Delving into the affairs of the heart of Enid Robinson which are revealed in print after 100 years.

‘THE moon was rising, and a soft white mist enveloped the woods and the various shapeless white masses (sheep) dotted about the field,” wrote Enid Robinson in her diary on Tuesday, August 27, 1901.

If Jane Austen had kept a journal, it would have been written like this. Indeed, as the story unfolds, it could be the North-East’s own version of Pride and Prejudice.

“The road behind us was perfectly quiet, save for occasional strolling pairs of lovers – a deep peace pervaded all things, ourselves included,” she wrote.

“R. and I did not talk much; we felt instead! I am certain, now, that he is deeply in love with me – but what a terrible awkward situation!

“Poor, dear, little R! If only we can get away back to Darlington without his proposing, and so giving me the misery of paining him, by refusing him – which I shall have to do, for I see no other way out of it!

“And yet, I have actually, in spite of myself, and my passion for D., and my position and everything, grown to love R. too dearly for me to dare to think of wounding him in any way!

What a state of affairs are we coming to! I feel so fearfully perturbed about it all!

“A pair of lovers came along the road, and stopped (unaware of our presence) to kiss close to us, and R. and I looked at one another, and both laughed in an embarrassed, conscious way, whilst mother tried to relieve the situation by making silly remarks about the sheep and the view!”

What a to do!

Enid was a well-to-do 20- year-old – the great-greatgreat- granddaughter of Edward “Father of the Railways” Pease – whereas R. (Ernest Rigg) was a 31- year-old Staithes artist of more modest means.

When Enid drew up a list of his pros and cons as a suitor, her number one objection was his “Yorkshire (Bradford) accent (I fear insuperable!)”.

The diary has just been privately published by James Hart, of Harrogate, after it was sold at auction in the south of England. Indeed, it was Echo Memories readers who, following an appeal in this column, put James in touch with Honor Pullen, the diarist’s daughter, who now lives in the Lake District.

The diary is a splendid work of literature, throwing light on the turn-of-thecentury life of an upper-class Durham lass and on the inner workings of the Staithes Group, one of Yorkshire’s most celebrated collections of artists.

ENID was born in 1881 and spent her childhood in Beechwood, one of Darlington’s great lost mansions. Her father, Robert Robinson, was a civil engineer and is portrayed in the diary as a Mr Bennet figure – stern and unforgiving of the flights of fancy of a young lady’s heart.

Her mother, Lucy Ann Pease, despite her sensible Quaker roots, is more in the Mrs Bennet mould. She’s far more relaxed and, unlike her serious husband, has an interest in art.

Mother and daughter regularly holiday among the artist community of Staithes, on the North Yorkshire coast. Enid is an accomplished artist, having had classes in Scarborough, although her diary reveals there is as much loving as there is painting going on among the artists.

They arrive by train in early August, Enid nursing a Darcy-sized hole in her heart for an artist she identifies only as D.

“I keep watching at the window for him every day, and every time there is a train and some people descend the hill from the station, I rush to the window hoping to see the familiar figure and the bright red hair (just fancy! I used to think red hair absolutely hideous, once upon a time, before I knew him!),” she wrote.

“But he never comes, and I go back and choke down my dinner and then let off my feelings lone upstairs in my room!”

There are plenty of tears in the diary: tears of loss, as she gets over D., and tears of love as R. begins to fall for her.

“Poor dear little R…when he was cutting some bread for us for supper, the tears were shimmering on his eyelashes in the lamp light, and he looked up at me with his beautiful, faithful dog eyes so full of pain,” writes Enid, who clearly believes she is living the life of an Austen heroine.

“As we were leaving the house, finally, I quietly dropped my little embroidered handkerchief for him to find and keep as a memento if he liked, dear little fellow!”

IT would be unfair to give away the diary’s denouement – whether the proposal comes and how Enid reacts to either the great compliment or the profound disappointment. It would be like giving away the ending of Gone With the Wind.

Suffice to say, Enid later became the second wife of Dr Charles Stanley Steavenson, the Middleton St George GP. Dr Steavenson, a regular in these columns, was a great eccentric, and together they set up an Swiss Alps-style TB sanatorium in the grounds of Felix House, which is still the village doctor’s surgery.

She died in 1974 aged 95.

Quite how her diary came to be in the south of England, no one knows, but when Mr Hart – a Staithes enthusiast – discovered it, he needed the help of Echo Memories readers to trace Enid’s only surviving daughter, Honor, to get her permission to publish it.

“I’d like to thank everyone who responded to last year’s article,” said Mr Hart.

■ The Secret Staithes Diary of Enid Lucy Pease Robinson costs £9.95 from Kirkleatham Museum, Redcar; Staithes Museum; Holmans Book Shop and the Whitby Bookshop (both in Whitby); GH Smith, Easingwold; at or by sending a cheque for £11.95 to include postage made out to James Hart, 49 Green Lane, Harrogate, HG2 9LP.

Railway lines and ‘short-cut’ roundabouts

OON February 4, 1944, 12 people were killed at Catterick Bridge Station, as Echo Memories has been telling recently, when trucks full of ammunition exploded.

The station was on the Richmond branchline and during two world wars it was used by hundreds of thousands of troops stationed at Catterick Camp.

The camp had its own military railway, which branched off the branchline to the west of the station.

A single track, the military railway crossed the River Swale on a skeletal, metal bridge built in 1922 by Darlington’s Cleveland Bridge company. The bridge had wooden decking, so a row of fire buckets was stationed along it, just in case cinders from the engine caught it alight.

The military railway then trundled four-and-a-half miles into the camp. It had four stations – Brompton Road, Camp Centre, California and Scotton – and numerous ungated level crossings, like the one at Walkerville in the picture on left, which has been kindly loaned by David Chapman, of Merrybent.

Just beyond the Camp Centre station, the railway ran straight through the middle of a road roundabout.

Mary Scarr emails to say: “In my far distant youth, it was not unknown for some car drivers returning home from a night out in the very early morning to take a short cut through the middle of this roundabout.

“Not that I did of course.”

‘Flourishing garden’ now a supermarket

BEECHWOOD is beneath the Victoria Road Sainsbury’s, next to Feethams the old football ground, in the centre of Darlington. It was built in 1825 and belonged to the Backhouse banking family.

Where there is now an ocean of car park tarmac there was once “a flourishing garden, one of the warmest and most pleasant of Darlington gardens, where grapes growing up the house came to perfection in fine summers,” according to historian Vera Chapman.

In the time of John Backhouse, who died in 1874, Beechwood boasted a hothouse, three summerhouses plus, as a central feature of the lawn, a large stone sarcophagus.

It is said that there were at least three Roman sarcophaguses in Darlington, and it is believed that they came to light around 1840 when the first stretch of the main railway line was being built from Darlington to York. Navvies dug a cutting through Castle Hills to the west of Northallerton, which was believed to be a Roman fort.

The sarcophaguses were among the treasures unearthed. One is in the grounds of Rockliffe Park, Hurworth, where it is said to have inspired Rudyard Kipling to write a poem.

Another is in West Cemetery.

But what happened to the Beechwood one?

Beechwood ceased being a private residence after the Robinsons. In 1924, St Mary’s Roman Catholic Grammar School was founded there. It transferred to Hummersknott in 1930 and then the mansion became the headquarters of United Automobile Services Ltd.

All over those wondrous gardens grew bus-servicing sheds.

In 1994, the whole site – mansion, bus depot and presumably sarcophagus – was cleared to make way for the supermarket.