WE must return to last week’s fabulous picture of the offices of the Durham Chronicle and Durham Advertiser newspapers, which were bought by The Northern Echo shortly after the First World War.

“I have found an author’s note in a book called A Daughter’s Wish, by Elizabeth Gill, who mentions the Chronicle’s offices as being at 64 Saddler Street from 1878,” says John Oates of Newton Hall.

Elizabeth is the author of countless historical romances – the subtitle of A Daughter’s Wish is that “her parents’ secret could tear them apart” – and lives in Durham City and draws heavily on the North-East. Unsurprisingly, her nugget of information is correct.

The Northern Echo:

The location of our building was also spotted by, among others, Mark Nimmins, Ged Lawson and Tony Cleeve, because, we think, the door to the right – which has the number 68 on it – is extremely distinctive. It is to the flat above the newsagents, and so it is now Bronx’s hairdressers which occupies the newspaper offices on the road up to the cathedral.

We still don’t know what the Gothic lettering above the door says: Earl – what and why?

The Northern Echo:

TO add to last week’s pictures of Bishop Auckland newsagents’ shops, John Clarkson from Shotley Bridge sends in a picture of his grandmother, Elizabeth Clarkson, outside the shop she ran with her husband, George, in Newgate Street.

It is covered with bills advertising the newspapers’ headlines, which enables us to date it quite precisely to late October 1899. One of the headlines says “General Symons wounded” in a great victory in South Africa, referring to Major-General Sir William Penn Symons who was fatally wounded at the Battle of Talana Hill on October 20, 1899 and died eight days later.

The Northern Echo: Bishop Auckland town centre seen from the air on March 22, 1972. The town hall and market place are at the foot of the picture, with the straight Roman road of Newgate Street clearly visible in the centreBishop Auckland town centre seen from the air on March 22, 1972. The town hall and market place are at the foot of the picture, with the straight Roman road of Newgate Street clearly visible in the centre

Interestingly, and perhaps disappointingly, there are no bills promoting The Northern Echo, although there are plenty plugging the Echo’s Conservative rival, the North Star. The Echo was a pacifist newspaper and its editorial line was against the Boer War, which caused its sales to drop sharply. Perhaps more jingoistic newspapers sold better in Bishop.

The Clarksons are also advertising that they are dealing in Crane’s London Fireworks which were, in fact, manufactured in Warmley in Bristol. Crane’s, founded in 1887, was one of the biggest makers of Bonfire Night fireworks until 1937 when, two years after five female workers were engulfed in a sheet of flame, its factory was destroyed in an explosion.

The original picture of the newsagents is so sharp that you can make out the reflection of the building behind the photographer: it appears to be the co-op, more lately Beales.

The Northern Echo:

WE haven't yet located this newsagents' shop, pictured above, but as there is a bill advertising in the Auckland Chronicle's report about services held at war memorials in Shildon and Barnard Castle, we're confident it was somewhere in south Durham. Please let us know. The Echo's headline on the billboard is "Russian grain imports to the UK". "This must be 1927 when there was a big sale of grain at "bucket shop" prices from Russia to the UK and other Western nations," says David Walsh, in east Cleveland. "This was for hard currency reasons ordered by Stalin, and intensified the famines then under way in the Ukraine and the Don Basin in Russia."

The Northern Echo:

AS we reported last week, this plaque has turned up in a barn in Shropshire, but the two ladies named on it who died in 1912 are believed to have come from Bishop Auckland.

Alice Potter and John Morris in Darlington and John Heslop of Durham all kindly delved into various sources in the quest for more information.

So we now know Eleanor was born about 1821 in Newcastle and she married Robert Neilson, born in Scotland two years before her, and together they had five children – Jane, Margaret, Eleanor, Robert and Dora.

Eleanor and Robert ran a grocery store in South Road, Bishop Auckland, often assisted by their daughters.

“By 1891, Eleanor, now 70, is widowed and listed as a postmistress at South Road with daughters Margaret, 35, and Eleanor, 33, working as a Post Office clerk and grocery assistant respectively,” says John Morris.

In 1898, Margaret married newsagent Abraham Cook, and so must be the other name on the plaque. She and Abraham lived at Ingleside, Etherley Lane, in Bishop, with two children, Alfred and Mildred, from his first marriage.

It is known that Mildred married Walter S Seymour in 1927, who seems to have run an electrical and radio shop in the town.

So now we have quite a widespread family tree. Are any of their descendants still in Bishop; did any of them move to Shropshire where the Neilson name can be found on Victorian censuses?

THERE is no longer a South Road in Bishop Auckland, but Tom Hutchinson explains that from the early 1920s, the portion of Newgate Street that ran from the south of South Church Road down to the station was renamed South Road.

LAST week, we told of Yarm’s railway history. “Talking of Yarm,” says Paul Carter, “my wife’s gran worked in a large house in Yarm (which one not known) and she told of a tunnel under the river. Do you have any ideas?” Anyone know any stories of a tunnel under the Tees at Yarm?

The Northern Echo:

“I AM 76 years old, and remember the Meteor jets first appearing in the skies around our home near Linton-on-Ouse in the late 1940s, and my elder brother trying to explain to me that they didn’t have propellers!” writes Peter Richardson, of Hurworth. “They certainly sounded very different from the piston engined fighters that I was familiar with.”

The Meteor was Britain’s first jet-fighter, introduced at the end of the Second World War. It had, as recent Memories have told, a terrible habit of disintegrating in mid-air.

Peter explains that the Meteors were equipped with two engines, one on each wing, but their unreliability meant that when one failed, the asymmetric plane became very difficult to control, particularly as the engines were prone to fail on take-off.

Later jet planes, like the de Havilland Vampire, had their engines in the fuselage, making them much more stable.

“It is a sad fact that the attrition rate for Meteor jet fighters was frighteningly high,” says Peter. “To say that the vast bulk of the Meteor’s period of service was in peacetime, the loss of life was appalling. Even as a very young boy I was aware that articles about Meteor crashes and young pilots losing their lives seemed to appear weekly.”

From September 1950, 205 Advanced Flying School was based at RAF Middleton St George – now, of course, Teesside Airport – and so far we’ve told of accidents involving its training Meteors.

From 1951, the semi-derelict Croft aerodrome, which had been used by the Royal Canadian Air Force during the war and then as a private aero and automobile club, became the Relief Landing Ground for the flying school.

Peter points us to Alan Todd’s history of Croft airfield, Pilgrimages of Grace, which gives details of two fatal Meteor crashes.

On January 25, 1951, Pilot Officer AA McKernan was killed when his Meteor crashed in a field behind the Croft Spa Hotel, causing great consternation among the children in the village school which looks onto the field and could see the grey plume of smoke. Young Joyce and Kenneth Baker were in the field, and Joyce’s leg was injured and she was covered in jet fuel.

On May 4, 1953, a Meteor on a training flight struck the radio mast on the Croft control tower and went out of control. The two pilots, Flying Officer KB Bones and Flight Lieutenant A Turner, attempted to land it beside the lane from East Cowton to Great Smeaton.

As they came down, the port wing touched the ground, damaging the tail, and as the Meteor climbed steeply away, it struck a tree and lost an engine.

Now catastrophically out of the control, they flashed across the A167 and smashed into East Farm at Little Smeaton. Both fliers died. Apparently, the farm still bears the scars of the accident.

MEMORIES 456 asked about Arthur Soakell, who was a teacher at Gladstone Street Secondary Modern School in Darlington in the 1950s. Eileen Tunstall remembers him running a youth club in Borough Road and then Gladstone Street, where she met her husband, Eric.

Mr Soakell enthused Eileen with his photography courses, and got her a second hand Box Brownie Camera on which she took her first photos, and he wrote her a reference for a job at the co-op in Priestgate.

“He was a wonderful man,” she says. “He made my youth happy. I so looked forward to the club.”

The Northern Echo:

NEARLY all of our correspondents – Robin Rutherford, Mark Cooper, Robert Walker and Robin Catterall – agree that the car on Darlington’s High Row in this 1970s postcard is a Toyota Corolla, but George Reid says: “It’s definitely a Datsun coupe – I had one in the 1970s. I can even remember its number: DLS 84M.”