From the Darlington & Stockton Times of…

November 23, 1867

AN extraordinary event had taken place in Frenchgate, in Richmond, over three nights the previous week which resulted in eight men being charged with “creating a violent noise and riotous conduct” outside the house of Mrs Edys Moore.

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“There was a great row in Frenchgate,” said the D&S Times. “The mob were dragging carts, shouting and brawling about the door. They were pretending to ride the stang.”

It could be that they were going on a cycle ride over The Stang, the notorious peak between Arkengarthdale and Scargill, or, 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 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 wily-nily.

“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.”

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

November 24, 1917

AFTER a fire at Mr Hugill's haystack at Brompton-on-Swale had burnt out, some bones were found amid the ashes. Dr JD Phelps, of Scorton, told a coroner's inquiry the large number of bones meant they could either be those of a large animal or human. Mr Hugill ruled out the presence of pigs or cows, which tied in with Dr Phelps' belief that they were human bones. Indeed, as there were two distinct piles of bones, he reckoned there were two humans.

The D&S concluded: "The jury had difficulty in making up their minds as to whether there were one or two bodies and at the doctor's suggestion, the bones were taken and weighed. They weighed 22.5lbs. This was still inconclusive, and ultimately the jury returned a verdict that the bones were hose of some person or persons unknown who had been burned to death in the fire."

November 25, 1967

“IN an atmosphere heavily charged with tobacco smoke, the Barnard Castle Rural Council on Wednesday rejected by 19 votes to ten a motion tabled by the chairman, Cllr John Gwillim (Middleton-in-Teesdale) that smoking be prohibited at council meetings,” reported the D&S Times 50 years ago.

Cllr Gwillim, a heavy cigarette smoker, moved the motion “out of consideration for non-smokers on the council”, and he was supported by Cllr Joseph Stubbs of Etherley, who had smoked for 70 years. “He recalled that as a miner in the days before smoking was prohibited in the mines, a man who did not smoke was advised either to put up with the fumes or get a job elsewhere.”

Cllr JR Hannam, of Bolam, “said that in view of the medical evidence and the propaganda against smoking, future generations might come to realise that smoking was no in their best interests”.

He said: “The moral issue here stands or falls by the example we show to the community and this is the biggest factor in support of the motion.”

The council was one of few in the area to allow smoking in meetings, but when the ban was defeated, councillors agreed to investigate the possibility of improving ventilation.