ACCORDING to The Northern Echo’s report of the Battle of Stockton of 1933, two men required hospital treatment when 100 marching blackshirts were confronted by 2,000 or more anti-fascists.

The 85th anniversary of the violent clash, in which members of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists were driven out of Stockton, was commemorated a fortnight ago, as Memories 391 told.

One of the injured was Edward Warburton, 21, who lost the sight in one eye when he was struck by a potato studded with razor blades. He, and his brother, John, were members of the BUF, had come from Bury for the march, and remained associated with right-wing politics throughout their lives.

Also hurt that day was John Frank Rushford, 20, of Grey Tower, Durham.

Who, we wondered, was he?

Ian Forsyth and Billy Mollon have kindly done our detective work.

John was the son of Frank and Hannah Rushford, who lived at Grey Tower in North Road. For 40 years, Frank was editor of the Durham Advertiser (a sister paper of The Northern Echo) and a local historian, and Hannah, in 1950, became Durham’s first female mayor – ending a male line that dated back to 1602.

What was their son doing at the Battle of Stockton? Obviously, he could either have been with the fascists or the socialists and Communists who opposed them, although in the 1939 census, his occupation is given as a journalist, so he might have been present in that capacity.

His childhood home of Grey Tower is a splendid place which, appropriately for the home of journalists, is full of stories and few facts.

Some sources claim that it was a medieval tower, built to defend the city from a band of brigands who had taken up residence in a nearby cave.

Most people think, though, that it was built around the 1840s, probably by the Wharlton family, on whose Dryburn estate it used to be. Perhaps it was designed as lodge house, which is why it was given the castle-like appearance.

Some sources claim that it is haunted by a Grey Lady, whose forlorn face can be seen at an upstairs window.

But this may just be because in the 1850s, Grey Tower was home to George Linnaeus Banks, editor of the Durham Chronicle, and his novelist wife, Isabella. George was a talented fellow – lecturer, author, songwriter, lecturer, silhouette-maker – who dashed around the country editing newspapers from Brighton to Birmingham and Dublin.

He had his demons – alcoholism and depression – and he died in 1881 of cancer of the penis.

Isabella had to put up with a lot. Five of her eight children died young, and her husband often sold their furniture to buy alcohol. As he spiralled downwards, so her novels supported the family.

As they dashed around the country, she picked up local dialects that she wove into her novels, which added to their popularity. Her most popular work was The Manchester Man of 1876, a quote from which was placed on the headstone of Tony Wilson, the founder of Factory Records, when he died in 2007.

In the 1880s, Isabella wrote Stung To The Quick – Or The Waif Of The Wear, which was set in Durham and probably gave rise to the story of the ghost in her former home of Grey Tower.