Fancy a local book for Christmas? Chris Lloyd looks at a few of the new releases

Where Lyeth Ye Bodies, and A Child of Hope
by Barningham Local History Group

TWO booklets published by this newly formed local history group in Teesdale.

The first is a guide to the church of St Michael and All Angels, in Barningham, and includes a list of all known burials there since 1503.

The second is the childhood memoir of Mary Martin, who was born in West Hope in 1847.

Those with great memories will recall that Echo Memories last set foot in West Hope in 2007 when we were writing about its 14th Century packhorse bridge on the Badger Way.

West Hope is at the foot of The Stang, which leads precipitously over the top into Arkengarthdale.

Mary’s childhood was lived 150 years ago on a different planet. She walked one-anda- half miles across fields to school in Scargill and then four miles along a track to Barningham.

The Barningham school, run by a Mrs Coates, was a “Yorkshire school” – one of the private boarding schools set up in out-of-the-way places where unwanted, often illegitimate, children were housed for cheap, yearround rates.

The 20 boy boarders at Mary’s school came from London, Gloucester, Wigan, Leeds and France.

Ten years before Mary was born, Charles Dickens visited a “Yorkshire school” in Bowes, which he turned into the brutal Dotheboys Hall in the novel Nicholas Nickleby.

Mary, though, says how she enjoyed her school and that Mrs Coates was “very kind”.

Mary left school at 14, first to become an apprentice dressmaker in Barnard Castle and then moving to Darlington, where she married an ironworker.

Before she left school, the wild moors above West Hope were her playpen.

“Rebecca Alderson and I often went up on the moors to places that interested us – Gingle Pot Hole, Hope Scar, usler holes, smail beds etc.

“My brother, William, and I used to go a-netting and fishing, brambling, mushrooming, searching for bleasberries in the gill pasture, and birdnesting too.

“We used to get the eggs and blow them and hang strings of them up in the kitchen. We never thought it was wrong to rob the poor birds. I am often so sorry that I did it. Much ill is brought for want of thought.”

■ Where Lyeth Ye Bodies cost £5, including postage, and Child of Hope is £2, available from Jon Smith, Barningham Local History Group, Heath House, Barningham, Richmond, North Yorkshire DL11 7DU, 01833-621374, or email

Like Carrying Coals to Newcastle: The Story of the Tanfield Way
by Nick Neave and Colin Douglas (Summerhill Books, £9.99)

THE Tanfield Way evolved over five centuries to take coal from the north Durham pits to Newcastle (okay, Dunston actually, but that would spoil a good title) where keelmen took it down the river to sea-going colliers, which carried it to London.

This well-illustrated book traces those five centuries, from wainways – a wain being a four-wheeled wooden box drawn by horses – to waggonways and railways, including the construction of the Causey Arch in 1726, which is now the world’s oldest stone railway bridge.

The story comes to an end, for the time being at least, with the Tanfield Railway.

Durham: Murders & Misdemeanours
by John van der Kiste (Amberley, £12.99)

IN the 1870s, life was “nasty, brutish and short” in County Durham. Twelve people were convicted of murder and swung for their crimes.

This book tells their stories and intrigues, and of a few more crimes besides, with one chapter naturally reserved for the poisoner queen: Mary Ann Cotton.

Good readable, blood thirsty stuff.

Around Cleveland
by Paul Menzies (Amberley, £12.99)

A FINE collection of black and white images – not many of them postcards – of Cleveland, with a good geographic spread from Stockton to Saltburn. In fact, there are so many pictures crammed in that some of them are a little small, but the footnotes are always extremely informative.

The Ancient City of Durham
by HT Gradon (Amberley, £12.99)

GRADON was a Durham architect – his most famous work was the Miners’ Hall at Red Hills which was completed in 1915 – and a part time historian.

In 1883, he published this entertaining and informative chitchat about the history and folklore around Durham City.

It is now an extremely rare book, but this republication – complete with an array of excellent period illustrations – has brought it back to life.

Railway Walks 2: Branch Lines Around Durham City
by John Swain

HAVING traversed the branchlines around Bishop Auckland, John Swain turns his attention to the Deerness Valley Railway Path, the Leamside Line and the Durham Elvet to Murton Junction line.

Each walk is described with maps and photographs and historical detail. For instance, for the first 20 years of the Durham Miners’ Gala, the closest station, Shincliffe Town, was a long walk from the racecourse. In 1893, the line was redirected over the Wear to Durham Elvet, which became the destination for the miners from Murton, Hetton and Pittington.

Yet the peak of the railways was already passing, and Durham Elvet’s passenger service from Sunderland was withdrawn on January 1, 1931. By the Forties, it was handling only three freight trains a week – except on the Big Meet day when 35 passenger specials pulled in.

■ The book is available for £9.50 at Bondgate Books and the Tourist Information Centre (TIC), both in Bishop Auckland; Durham City TIC; The Bookcase, Chester-le- Street; Durham Dales Centre, Stanhope; and Locomotion museum, Shildon.

Curiosities of County Durham
by Paul Perry and Derek Dodds (Amberley, £12.99)

MORE than 70 historic curiosities presented in bite-size articles with pictures and directions of how to find them. The book should encourage people to go looking for the oddities that make out landscape unique – from Sunderland’s remarkable Elephant Tea House to Thomas Wright’s strange observatory in Westerton – although there may not be enough details to quench their thirst.

Stanley, South Moor & Craghead Through Time (Amberley, £12.99) AFULL colour collection in which old postcard views of these mining communities are contrasted with modern photographs taken from the same spot.

Bishop Auckland: A Century of Postcards
by Tom Hutchinson (Summerhill Books, £5)

AS mentioned here a fortnight ago, this is a lovely collection of one hundred or more postcards from the golden age of postcards a century ago.

It is available from Bishop Auckland Tourist Information Centre, plus Etheringtons and Chribec News in Cockton Hill Road, Ali’s General Store in South Church, Etherley Post Office, Evenwood News, Anne Gilligan’s newsagents in Cockfield, Locomotion museum in Shildon and the Teesdale Mercury in Barnard Castle.

Jobs for the Boys. The Story of a Family in Britain’s Imperial Heyday
by Hew Stevenson (Dove Books, £30)

EVERYONE has a family tree, but very few people have a family tree whose Victorian generations alone can fill a 375-page book.

The Stevensons can. They range from Glasgow cotton industrialists to East African imperialists, but the most relevant chapters concern the branch of the family who arrived in South Shields from Scotland in 1843 to take over one of England’s largest chemical works.

The works literally had a cloud hanging over its head – an acid raincloud – and the threat of legal action by those the works harmed was ever-present.

This was a classic Victorian dilemma: the works provided well-paid employment to 600 of the town’s 4,000 households, but its hydrochloric emissions caused the people’s vegetables to shrivel and their lungs to congest.

The Stevensons became crucial to Shields’ development, becoming mayors and MPs, and founding the local evening paper, which still exists (the author was a journalist under Harold Evans on The Northern Echo in the Sixties).

So this book is far more than a family tree – it is the story of where one family fits in British social history.

It is enhanced by sumptuous illustrations and fascinating detail.

For instance, in 1852 the Stevensons needed to fix a lightning conductor to the chemical works’s 263ft tall chimney – the tallest building on Tyneside.

Says the book: “The steeplejack, a Mr Wilde from Manchester, instead of using scaffolding, flew a giant kite over the chimney and used it to attach a cord to the top.

“He then hoisted himself up and had the lightning conductor fixed in two hours, watched by an excited crowd below. He only charged £12.”

The Motorway Achievement: Building the Network in the North-East of England
by FA Sims (Phillimore & Co, £25)

A HARDBACK publication for those who like facts at their fingertips. For example, the A1(M) was first proposed to by-pass Darlington in 1929 when it would have widened Carmel Road and whizzed through the West End.

Fortunately, the economic depression of 1930 saved the town.

Work on the £5.23m project to build 9.5 miles of motorway, plus another two miles of the A66(M) spur, started in May 1963 when Transport Minister Ernest Marples cut the first sod.

The route followed the trackbed of the old Merrybent Railway and ran from Kneeton Corner, near Middleton Tyas, to a place wonderfully called Crumbley Corner, to the north of Darlington.

There were 3.75 million cubic yards of earthworks and 34 bridges. Total cost was £6.5m and it was opened in May 1965 by Tom Fraser, the new Minister of Transport.

An Encyclopaedia of North-East England
by Richard Lomas (Birlinn, £30 hardback)

MORE than 500 pages of detail compiled by a retired history lecturer from Durham University. It is very dippable for those who like a little regional trivia – did you know that the Essoldo chain had 196 cinemas and was formed by Newcastle boxing promoter Shol Sheckman who named it after himself, his wife and his daughter: ESther, SOL, DOrothy – but it is also in-depth enough to be a valuable reference book.

It’s My Life: 1960s Newcastle
(Tyne Bridge Publishing, £10)

WRITTEN by the people who were there in Sixties Newcastle, remembering the shopping, the football, the redevelopment and, the music when 4,000 young people would sleep out for 48 hours to get tickets to see the Beatles at the City Hall – an activity that so worried parents the police mounted “chastity patrols” to make sure nothing naughty took place in a sleeping bag.

AND don’t forget, the last two Echo Memories books are still available in Waterstone’s, in the Cornmill Centre, Darlington, or from the Echo offices in Darlington’s Priestgate. A Walk in the Park – the story of Darlington’s South Park – is £6.50. Of Fish and Actors is £7 and celebrates 100 years of Darlington Civic Theatre. All other Memories books are, unfortunately, sold out.