Beyond the occasional rampaging wild boar, Ferryhill’s history is full of industrial smoke, railway engines and coal mines. So why is this weekend’s local history open day being held in a chapel dedicated to a Duncombe – a name that conjures up the clear breezy skies of the North York Moors? And why did the miners live in a terrace named after a multimillion estate in leafy Dorset once sought after by Aussie pop princess Kylie Minogue?

IT all goes back to John Scott, the 1st Earl of Eldon, who by chance features in another exhibition that opens today in the Dene Valley.

John was only a trainee curate when, using a ladder, on November 18, 1772, he eloped with Bessie Surtees from her wealthy family’s house on Newcastle Quayside.

They were married the next day in Scotland, against her parents’ wishes. Now with a young wife in tow, John could not become a curate and so he switched to law. He rose to become Attorney General and for 20 years, under four different prime ministers, he was a curmudgeonly Lord Chancellor, one of the most powerful men in the kingdom.

Fabulously wealthy, in 1792 he bought the Eldon Estate, which spread between Coundon and Sedgefield.

Although he didn’t live on his estate, he liked to holiday at the Eden Arms, at Rushyford, where his consumption of port was as legendary as the Beatles’ one-night stay there.

In 1806, John bought what became his main home: Encombe House, in Dorset (Encombe, apparently, means “the valley of the hens”). It cost him £56,000 – about £4m in today’s money – although it has recently been on the market for £25m with Ms Minogue rumoured to be making the purchase.

Including two-and-a-half miles of private coastline, it is regarded as one of the finest and most beautiful estates in England. John enjoyed it until his death in 1838, untroubled except by the occasional mob which, infuriated by his repressive Tory policies, threatened to sweep out of nearby Poole and burn his house down.

John’s son, John (1774-1805), had died aged 31 and so his estates were inherited by his grandson, John (1805-1854), who became the 2nd Earl of Eldon and Viscount Encombe of Encombe.

In 1831, this John married Louisa Duncombe, the daughter of Charles Duncombe, the 1st Baron Feversham of Duncombe Park, near Helmsley, on the North York Moors.

It was during John and Louisa’s tenure that parts of the Eldon Estate at Ferryhill were sold for industrialisation.

The ancient village of Ferryhill – it takes its name from an Anglo-Saxon word, firgen, meaning “wooded hill” – was on the top of a wooded hill, but the industrialists were looking at the gap at the foot of the hill through which the North Skerne River once flowed.

They realised that the floor of the old river valley made an ideal trackbed for a railway, and they discovered that if they dug into the side of the hill they would uncover coal to go in their railway.

The Clarence Railway opened its branchline through the Ferryhill Gap on January 16, 1834, and the Little Chilton Colliery dug into the hillside soon after.

As the industrialisation increased – Ferryhill station opened in 1840 and the East Coast Main Line was laid through the gap in 1844 – more two ups-two downs were built for the workers. These were named in honour of John and Louisa: Encombe Terrace, Feversham Terrace and Duncombe Terrace.

And of course the pub where the workers drank was known as the Eldon Arms.

Louisa, who was known as the Countess of Eldon, died “at London, after a few days illness” in 1852, aged 44. Her two-line death notice in the Darlington and Stockton Times said her passing was “deeply regretted”, not least, one imagines, by her seven children.

The youngest of those children was her only son, John, who was seven. When his father died in 1854, John became the 3rd Earl of Eldon, although he didn’t come of age until 1866 when 150 of his tenants feasted in celebration at the King’s Head Hotel, in Darlington.

As the community at Ferryhill Station grew, a cemetery was required. Land was bought from the Eldon Estate on Rudd Hill, overlooking the Ferryhill Gap. When it opened in 1887, at a cost of £1,800, it was called the Duncombe Cemetery in memory of the countess.

The Duncombe Cemetery chapel houses the colliery banners from the Mainsforth and the Dean and Chapter pits, and will be the venue for the local history open day on Sunday.

RUDD HILL is said to be named after the family that worked Cleves Cross Farm. Further up the hill is a weathered stone, beside a bus stop. It is Cleves Cross, named because it overlooks cliffs that drop into the Ferryhill Gap. Beneath Cleves Cross is the body of the terrible wild boar which caused great angst in County Durham in the 13th Century before being trapped and killed by brave Roger de Ferry, in 1208. The full story will be posted on the Echo Memories blog.

COLIN TURNER is mounting the Images of Eldon exhibition today and Saturday. As well as supplying the pictures of the Eldon Colliery swimming baths which featured in Memories No 25, Colin has loaned today’s map and the pictures of the 1st Earl of Eldon. He is seeking pictures of Bessie Surtees who was brave enough to elope, but was too shy to have her portrait painted.

Indeed, any pictures of the Scott family would be welcome.

Contact Colin on 01388- 772807. The Memories version of the elopement story will be posted on the blog.