From the Darlington & Stockton Times of…

February 2, 1918

THE paper noted that it was the centenary of the death of one of Richmond’s most famous sons: artist George Cuitt, the elder.

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Cuitt was born in Moulton in 1743 – the year that Scottish banker Sir Lawrence Dundas bought the Aske Hall estate, near Richmond, and began remodelling it in the fashionable Palladian style. Young George, who attended Richmond Grammar School, came to Sir Lawrence’s attention and he got him to do some drawings of his children. Sir Lawrence was so impressed with the outcome that in 1768, he sent George to Rome where he maintained him for six years as he studied art.

George returned to England in 1775, began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in London, but ill health drove him back to Richmond. In 1777, he married Jane, the daughter of a North Cowton farmer was 13 years his junior, and he began to prosper on commissions from the area’s wealthy landowners who wished to record their beautiful estates.

He has works hanging in Aske Hall, Kiplin Hall and Richmond Town Hall, and he painted the scenery for the opening of Richmond’s Georgian Theatre.

“He excelled in sepia painting, and some of his drawings in this medium are as bright and fascinating today as they were when painted 140 years ago,” said the D&S of 1918. “A monument to his memory in St Mary’s Church, Richmond, commemorates his virtues as a man and his skill as an artist.”

He died on February 7, 1818, and was buried at St Mary’s, about three weeks after his wife, Jane.

Their only son, George Cuitt the younger, became a well regarded artist in his own right. He settled at Masham and was noted for his etchings of Yorkshire abbeys.

The family were originally called Kewit, but the elder George changed the spelling to Cuit and the younger George added a second t.

It is, though, the works of the elder George which are most prized – in 2001, the D&S reported how Christie’s was estimating that his six sketches of his home town would sell for £30,000. The hammer fell at £135,750, and it is believed the sketches returned to North Yorkshire.

February 3, 1968

DRAMA in Ripon 50 years ago where “a fireman was almost swept away when the treacherous River Swale once again was the scene of a rescue by members of the fire service”.

An angler, Frank Granger, had just caught a fish and so did not notice the rapid rise of the river which trapped him on an island in the Bank Top area.

Fireman Frank Parkin attempted to swim over to him with a lifeline.

“The floodwater, which was still rising, was too strong for him and swept him downstream,” said the D&S. “He was hauled out by his colleagues after a five minute struggle, blue with cold. Wrapped in coats provided by spectators he was taken to Ripon hospital suffering from exposure.”

A line was eventually thrown to Mr Granger who was then pulled to safety.

Meanwhile, there was drama of a very different kind near Thirsk. “For the first time in almost 18 months, the inhabitants of the tiny village of Thornton-le-Street are having bottled milk delivered to their doors,” began a prominent story. “Not every day, but they do not mind, as they are so glad to have a delivery every other day.”

No milkman could be found to deliver pintas until Mr L Harrison, from Romanby, was persuaded to give it a go.

“All the villagers hope that Mr Harrison will find it pays him to keep up the deliveries,” said the D&S. “They feel they have had to go to town for their milk long enough.”

February 1, 1868

WILLIAM DIXON was summoned before Stockton Police Court and found guilty of “maliciously tearing” PC Beadle’s police cape at Norton on New Year’s Day. Dixon was ordered to pay 18 shillings to repair the tear.

The paper also reported 150 years ago that the body of the late Sarah Crowe, Countess of Tyrconnel, had been “taken forward by the 1.26 uptrain…from Cowton Station of the North Eastern Railway to King’s Cross, for Winchester, where she was buried by the side of the late earl, her husband, on Thursday”.

As Looking Back told last week, the Countess had died at Kiplin Hall, near Scorton, aged 78, and it had been expected that she would be buried in the nearby Bolton-on-Swale church. However, Winchester called.

“At the time of the funeral cortege, which was very simple, leaving Kiplin, the tenantry and poor people of the surrounding neighbourhood were present in large numbers to do homage to the memory of the deceased lady, who was greatly beloved in the locality,” said the D&S.

And it was reported that at Saltburn – “a rapidly increasing watering-place” – the first pile of the 1,500ft-long, £7,500 pier had been driven into place by Mrs Thomas Vaughan of Gunnergate Hall.

Mrs Vaughan was the daughter-in-law of the famous ironmaster, John Vaughan, and Gunnergate Hall was a stunning pile near Malton, Middlesbrough. It was demolished in 1946 although its gardens were turned into Fairy Dell Park, complete with lake.

Mrs Vaughan drove in the pile “in the presence of a large assembly, notwithstanding that from daybreak there was an incessant downfall of rain”.

Despite all these fascinating stories, the one that really caught the eye this week 150 years ago was headlined “A faithless wife: rumoured elopement at West Hartlepool”.

“On Sunday afternoon, a coloured American, named William Williams, belonging to Pennsylvania, made his way to West Hartlepool police station requesting advice as to how he was to proceed, his wife having eloped with another man on Saturday afternoon,” began the article.

The unfortunate Mr Williams had been living in Hartlepool for eight months, working at a timber merchants. He had saved £25 with which, six weeks ago, he had married a young Hartlepool woman, set up home with her and purchased her plenty of clothes with a view to the pair of them going home to Pennsylvania.

“About a month after the marriage, the husband happened to go home one day quite unexpected, and he was very much astonished to find a man lying in the bed smoking and reading to his faithless wife who was seated at the bedside,” said the D&S. “In answer to the question who the visitor was, the loving wife replied that it was ‘only a cousin’.”

Mr Williams appears to have accepted this explanation, but returned home a couple of days later to find “his loved one had fled and taken all the moveables out of the house, including £3 and two suits of clothes, thus leaving her husband as destitute as possible”, said the D&S.

“The ‘cousin’ was found to be one of the old sweethearts of Mrs Williams, and it was thought they had eloped together.”

The police don’t seem to have done much to assist Mr Williams – except spread his embarrassing story.