From the D&S Times of…

July 13, 1867

THE paper’s editorial 150 years ago was looking forward to the case of the Queen Versus Theophania Blackett of Sockburn Hall, near Neasham, which was due to open that morning at Durham Spring Assizes.

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Sockburn Hall is a wonderfully romantic and historic estate in a large loop of the River Tees. It was alleged that Mrs Blackett, aided by her husband Sir Edmund, had illegally blocked the centuries old ford which crossed the river and led to the ruined Saxon church in which lies the remains of the knight who slew the Sockburn Worm.

The Blacketts, who said the ford was a permissory way and not a public right, had “covered up the approach road and planted it over with trees". The D&S suggested that the Blacketts’ actions were to prevent their privacy being invaded by having ordinary people walking along the ancient ways.

The prosecution of the Blacketts by Darlington Highway Board was supported by the paper. It said: “The public should encourage by every means in their power every attempt made to gain or recover what is public right.”

It was to be a long battle, with the fabulously wealthy Blacketts taking the case to the highest court in London. The Highway Board, though, cunningly levied a special tax on the ratepayers of Sockburn to fight for their local footpaths. The Blacketts, being the biggest landowners in the parish, were therefore effectively paying to fight themselves.

Days before the case came before the Queen’s Bench in January 1869, Theophania came to her senses, paid her fines and constructed at her own expense a carriage bridge across the river beneath Girsby church. This meant, though, that she had won as the hoi polloi no longer crossed the ford and traipsed across her lawn; they went by bridge and skirted around her pleasuregrounds.

July 14, 1917

CHRISTOPHER THURMAN, the steward of Northallerton prison, had been unwell for some months. When his condition worsened, two doctors decided he should be “taken by motor car to Leeds on Sunday where he was operated upon during the afternoon of that day…for acute appendicitis”.

He didn’t make it through the operation, and died aged 59.

The appendectomy, of course, was still a new treatment – only 15 years earlier, Edward VII had been saved by such pioneering treatment in the days before his coronation. In fact, to convince him of his peril, his surgeon had told him there would be a royal funeral, not a coronation, if he didn’t have the operation. Next day, the king was sitting up in bed smoking a cigar. Mr Thurman was not so fortunate.

July 15, 1967

FIFTY years ago, there was a water shortage around Bedale. Scruton had gone several days without a supply, and Sir Robert Ropner’s home at Camp Hill, Kirklington, was also dry. Scruton Cllr C Hoare told the Northallerton and the Dales Water Board: “This is only after a week of fine weather and it is not good enough for ratepayers who are paying 1s 9d in the pound for their water.”

On the opposite page is the news that on the previous day, Gordon Currie at Great Smeaton had recorded that 1.05 inches of rain had fallen in the two-and-a-half hours before 10am.

Meanwhile, there was rejoicing in Northallerton as the first stage of the £2m Kosset Carpets factory on the A167 at the north of the town was opened.

The company was planning to relocate from Brighouse over the next five years, creating 800 jobs.

The first part to open was a £330,000 distribution warehouse, employing 42.

“Huge lorries will shuttle back and forth across the Pennines from the Brighouse factory carrying hundreds of tons of carpets each week to Northallerton to be stored, cut, packed and redistributed to all parts of the country and the world,” said the D&S approvingly.