“SINGULAR and daring robbery of gold near Hartlepool,” said the Echo’s sister paper, the Darlington & Stockton Times, 150 years ago this week.

This “very daring theft” of £80 of gold had occurred “at a place called Hurworth Burn”, which is about a mile east of Trimdon.

In September 1869, the Hartlepool Gas and Water Company was employing a “large number of navvies and pitmen” to build a reservoir to collect waters trickling out of Hurworth Burn, Mousey Burn and a very small River Skerne. The water in the reservoir was then going to be pumped to the growing town of Hartlepool about five miles to the east.

At 6pm on the Saturday, the navvies assembled for pay-day, with their thoughts no doubt on the amount of alcohol they could buy with their gold.

However, midway through handing out the pay, contractor Mr Adamson became unsure of how much work the navvies had done, and declared that he was going to cease payment until Monday when he had measured their progress.

“Hearing this, they (the men) grew very excited,” said the paper. “One of them, a pitman, made a rush at the gold bag as it stood on the table. He was protected by his comrades, who hustled Mr Adamson and his assistants, and he got clear off with the bag.

The Northern Echo:

“After the robber had escaped, the men refused to believe that the money had been stolen, and declared that neither Mr Adamson nor his colleagues should leave the office until all were paid, thus preventing Mr Adamson from all communication with the police until the thieves were clear off with the booty.”

So it looks as if the navvies enabled the pitman to get away by effectively holding Mr Adamson hostage. £80 in today’s values, according to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator, is worth about £9,500.

Despite this hold-up, the reservoir was completed in the early 1870s and quenched West Hartlepool’s thirsts. In 1880, it acquired its own station, called Hurworth Burn, on a line which ran from Stockton through Thorpe Thewles to Station Town and then into Hartlepool – this disused line now makes up the Castle Eden Walkway.

Today, the reservoir still holds water and is a mecca for birdwatchers, with the old railway line, which includes the overgrown platforms of the station, running along its edge for easy access.

The reservoir collects the water from the three burns and allows it to run southwards as the River Skerne. It is, therefore, effectively the source of the Skerne and so is the start of the £3.3m Brightwater project which was recently discussed in Parliament. The project is improving the river and using its nature and its heritage to attract visitors.

And the nature at Hurworth Burn really is something special: ten years ago the reservoir was believed to be the lair of the Hartlepool Black Panther, a supersized cat which has been regularly spotted between Trimdon and Hartlepool over several decades. The last spate of sightings of the monster, which could double as the famous Durham Puma, was in 2015 – we’d love to hear if you’ve ever encountered it!

BACK to the heritage of Hurworth Burn. To the north of the reservoir are White Hurworth and Black Hurworth farms.

It is said that after Thomas Hurworth died in 1468, he left three heirs for his farmland on Hurworth-on-the-Moor. The farmland was divided into three, each lot was allocated a colour, and the three colours – black, red and white – were then put in a bag from which his heirs drew their inheritance.

We don’t know what happened to Red Hurworth, but immediately south of the reservoir is Murton Blue House which may, or may not, be connected.