MEMORIES 382 back in July told of the 30th anniversary of the day a Second World War Spitfire was flown beneath Winston bridge over the River Tees.

It was a stunt filmed for a TV drama, A Piece of Cake. A Spitfire with pointed tip wings was 40ft 2ins wide (12.24 metres) and Winston bridge is 111ft (34 metres) wide, so there was plenty of room – although when you are skimming just inches above the riverbed at 250mph it probably felt a lot tighter.

Our story inspired Jeff Fitzpatrick to visit the bridge. “Looking over it brings home the full enormity of the feat of flying under it,” he said.

He continued: “On the bridge I noticed a cast iron replica of a Spitfire that commemorates the event beautifully.

“At the other end of the bridge there is what looks like a cast iron replica of a small boulder, about nine inches in diameter. Do you have any idea why this was placed on the bridge?”

If we are truthful, the answer is no. But at a guess…

There used to be a much admired 12-ton erratic porphyry about 300 yards above Winston bridge. It was “erratic” because it had come down the valley from Shap Fell in Cumbria on a glacier about 80,000 years ago, the joggling movement of the ice rubbing the rock smooth.

It was a ‘porphyry’ because it was a brown igneous rock with pink feldspar crystals in it.

This erratic porphyry came to the attention of Dr Richard Taylor Manson, a medical doctor who set up his first practice in Witton-le-Wear and who was an eminent naturalist. He was a founder of the Darlington and Teesdale Field Naturalists Club, which still goes, and he loved to roam the district writing nature notes for local papers, including the Echo and especially our sister paper, the Darlington & Stockton Times.

“It was his delight to visit and admire not only this huge rock but any others in the neighbourhood,” said the Echo in September 1900, shortly after Dr Manson’s death in Stanhope Road, Darlington.

“On one occasion, he arrayed a number of the village youngsters around the boulder…and pointed out the privileges held out to them in the lovely surroundings of Nature’s works.”

So someone had the bright idea of moving the 12-ton rock, which had been unmoved for about 80,000 years, ten-and-a-half miles into Darlington to act as a memorial to the great doctor.

Traction engine owner John Danby Jemmeson, of Piercebridge, was given the task of hauling the rock out of the river. One of the huge binding chains attached to his revolving drum snapped under the weight, but somehow he managed to get the boulder onto the bridge and from there onto a trailer which his engine amazingly puffed up the bank onto the A67 and off to Darlington.

It took eight men four days to get the rock into South Park where it was intended to go in the formal gardens along with other memorials to eminent men.

But just inside the Victoria Embankment gate, another of the chains snapped, and the rock crashed to the ground. Exhausted, the eight men decided it could remain where it had fallen and so today it is the first thing you notice when you enter the park from the north.

So could this be the story which inspired the cast iron boulder on the Winston bridge parapet?

If you know anything about the ornaments on Winston bridge, please let us know.

THERE are about 12 erratics in Teesdale. The largest is the Great Stone in Deepdale – the extremely deep dale on the road from Barnard Castle to Lartington. The dale is most famed for the railway viaduct on the Stainmore line that once crossed it, although Memories readers will know it for the First World War rifle range that can still be found amid the butterbur.

The Great Stone, which stands two metres high, is about midway between the rifle range and the viaduct remains.

A more cute erratic is a few hundred yards away on the Tees itself. It is called the “sleepy sheep” because it looks like a sheep that has fallen asleep.