NEXT Saturday, Hurworth Country Fair is held at the Grange community centre in the village, which gives people a chance to wander around a Waterhousian wonder of a wedding present.

As you trip through the country fair’s many stalls and the Viking re-enactors, the horse show, the animal emporium and you marvel at the pig racing and the “live Indian Runner Duck racing”, find a moment to imagine the grounds in their heyday when they were full of hothouses producing exotic fruits and an Alpine garden with its own miniature lake and dark, spooky cave.

The Grange was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, the greatest Gothic architect of the Victorian age.

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Darlington’s Quakers had given young Waterhouse, a Mancunian, his first big break in the early 1860s when they commissioned him to build the covered market complex and the town clock, plus Backhouses bank (now Barclays) which still dominates High Row.

Waterhouse’s career then took off spectacularly. His most famous works are the Natural History Museum in London, Manchester Town Hall, and Eaton Hall, the home of the Duke of Westminster in Cheshire which was the most expensive stately home of the Victorian age.

Waterhouse also designed Rockliffe Hall at Hurworth, now a five-star hotel, for head banker Alfred Backhouse.

Backhouse didn’t have any children of his own, but when his brother died young, he kept an avuncular eye on one of the fatherless boys, James. When James joined the family bank, he lived with his uncle Alfred at Rockliffe.

In 1873, James married Elizabeth Barclay Fowler in Essex. She, too, was a Quaker, connected to Barclays bank and her uncle was John Fowler, the inventor of the steamplough who has had big, empty plinth to his memory in Darlington’s South Park.

Alfred gave his adopted son the ultimate wedding present: a mansion designed by the greatest architect of the day. It took Waterhouse two years to build Hurworth Grange at a cost of £15,000. It’s a clever design, without any ornamental stonework, relying instead on intricate bricklaying for decoration.

While you are on the showfield, look up at the east elevation. It is the same as part of Girton College, Cambridge University, which Waterhouse was building at the same time – he just doubled over the plans to Hurworth.

At the far side of the showfield, concealed by tall trees and shrubs, are quite considerable earthworks. These are the remains of an elaborate rock garden that was probably constructed by a cousin of the Backhouses, James, who because of his asthma had left both Darlington and banking to pursue an outdoor career. He established a nursery at York, which came to specialise in fashionable Alpine miniatures.

The Backhouses finished with Hurworth Grange in 1911 and a serious of wealthy people took it on. In 1935, Claude Spielman, the managing director of the Whessoe foundry in Darlington, moved in, and it became a great social centre, renowned for its tennis parties.

During the Second World War, the Spielmans took in three of the 20 Jewish refugees who had come to Darlington to escape the Nazi regime in Austria. Then the Staffordshire Regiment were allowed to camp in the stableblock, officers from Catterick came to live in half the house, and the Grange’s cellar was designated as the village air raid shelter.

In 1955, Mr Spielman, who had received an OBE in the Coronation honours list, retired to London, and the Hospitaller Order of St John of God bought the Grange. The order was based in Scorton but had recently set up a hospital in Rockliffe Hall. The Grange became a juniorate – a training school for potential monks aged from 11 to 16. About 150 boys were educated there until 1968, when the order sold the Grange to Hurworth Parish Council.

Mr Spielman returned the following year to open it as a community centre.

Hurworth is extremely lucky to have a Waterhousian wonder as its community focal point, surrounded by enough acres to host a country fair – most villages have lost their Victorian mansions to the developers of housing estates.

Next Saturday’s fair runs from 10.30am to 4pm. Admission is £4, with proceeds going to local charities, and there’s plenty of free parking nearby.

NEXT Sunday, September 17, a 1917 cricket match is being played at Etherley Cricket Club to commemorate the lives of the Bradford brothers of Witton Park.

The four brothers were all keen sportsmen, although the eldest, Thomas, was the outstanding cricketer.

After attending Darlington Grammar School, he played cricket for Chester-le-Street in the Durham Senior League. Harry Moses, in his book The Fighting Bradfords, says he was a “stylish, hard-hitting aggressive batsman”, and in a match in 1909 against Philadelphia, he scored 207 runs in just 90 minutes.

He played for Durham County between 1909 and 1914, scoring four centuries – top score 168 against Cheshire in 1910 – and averaging 39.97. He even captained the county on occasions.

But then war ended such fun and games. As everyone knows, all four brothers fought in the Durham Light Infantry. Three of them were killed: George and Roland, who were the only brothers to win the Victoria Cross during the war, and James, who won the Military Cross for his bravery.

Only the cricketer, Thomas, survived.

He even made it through one of the DLI’s darkest days – April 25, 1915. It was his battalion’s first day in the trenches near Ypres. Inexperienced and ill-equipped – they didn’t have helmets – they immediately came under fire that was so heavy that as the shells landed, they exposed the bodies of the recently-buried French soldiers who had been killed defending the same trenches.

After 12 hours under fire, Thomas gave the order for his men to retreat. He was the last one back, receiving a wound to the head. Of the 200 Durham men who had started the day in his company, he had lost seven officers and 173 men, either killed, wounded or missing.

He remained in Flanders, picking up more wounds, promotions and honours – a Distinguished Service Order for his bravery – until 1917, when he was sent to Ireland to take charge of training.

Out of the firing line, he survived the war, and in peacetime, he never went back to cricket. Instead, he at Whitesmocks, near Durham City, running the family colliery business. He died there in 1966, aged 80.

The lives of the Bradfords are being well commemorated in Durham as the centenaries of their remarkable braveries are marked, but a cricket match is a novel and appropriate commemoration.

It will be played between Etherley and Wolsingham from 1pm to 4pm, and there will be First World War re-enactors on the ground, items from the DLI Collection on display plus the chance to enjoy a traditional cricket tea.

CONTINUING the theme of First World War centenaries, this week marks the 100th anniversary of Scarborough being shelled by a German submarine.

On September 4, 1917, at 6.45pm, the U-boat let off about 30 rounds.

“The shelling occurred during an almost impenetrable mist,” said the Echo. “There were some minesweepers anchored in the bay, and it was upon these that the German submarine first of all trained her gun. Afterwards, she got the range of the town and fired shells into it.”

Three people were killed and “an injured girl of 17 will have to have a leg amputated”.

“There were several narrow escapes,” said the paper. “A shell went through a wall at the back of a confectioner’s shop in James Street. It struck a beam under which the shopowner, Mrs Hilda Wardman, was standing. A biscuit tin was knocked on to her head, but she suffered no other injury.”