Schoolboy error

4:49pm Friday 7th June 2013

By Chris Lloyd

Darlington's Covered Market is celebrating its 150th annversary. In the first of a series of articles, Chris Lloyd tells the story of the Market Cross, which is supposed to embody market values ATthe end of a hard day's carving, a stonemason contentedly put down his chisel.

Despite the slightly higgledypiggledy nature of the letters, he'd successfully carved the legend to run around the top of the new column for Darlington market place.

"This crosse Erected by Dame Dorothy Brown", he'd carved, and he'd spaced it so perfectly that the n at the end of Brown naturally fell next to the T at the beginning of This.

With a flourish, he carved the date: 1727.

He may even have sat back and thought with pride that his workmight grace themarket place for the next 300 years.

We can only guess what happened next. Perhaps the mason's mate shouted over: "You did get the message that it was Browne with an e, didn't you?"

The yellow Post-It note had yet to be invented. The urgent ping of an important email was three centuries away.

He had forgotten the e.

And, because of his perfect spacing, there was no room to squeeze it in.

One wonders if 18th Century expletives filled the air as he hurriedly chiselled the e above the n of Brown.

Nearly 300 years later, his chiselling still looks down on the market place. And, to be fair to him, in the 18th Century people did not worry so much about lines ending properly. You regularly find gravestones with arrows pointing up to letters or even whole words that have been missed out.

Yet this was to be the centrepiece of Darlington, following a tradition that dated back to the dawn of the concept of buying and selling.

The Market Cross was the focal point, a meeting place, but it also reminded all who traded around it of the sanctity of the bargain.

Just a glimpse of its solidity reminded a stallkeeper, who was tempted to shave an ounce off here and a farthing off there, that a deal must be based on trust or it is worthless.

What did Dame Dorothy think? For that matter, who was the Dame Dorothy who erected the cross?

SHE was descended from Richard Barnes, who became Bishop of Durham in 1577. The bishop, as the most powerful man in the county, controlled the markets, and everyone had to pay him for the privilege of having a stall in Darlington market: every butcher, cloth merchant, gardiner, hatter, breadmaker, cutler, silversmith, pewterer, tinner, brazier, potter, sadler, skinner, fellmonger, tanner, shoemaker, glover and roper. . .

In 1748, a stall selling "gartering, inkle and small Manchester goods" paid him 2d rent; another selling "gingerbread, nuts, lemons, oranges or other fruit" paid him 11/2d.

In fact, "every loose stall, stand, bench, or seat, at, upon, or near theMarket Cross, selling any kind of provisions, goods or merchandises" was due to pay him at least a ha'penny.

And everyone who shopped at the market had their bags searched at the street ends by the bishop's heavies and were forced to pay him a toll for buying at his market.

Obviously the bishop himself couldn't be collecting all the monies due to him, so he employed a bailiff to do his dirty work.

Bishop Barnes, a particularly controversial cleric whose ten years in Durham became noted for their corruption, founded a dynasty of Darlington bailiffs. Seven of his descendants held the money- grabbing post.

Dame Dorothy was his great-granddaughter, born in about 1657, probably in nearby Sadberge. As an only child, she inherited from her father, William, the sole right to collect tolls in Darlington.

This made her quite a catch.

She married her first husband, Michael Blackett, of Morton Palms and Newcastle, in 1683. But he didn't last long.

She married her second husband, barrister Sir Richard Browne, on September 13, 1688, in St James' Church, Westminster. But he lasted less than a year - in 1689, he was slain in Flanders by a Colonel Billingsley (how we wish we knew why).

She married her third husband, the Right Reverend JohnMoore, the Bishop of Ely, in 1694. They had three sons - two of whom became bailiffs of Darlington - and when the bishop died in 1714, he had 29,000 books, the largest collection in the country which is now at the heart of Cambridge University Library.

Thrice widowed, Dame Dorothy did not bother with finding a fourth husband, but she obviously kept an eye on her sons, Daniel and Charles, as they collected the tolls in Darlington because in 1727 she paid for Darlington's new Market Cross.

THE tradition of having a market cross may date back to Roman times, when a large stone column indicated peace and security.

After the Romans, ornately carved crosses began appearing in British market towns from the 7th Century.

The first real mention of a Market Cross in Darlington is in 1313, when the Bishop of Durham, Richard Kellaw, ordered that a proclamation be read from it banning Darlingtonians from taking part in any unlicensed jousts.

A new market cross is recorded as being erected in 1577 at the top of Tubwell Row. This became badly weathered and, in 1727, kindly Dame Dorothy replaced it.

It stayed on top of four steps at the top of Tubwell Row, surrounded by market stalls and with coffins resting on it as the last stopping place on their way to a funeral in St Cuthbert's Church, until July 4, 1862, when it was taken down to make room for the new Covered Market.

When themarket opened, it was placed in its centre, but in 1955, it was placed in the council depot in Hundens Lane. It languished in packing cases until 1993 when it was placed on four steps at the top of Horsemarket.

Even though it is not in its traditional location, it is great that it is back in public view in the market place.

It is ironic that the four marble plaques placed on it 20 years ago, telling the story of its relocation, have faded so badly they are now difficult to read, whereas the higgledypiggledy letters carved round it 286 years ago are still so clear that you can clearly see where the mason left the e off Browne.

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