KIRKCARRION is an enigmatic tree-topped shape that broods above Middleton-in-Teesdale. Anyone who has ever visited the little town must have looked up at the silhouetted shape of Kirkcarrion’s commanding height and wondered about it.

It was probably that sense of wonderment that attracted our ancestors to it many millennia ago – that and its strategic importance, as it overlooks the point where the valleys of the Tees and the Lune meet.

It is reckoned that in Bronze Age times – 2,000BC to about 500BC – humans piled lots and lots of stones on the top of Kirkcarrion. Perhaps, then, it was a burial place – a barrow – for someone who was very important.

After the Bronze Age, the Brigantes tribe ruled the north of England for several centuries into Roman times. They inherited rocky hilltop, and it is believed that they buried their Prince Caryn up there. This would account for Kirkcarrion’s name – it was originally Carreg Caryn, the burial heap of Caryn (“carreg” in Welsh means “stone” or “rock”).

In 1804, some men were stealing Caryn’s stones to build walls with when they came across a kistvaen, or chamber up there: four flat stones standing on their edges with a fifth slab across the top.

One of the men moved the top slab and, convinced he was about to find buried treasure inside, shouted: “It’s aal mine!”

But all he found was a little urn containing some bone fragments and dark dust – the last earthly remains of Prince Caryn?

The urn was taken to Streatlam Castle, which was on the east of Barnard Castle until its demolition in 1959. The castle was owned by the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorn, and although it was the home for much of the 19th Century of John Bowes, the founder of the Bowes Museum, the urn somewhere along the way was lost.

However, Lord Strathmore’s bailiff did mark the scene of the discovery by planting trees on Kirkcarrion.

A plantation, though, did not appease the spirit of Prince Caryn. The removal of the urn had unsettled his spirit, and to this day his ghost haunts that windblown promontory above Middleton-in-Teesdale.

WE stumbled upon the story of Kirkcarrion – in which, incidentally, there may not be a single verifiable fact – this week while we were looking into a postcard that Bill Payne has kindly sent in of The Teesdale Hotel, in Middleton-in-Teesdale.

Last week, you will remember, we used our readers’ knowledge and help to locate the surviving metal plaques that the Cyclists’ Touring Club put up in the 1880s on the walls of hotels and cafes that offered special rates to their cycling members.

Bill remembered that his Edwardian postcard of the Teesdale Hotel showed that on the wall over the archway there had once been a CTC plaque.

The Teesdale Hotel is in Town Head, which may be the original centre of the town which exploded after 1815 when the London Lead Mining Company set up business there.

The hotel is probably a 17th Century building which was extensively remodelled in the late 19th Century in the fashionable mock-Tudor style. Cyclists must have liked the new look because that was when the CTC plaque went up. Today, all that remains of the plaque are some suspicious-looking marks on the hotel wall.

TODAY’S front cover shows Town Head in Middleton-in-Teesdale in September 1961. On the left is the early 18th Century Market Cross which, possibly uniquely to our area, has a bronze sundial on top of it.

Behind the sundial is the sign of the Bluebell Hotel (established 1780) and next to that, where the van is being unloaded, is the sign of the Teesdale Hotel.

On the other side of the road, a car is parked on “the shambles”. If anyone wants to identify the vehicle, please send an email to The shambles would have been where the meat market was originally held.

The shambles is overlooked by the clock on the top of the Mechanics Institute. The institute was built by Lord Barnard, the Duke of Cleveland, of Raby Castle, and housed the town hall and his agent’s office.

THERE was at least one another CTC plaque in Teesdale. You may remember that in November 2012, Memories 105 told of Gateshead miner Jim Elder who, in 1926, tired of the coalmines and retired to the Teesdale countryside. With his wife, Mary, he acquired a derelict former leadminers’ lodging house in Newbiggin-in-Teesdale, called Brookside, and converted into a bed-and-breakfast and tearoom.

“Cyclists came in and suggested that they get involved with the Cyclists’ Touring Club,” says their son, Tom, in Sacriston. “An inspector came, looked at the accommodation and at the quality of the food, which had to be priced from 6d to 1s 1d, and they were awarded a CTC plaque.”

Jim and Mary ran the business until 1935 when they moved to the Fairfield kibbutz. Jim had bought 12 wooden huts which the Belgian ammunition workers had lived in during the First World War in Birtley, near Chester-le-Street, and had shipped them to Newbiggin-in-Teesdale to form a socialist commune. It was called “the Scheme Fields” or the “Fairfield Acres”, and everyone from Quakers to Communists gathered there.

The Teesdale kibbutz lasted until 1943, and after the war, a chicken incubator managed to burn the last of the Birtley Belgians’ wooden huts down.

MEMORIES 271 visited Danby Wiske, near Northallerton, where we learned of the water troughs that were placed between the tracks on the East Coast Mainline to replenish the tanks of steam locomotives.

There were only six of these troughs between King’s Cross and Edinburgh, and Wiske Moor, a mile or so from the village, was chosen because the line was straight, low-lying and remote. It had to be remote because when a loco travelling at up to 70mph plunged its scoop into the 600-yard long trough, water spurted and sprayed everywhere.

But the troughs needed looking after, and so two lineside cottages were built so that men could be on hand to clear out leaves and other impediments.

Mrs E Smith of Northallerton lived in one of the cottages as her dad was a ganger on the mainline. “One of his jobs was clearing the troughs when there was ice, but I didn’t like living there as it was a long way to go to school in Northallerton,” she says. “I was relieved when we were able to move into the houses by Danby Wiske station.”

IN her youth in the late 1920s, Elsie Johnson holidayed in one of those cottages beside the Wiske Moor water trough as her sister, and her platelayer husband, lived there.

Elsie died in 1990 and her son, Colin, of Darlington, discovered that in her memoirs she recalled her visit.

“It was a terrible place to get to,” she wrote. “We had to walk about three-quarters of a mile till we came to a railway bridge, then we climbed over the railings and down the bank to the track. There was a narrow path about 16 inches wide to walk along, facing the trains. If one came, we had to stand with our face away from it.

“The house itself was just 4ft from the line. This is where the trains picked up water out of trenches, and they went very fast.

“During the night we could hear the trains coming as they passed under a bridge about six miles away. As they got nearer, the noise was terrific and the house shook – I felt sure it was going to be knocked down.”

THE Wiske Moor lineside cottages and Danby Wiske station have long since been demolished, but the three station houses remain, one of which is being restored. The owner wants to make it as authentic as possible – we reckon it was built in the 1880s when the station was constructed – and wondered what colour scheme the North Eastern Railway would have adopted for doors and windowframes. Any ideas?