THIS week’s Page in History comes from John Lambard, of Wolsingham, and it was probably acquired by his grandfather, John Pigg, who was a Bishop Auckland auctioneer and estate agent.

It is the front page of the Auckland Times and Herald newspaper, which included the Barnard Castle and Middleton-in-Teesdale Advertiser, from March 31, 1876.

The rather battered newspaper – it has spent the past 140 years at the bottom of a drawer – includes an advert for an ointment which cures everything from gout to “bad breasts”.

The four-page newspaper was printed in Bishop Auckland Market Place by W J Cummins. It had started in 1854 but later was merged into the Bishop Auckland Chronicle. In 1903, the Chronicle was bought by The Northern Echo’s parent company. It looks like the Echo kept it running as a weekly title until 1934 when it was merged into the Durham County Advertiser.

The Advertiser was first published in 1814 when it was the only newspaper between Newcastle and York. It still goes as a free paper, and we would love to see a front page of an Advertiser from the days when you had to pay for it. If you have one lining an old drawer, please email

Meanwhile, the 1876 Auckland Times and Herald gives a fascinating glimpse into life 140 years ago. Here are a few stories from the inside pages:


ROBERT SMITH had bought “a flitch of bacon” and some eggs in Bondgate and asked the butcher where he might get them cooked. A girl in the shop overheard, and led him to a house in Finkle Street “where there were a number of women”.

As he was leaving the house – the paper doesn’t say if he’d managed to get his eggs fried in someone else’s pan – “a woman of questionable character” named Catherine Bell snatched his watch from his wrist.

Catherine was now in police custody, but the chairman of the magistrates, Rev GP Wilkinson, told Mr Smith that he “must have known what sort of company he was amongst. It was not any use sending cases like this for trial, because no jury would convict. If a man chooses to put himself in the hands of these abandoned women, he must take the consequences. The prisoner was therefore discharged.”

It looks as if Mr Smith had wandered into a house of ill repute in the middle of Bishop! If Jonathan Ruffer were to bring this sort of entertainment back to the town centre, he really would have visitors flocking to Bishop Auckland;


THE 300 men and boys at East Howle Colliery, near Ferryhill, had received a fortnight’s notice of the loss of their jobs due to a downturn in the coal trade;


THE debating point was: Ought women ratepayers be admitted to the franchise? The discussion veered off course when Mr Wright launched “a virulent attack upon the royal lady who occupies the Throne of England. The remarks were very badly received”.

However, by 16 votes to 11, the men of the Bishop Mechanics Institute voted against women being allowed the vote, saying they were better suited to shaping the future by raising the next generation; 


“THE skating rink at the town hall has been well patronised this week, particularly of an evening. We regret to say that several ladies have met with falls, though it is satisfactory to add that none of them were attended with serious results.” Presumably, this is a rollerskating rink, which suggests Bishop Auckland was at the front of this particular craze. The first rollerskating rinks had opened in London in 1857, but it wasn’t until 1876 that rollerskate manufacture advanced to make rollerskating a popular pastime;


The Northern Echo:

The Wear Valley Hotel in 2002, once one of Bishop Auckland’s principal hostelries, after it had been derelict for a decade. It was soon pulled down and replaced by a solicitor’s office in Newgate Street

MARY BLAKE and Mary Ann Hefferman had gone into the Wear Valley Hotel in Newgate Street and Blake, “who is an old hand and has been several times previously convicted of fortune-telling, went into a room, while Hefferman took one of the servant girls in to introduce her”.

The girl reluctantly gave Blake sixpence and a shirt as a fee. “When Blake had made certain revelations, however, she said she could not cross the cards without another skirt, which was given to her.”

The landlady then realised what was going on and sent word for a policeman. The fortune-tellers, who had not foreseen this turn of events, made a rapid escape but were apprehended at the railway station. Blake, “the old hand”, was imprisoned for two months for vagrancy, and Hefferman for one;


THE Guardians, who used ratepayers’ money to relieve the distress of the poorest people, had received a bill for two shillings from the Reverend Broughton to cover his costs for the burial of a child at St Helen’s Auckland. He “stated that the child was only buried in a cigar box and without any service”.


The Northern Echo:

A game of knurr and spell. Picture from Wikipedia

“A MATCH at knurr and spell which has caused excitement in this neighbourhood came off on Saturday between Albert Pickles, of Valley Terrace, and James Hook, a well known cricketer, of North Beechburn,” said the Times & Herald. “The conditions were best of 10 rises for 10s.”

A knurr was a small hard ball which was placed in a spring-laden trap. When the player was ready, the knurr was launched into the air – this must be the “rise – and hit with the spell, or stick. The game, invented in Yorkshire, sounds like a cross between clay pigeon shooting and golf.

“Although the stake was small, a large company assembled to witness the game,” said the paper. “Both men had undergone a careful preparation under their respective mentors and appeared up to the mark. Play commenced punctually at 10 o’clock, when Hook led off by missing his first, which caused the Pickles party to be very jubilant, but which did not last long as Pickles then repeated the same performance.”

Hook hit his fifth rise far enough to win two points, and his eighth rise – a “splendid hit” – earned him another point. Despite the “intense excitement”, Pickles didn’t connect once. He was, said the paper, “struggling manfully on but could not hit one”

Final score at North Beechburn: Hook 3 Pickles 0.

Does anyone have a knurr or a spell knocking about anywhere?