CHRIS Lloyd was guest speaker at Thorpe Thewles History Group last week where there was much excitement about our recent story of Lord Ernest Vane-Tempest, the black sheep of the rich family from Wynyard Hall who, 150 years ago, was married in their village church.

Lord Ernest had twice been drummed out of the army, once of beating up a theatre manager who blocked the dressing room door of an actress he fancied, and once for forcibly shaving a new recruit. Lord Ernest rehabilitated himself firstly by opal mining in Australia and secondly by fighting in the American Civil War, but, estranged from his mother the marchioness, when he returned to contest Stockton for the Conservatives, he lost badly.

However, he won the hand of Mary Hutchinson, the daughter of a local iron merchant, and they married in January 1869. The wedding wasn’t happy, and they separated after Lord |Ernest tried to “knock the block off” a nobleman who was having an affair with Mary.

Members of the history group told how Lord Ernest died in 1885 in Scarborough but was buried back in their own churchyard. “He was late for his own funeral,” said one. “The train carrying his body was delayed.”

His place of burial shows how much of a black sheep he was. Most venerable members of the family are buried at Long Newton on the south side of Stockton as it was the original home of the Vane family before they married the Tempests of Wynyard.

Although Thorpe Thewles, to the north of Stockton, is closer to the hall, only servants, milk maids and black sheep are buried there.

The question then arose of how Thorpe Thewles got its name. The first bit is easy: “thorpe” is Danish word for a “smaller village” – Viking settlements with names ending in “by” were usually larger than thorpes.

“Thewles” is much more tricky. Thewles could have been the name of a landowner, or one theory is that it comes from “thel” which meant a plank of wood – either they had a bridge made out of a plank or they were as thick as two short…

But the most likely meaning is even worse. “Thewles” is Old English for “immoral”. The Penguin Dictionary of Surnames agrees – people, such as well-known North-East TV reporter, called Thewlis, get their nickname because they are descended from an “ill-mannered, immoral person, void of good qualities”.

Perhaps Lord Ernest is lying in an appropriate place.