From the Darlington & Stockton Times, October 28, 1967

THERE was a truly startling beginning to a story in the D&S 50 years ago: “A George V solid silver teaspoon and two solid silver teaknives were found to be missing after the Queen’s visit to Darlington Town Hall last week,” it said.

Was the paper really suggesting that the monarch was light-fingered? Or did Her Majesty think that as the teaspoon had belonged to her father, it was hers to take?

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No, in fact, following the start of a police investigation, two of the missing items had been returned anonymously.

“It was believed that souvenir hunters took the cutlery,” said the D&S.

Only one knife, with a handle shaped like a pistol, was unaccounted for.

The Queen and Prince Philip visited the old Town Hall – now part of the Covered Market complex – on October 20, 1967, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Queen Victoria granting Darlington a charter. This newspaper, and its proprietor Henry King Spark, had vigorously promoted the charter, which allowed the town to run its own municipal affairs through its first democratic council.

October 27, 1917

A CONFERENCE was held in Ripon Town Hall so that the wonderfully-named Sir John Eaglesome, chairman of the Northern Canal Control Committee, could see if there were ways Ripon Canal could be brought back to use.

Construction of the 2.3 mile canal had begun in 1767 to connect the centre of Ripon with the River Ure, and the first boat service from Ripon to York had begun in February 1773. The canal was principally to transport coal into the city although Ripon goods also went outwards.

However, the opening of the first stretch of main railway line from Darlington to York in 1841 had signalled the beginning of the end of the canal as the railway age carried goods far quicker than the slow boats.

Still, in 1904, said Sir John, 47,000 tons had been carried on the waterway although by 1916, that figure was down to just 2,000. In fact, most of the canal was weed-choked.

Although the conference agreed that the canal was a good thing, Sir John doesn’t seem to have picked up many new ideas, and the canal’s decline continued until 1961 when volunteers began to restore it. The final section of canal into Ripon centre re-opened in 1996.

The D&S of 100 years ago also reported of a case before Stockton County Court in which an unnamed man was sued for paying only two shillings for a horse that he had bought for £6 10s. His lawyer, though, told the court on the first day he had it “the horse threw itself into a pond and that it did the same thing the following day”. The horse, he said, twice tried to commit suicide and although he had thwarted it by pulling out of the water, it had then died – so he only felt obliged to pay for the seller’s rail fare.

October 26, 1867

THE dense columns of front page adverts from 150 years ago make fascinating, and frightening, reading.

Mrs SA Allen of High Holborn in London wanted people to know that her “celebrated zylobalsamum for dressing and beautifying the hair” was now on sale locally. It was, she said, “a clear transparent preparation without sediment, held in high esteem by thousands of ladies”.

Also in local shops was Glenfield Patent Starch, made in Glasgow, which was “exclusively used in the royal laundry” and which “Her Majesty’s laundress says is the finest starch she ever used”.

William Salmon, a chemist in Stockton High Street, was advertising his patent composition which “will destroy beetles, cockroaches, crickets etc however numerous in one night”, and W Richardson, a Darlington upholsterer, was drawing to readers’ attention to his rare purchase of “fur hearthrugs and travelling wrappers made of bear, wolf, buffalo, racoon, opossum, lynx, kangaroo”. Wherever did he come by such exotic skins?

Most frightening of all, is J de Lacy’s advert for his incorrodible mineral teeth which he promised to glue painlessly on top of decayed stumps. How toxic was his adhesive?