MEMORIES 357 tottered to the top of Brusselton Hill, overlooking Shildon and Bishop Auckland, where once there was a tower, built in the mid 17th Century perhaps as a look out for marauding Scots. It was claimed that from the top of the tower, you could see from coast to coast.

Peter Daniels in Bishop Auckland understandably pooh-poohs the claim. “As Cross Fell – the highest point in the Pennines – is 893 metres (2,930ft) high and the fells around it are not particularly tiny, Brusselton’s 250 metres would require the observer on its top to have very large tip-toes upon which to stand to have a chance of seeing the Irish Sea!” he says.

The tower was built by Cuthbert Carr who lived in St Helen Hall at the foot of the hill. “During the 19th Century a group of Carmelite nuns from Belgium inhabited the hall by the grace of the Musgrave family which then owned it,” he continues. “They subsequently moved to Darlington and provided the name for Carmel Road.”

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Indeed, the Carmelite order of nuns was founded in the 12th Century on Mount Carmel in Israel. The nuns had made their home on the continent but were driven out in 1794 by the upheavals of the French revolution. They arrived in London, from where Sir John Lawson of Brough moved them to St Helen Auckland in 1804. Then they went to Cocken Hall, Durham, where they stayed till 1830 until a colliery was sunk near by. This encouraged them to move, and they bought Cockerton Field House in Darlington.

They turned the house, which dated to 1650, into a convent and gave their name to Carmel Road.

In 2010, the last four Carmelite nuns left the convent which was marketed with a guide price of £1.65m. Its current owners are the Vincentian Congregation of India, a Charismatic Catholic community which uses it for retreats.

CUTHBERT CARR was Sheriff of Newcastle in 1643 and unsuccessfully attempted to repel Scottish invaders from the city the following year – his sensitivity to the Scots may have been the reason he built the tower on top of Brusselton.

Tom Parkin from Howden-le-Wear got in touch because his grandparents lived in “the barracks” in the back courtyard of St Helen Hall in the 1950s. This name suggests that Cuthbert had stationed some Royalist troops at the hall just in case the Scots, or the Parliamentarians, came too close.

“My brother Harold, who is older than me, remembers the other families living in The Barracks were Bayles, Hutchinson, Hindmarch, Oysten, Goss, Brewitts, Sowerby and Wades,” says Tom.

The article was all the more poignant for Tom and Harold because their father, Watson Parkin, was killed down Brusselton pit on May 12, 1966, when he was hit by runaway tubs.

BACK to Brusselton. Halfway down the hill (or up, depending upon which way you approach) is the Stockton & Darlington Railway trackbed, which has been brilliantly uncovered by volunteers.

In 1825, the railway had a stationary engine at Brusselton which hauled wagons full of coal up the west side of the hill and lowered them down the east side to Shildon where steam-powered locomotives waited to take them on to Stockton.

The engineman had a house beside the engine and during the 19th Century a village grew up with houses on both sides of the road. On one side was North Terrace with 42 houses, and so the other side – presumably called South Terrace – presumably had a similar number.

There was even a Methodist chapel up there, on the south side of the village – and John Pedelty of Bishop Auckland even has a water jug which was once the property of the Brusselton Wesleyan Sunday School.

The difficulty for this community was that its stationary engine quickly became old technology as self-propelled locomotives conquered the world. The incline ceased daily operation in 1859 and was kept on standby until the 1880s should the Shildon Tunnel ever become blocked.

Without an engine to maintain, there was no need for the Brusselton community and so it fell into decline. North Terrace was finally demolished in 1971, although the engineman’s house survives. Does anyone have any memories of living up there?

DOWN at the bottom of Brusselton is the village of St Helen Auckland, where Steve Warren spent the first 12 years of his life in Stanley Terrace (now Leazes Lane).

“Our terrace was sandwiched between the former West Auckland Colliery and railway line at the front and the Burns and Slack haulage business and pickle factory at the back,” he says. “I watched the pickle factory burn down after a stray rocket smashed through a window one bonfire night in the late 1950s.”

Wow! Imagine that – a pickle factory destroyed by a fire and the sauce of the blaze was a firework. Can anyone give us any more information on this?

Steve attended the village school where the words “boys” and “girls” scream down from the stonework above the segregated entrances. “If I had been able to read, I would have been most concerned to be entering via the girls' gate which was the entrance to the infants school while the junior school was accessed via the boys' gate,” he says. “Dave Ticer Thomas, who became an England footballer, was in my class and the headmaster was a fearful giant of a man by the name of Tiny Harper.”

Thomas was famous for playing for QPR with his socks round his ankles; his grandfather, with whom he shared a name and a nickname, should be even more famous for captaining the West Auckland side in 1909 which won the first World Cup.

“We spent the summer holidays playing around the River Gaunless, looking for nests in the yellow gorse bushes which grew on the hillside at Brusselton, or risking our lives to gather bullrushes from the ponds at Fylands,” concludes Steve. “Thanks for stirring up some fond memories.”

BY happy coincidence, if you are interested in the Brusselton area, members of the Brusselton Incline Group are leading a free walk along the Stockton & Darlington Railway trackbed on Sunday, February 4.

They will meet at Broom Mill Farm Shop at West Auckland (just off the A688; postcode: DL14 9PJ) at 10.30am, and start walking from St Helen where George Stephenson placed his innovative iron bridge over the Gaunless. They will end up at Brusselton bankfoot.

All welcome – dogs included. Wear sturdy boots. Phone 01388-663764 for further information.