least one other bowl barrow nearby and, right on the cliff edge overlooking the panorama of Teesside, is the hills’ only Iron Age hillfort, so man has been living up here for millennia – worked Mesolithic flints, perhaps from 6000BC, have been found in the area.

The Eston Nab hillfort – the word “nab” comes from the Saxon “cnaep” meaning “summit of a hill” – was probably inhabited around 700BC. It is 794ft (242 metres) above sea level, and its lofty location provides a fabulous look-out over the Tees saltplains and the North Sea below (it is, though, in the shadow of Roseberry Topping, which is 1,050ft, or 320 metres, above sea level).

Darlington and Stockton Times: The look-out tower at Eston Nab in 1956, just before it was demolished

Indeed, the nab is such a good look-out location that at the start of the 19th Century, when fear of a French invasion led by Napoleon Bonaparte so gripped the nation that the people of Hartlepool mistook a monkey for a foreign spy and hanged it, farmer Thomas Jackson, of Lackenby, built a sandstone beacon tower inside the hillfort so he could get early warning if there were an armada swarming off Redcar.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Charity runners go past the tower in the Eston Nab Iron Age hillfort

His beacon became a house for early ironstone miners, and it was pulled down in 1956 although some of its stones were used to create the existing tower which is such a landmark for Clevelanders.

The bowl barrow is part of this wealth of history on top of the nab, suggesting that this lofty location was the place to be about 3,000 years ago.

Five places were removed from the Heritage at Risk Register, including Sockburn’s ancient All Saints church.

Sockburn is a fabulous, if secluded, loop of the River Tees near Neasham, on the outskirts of Darlington. It must once have been the capital of Christianity in the North East, as Higbald was crowned Bishop of Lindsfarne there in 780 and Eanbald was made Archbishop of York there in 796.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Sockburn Hall Research Department Report.
Sockburn Hall, Darlington. Darlington Borough. NGR 3503 0705.
Exterior of church, view from north east.

The Norman church was built on top of a monastery and it used to contain the finest collection of Viking Age sculpted stones in the country. It had intricately decorated gravemarkers from the 9th and 10th centuries, which featured depictions from Scandinavian myths and runic inscriptions.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Sockburn Hall Research Department Report.
Sockburn Hall, Darlington. Darlington Borough. NGR 3503 0705.
Stone carved artifact from church.

It was, of course, in this secluded loop that the Sockburn Worm – a fire-breathing dragon – once took up residence until the local people were freed from its tyranny by brave Sir John Conyers who ran it through with a massive sword which is presented to a new bishop of Durham when he enters his diocese for the first time. It was probably this story which inspired Lewis Carroll to create the Jabberwock in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Sockburn Hall Research Department Report.
Sockburn Hall, Darlington. Darlington Borough. NGR 3503 0705.
Stone carved artifact from church.

In the last 30 years, the loop has had a chequered history, with its 1834 manor house becoming uninhabitable and dogs kept on the site in ''sickening conditions'' as they became too much for their elderly owners, who had been judges at Crufts.

Darlington and Stockton Times: 6 sockburn 1927.

Amid this degradation, Sockburn church was placed on the At Risk register in 1999. Historic England has since funded repairs but in 2016, three Viking stones were stolen from it. Two were recovered from the river.

This concentrated minds, and in 2021 all the stones were taken to Durham Cathedral where they are now in the permanent collection, along with the massive falchion which slew the Sockburn Worm.

The 200-year-old manor house has also been restored by its new private owner. It is the most modern of three or four mansions that lie beneath grassy mounds surrounding the church. There’s the remains of an old bridge over the Tees, and there’s a massive boulder under which the last entrails of the dreaded dragon are said to be buried – it is a magical, and secluded, place which is no longer at risk.