PERHAPS last week’s lockdown quiz was too testing, too esoteric.

“My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said John Heslop in Durham in a typical response, “although our combined knowledge and inspiration produced what we can hardly call a master score.

“We achieved 37 in total, and the picture round, where we got five out of the 11 churches, was our strongest area. However, we've learned a lot about our area in the process!”

Thirty-seven out of 89 was a pretty good effort, with other people emailing to say they were too embarrassed to reveal their scores.

However, plenty of interest has come out of it…

QUESTION 17 asked for the locations of these industrial sounding roads: Bone Mill Bank, which is on the edge of South Church where once there was a mill for grinding animal bones into fertilizer; Zinc Works Road, on the southern edge of Seaton Carew which led to a smelter where zinc and sulphuric acid was once produced; and Bleach House Bank, which is a country road to the east of Great Stainton and to the west of Stillington. It runs from Bishopton in the south over a little bridge across the Elstob Beck towards the village of Mordon in the north.

And it is where you would imagine someone in a house once added chlorine to caustic soda to create a vicious cleaning chemical.

But, no.

The bridge over the Elstob Beck is the key to understanding the name.

Tim Brown in Ferryhill takes up the story. “The name is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon name “Ewaldebrighe”, which mutated into Ellar Bridge and then into Bleach House Bridge,” he says.

“Ellar Bridge and Elstob have a common root – they come from Ellar which is a corruption of Ælle, who was the king of Deira from 559 to 588.”

Ælle’s kingdom stretched from the Humber to just north of the Tees – perhaps Elstob Beck was its northern boundary! Ælle’s son, Edwin, united the northern province of Bernicia with Deira to form Northumbria. Edwin, who converted to Christianity in 627, has the church at High Coniscliffe dedicated to him, which is one up on his dad who only has a little rural bridge named after him.

To explain how we get from Ælle to Elstob, Tim says: “The suffix “stob” means stump, as in Coatham Stob and Stob Cross Farm at Cornforth.

“The term “stack stob” was familiar in farming in the pre-combine ages when sheaves of corn were stacked in the farmyard and thatched with wheat straw until thrashing time in wintertime. The thatch was held in place by inserting stack-stobs and using twine. The thatches on “chocolate box” cottages use a similar principle.”

Today, Elstob Hall is a Grade II listed building, described as a “substantial house” dating from the early 18th Century, sitting in farmland between Bleach House Bank to the east and the Roman road to Sedgefield on the west.

From the 13th Century, the Elstob estate was the home of the Elstob family, but in 1700 their descendant, William Scurfield, went bankrupt and ended up in the notorious Fleet debtors’ prison in London.

The Elstob estate was sold off, largely to two of County Durham’s largest landowners: Lord Eldon, of Newcastle, and the Vane Tempests of Wynyard Hall.

Then, in 1833, the Clarence Railway was built across Elstob, to the north of the hall. Although it was lifted in the early 1960s, its trackbed can still be traced across the landscape. It crossed Bleach House Bank at Bishopton crossing then it went over the Roman road at Elstob crossing – and the Elstob crossing keeper’s cottage can still be seen.

Tim says: “The name “Elstob” is unique in County Durham, unique in the British Isles and unique in the world. Anyone with that surname can ultimately trace their ancestry to this quiet corner of County Durham.”

There are many illustrious Elstobs. Elizabeth Elstob (1681-1750), whose grandfather came from the hamlet of Foxton, near Sedgefield, was a great Anglo-Saxon scholar and author, able to understand at least seven languages. She is known as the “Saxon Nymph” and is regarded as one of the first English feminists.

“In the 20th Century,” says Tim, “four brothers, Auberon, Eric, Noel and Wilfrith Elstob, served in the First World War. Auberon was a chaplain, Eric was in the Royal Navy, and both Noel and Wilfrith were in the Army. Three brothers survived but Wilfrith, serving in the Manchester Regiment, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross after serving in France and Belgium. Their father was a vicar, born in Houghton-le Spring, where their grandfather and great grandfather had been cabinetmakers.

“More recent Elstobs include Mark Elstob, a stage actor who is perhaps best known on television for a part in Emmerdale, and auctioneer David Elstob.”

David Elstob worked in auctionhouses in Barnard Castle and Darlington before starting his own fine art and antique house, Elstob & Elstob, which is now based at Ripon.

He said: “My father’s family came from Wolviston and we know there are a clutch of Elstobs in Sunderland, and I have been contacted a few times by people, particularly First World War military historians, after they’ve seen my name on Bargain Hunt.”

STAYING with Question 17, Zinc Works Road looks to have been a hell of a place. It led to Seaton Snook, which once may have been sizeable settlement, with a church, on the north bank of the Tees’ mouth. The works were created there at the end of the 19th Century to reclaim zinc from mining waste which had come all the way from New South Wales in Australia. The works was staffed almost exclusively by Germans and Austrians, and when the First World War broke out, 42 of them were rounded up and interned amid acrimonious scenes – the people of Hartlepool have had a unique way in dealing with outsiders in times of war, as the monkey found to its cost.

More extraordinary is that Seaton Snook was haunted by “Jacob Cox’s horse”. It was said that Mr Cox’s horse, pulling a cart, would stray into the sea and drown. Its body would be recovered by fishermen and immediately afterwards there would be a shipwreck on the beach. In 1868, Jacob Cox’s horse was recovered dead on three separate occasions from the sea immediately before three fatal wrecks.

We’d love more information on Seaton Snook, the zinc works and Jacob Cox’s harbinger of doom…

ONE of our mystery St Cuthbert’s churches was in a village whose name, we said, meant “Cuthbert’s town”. Our answer was Cotherstone.

Barbara Laurie in Bishop Auckland admitted that she cheated by consulting a couple of books which gained her a couple of extra points to take her over half marks – that is extremely good.

One of those books was Victor Watts’ A Dictionary of County Durham Place Names, published in 2002, in which the Durham University place name expert disagrees. He says that in the Domesday Book of 1086, Cotherstone is referred to for the first time as Codrestuna, which means that it is the tun, or settlement or farmstead, belonging to Cuthere.

Cuthere, he says, is unconnected to Cuthbert. He is without a shadow of a doubt correct.

There has been debate about where in Cotherstone, Cuthere had his first settlement, and it could well have been on the high mound where the River Balder joins the Tees. This was the site of Cotherstone Castle, which was created in 1090 with a deerpark around it.

Probably rampaging Scots burned its timberwork, and then naughty villagers hauled off its stonework for their houses, meaning that only its earthen mound survives.

St Cuthbert’s Church in Cotherstone wasn’t built until 1881. It feels as if the Anglicans were spurred to build in the village because the nonconformists – the Quakers, the Presbyterians and the Methodists – were already making inroads.

It is said that the villages of Teesdale are differentiated by their religion. Cotherstone is Quaker, Romaldkirk is Anglican, Mickleton is Primitive Methodist and Middleton-in-Teesdale is Wesleyan Methodist.

“MY score in your quiz was so paltry that it would be embarrassing to reveal,” says Clive Booth of Bishop Auckland. “I would however like confirmation that the answer that Manny Shinwell was MP for Easington would merit a desperately needed point.”

Manny Shinwell was elected MP for Seaham in 1935 but in 1950, the boundaries of the constituency were redrawn so that the new seat of Easington contained nearly all of the old seat. Mr Shinwell, who as Minister of Fuel and Power in 1946 oversaw the nationalisation of the coal industry, was elected as Easington MP from 1950 to 1970.

So a bonus point for Clive. Perhaps if there’s a next time, we’ll try not to be so obscure with our questions. Many thanks to everyone who took part.