IN Richmond 150 years ago this week, an extraordinary event took place over three night which resulted in eight men being charged with “creating a violent noise and riotous conduct” outside the house of Mrs Edys Moore.

“There was a great row in Frenchgate,” said the Darlington & Stockton Times on November 23, 1867. “The mob were dragging carts, shouting and brawling about the door. They were pretending to ride the stang.”

It could be that the mob was going on a cycle ride over The Stang, the notorious peak between Arkengarthdale and Scargill.

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More likely, they were involved in a folk punishment in which someone who had violated common decency – say, a wife-beater or an adulterer – was shamed by having an embarrassing commotion kicked up outside their door. This was colloquially known as “riding the stang”.

Outside Mrs Moore’s house, an effigy was burned, the window blinds were pulled down, the glass was broken, and fire was thrown about willy-nilly.

“Mr James Hunter gave evidence to the effect that on the Wednesday night there were not less than 400 persons present,” said the D&S. “The demonstration created terror and alarm, calculated to create a breach of the peace. He had not seen so disgraceful a scene in Richmond for the last 50 years.”

Two of the accused were discharged, but John Horner was fined £2 and five other defendants were fined five shillings each. All paid immediately, except Francis Bowes “who was locked up”.

The D&S said: “Some of his companions in guilt, feeling that as the prisoner had no parents, set about collecting from the inhabitants, and in half an hour or so, they raised the amount required to discharge his fine and costs and the prisoner was released to the joy of all interested.”

It seems that as Francis was in trouble for participating in a community-based punishment, the community rallied round to pay his fines.

We’d love to hear from anyone with any theories about what was going on: what was “riding the stang”? Email chris.lloyd@nne.co.uk