WHEN Thomas Lee announced plans to open a public house in a quiet hamlet his neighbours were enraged. A petition was signed by 68 of them in an effort to stop his venture going ahead at Holwick.

They declared it could become a haunt of tipplers and other disorderly people, especially on Sundays. They claimed it could lead to drunkenness, brawling and "pugilistic encounters of angry men."

Unfortunately for them their petition failed to arrive at a court in time during 1890 and, without seeing it, the justices granted a licence for the Strathmore Arms - still going strong 124 years later.

Lee was a farmer until he decided to turn his home into a hostelry, which he felt was needed for the growing number of rail passengers visiting Upper Teesdale.

There had been an inn in Holwick many years earlier, but since it closed there was nowhere for local folk and tourists to enjoy a drink of beer, wine or spirits.

His neighbours said older people could remember the previous pub attracting lots of rowdy drinkers, and that Thomas Lee's father played a leading part in getting it closed.

They stated that anyone wanting alcohol could get it in Middleton or other villages, but he retorted that they were all miles away. He pointed out that in cases of sudden illness brandy or other spirits could be needed as medicine, and without a local pub it would take a long time to fetch it from elsewhere.

Lord Strathmore, owner of most of the land in the area, was said to have no objection to a hostelry. Other support came from a building firm which was constructing a mansion at Holwick for a director of the Bank of England, Cosmo Bonsor, who was also an MP.

His aim was to use it as a shooting lodge to which he could invite his wealthy friends. When the application came before Greta Bridge magistrates they were told there had been some local opposition.

But they were also informed that Thomas Lee was a man of impeccable character, that his property was suitable for conversion and that there was no sound grounds for refusal.

The petition had been posted to the court but did not arrive until the following day and could not be considered.

The pub was called the Strathmore Arms in deference to his lordship. It was soon in business and became a welcome gathering spot for hikers, cyclists, day trippers and a large number of workers on the mansion, known as Holwick Hall.

The impressive house was eventually bought by Lord Strathmore and has been visited often by members of the royal family, thanks to the late Queen Mother being a Bowes Lyon, part of the Strathmore dynasty.

Over the years quite a number of royal guests have been known to pop into the hostelry for a drink while staying at the hall. But it might have been a different story if the petition had arrived in time.

The Strathmore Arms is now run by Anthony and Selina Goldstraw, who have made a fine success of it in the last three years, with letting rooms, homely meals and a convivial bar.

POETS are not usually inspired by the opening of any new shop, but one venture in the 1860s moved John Ashman to compose an extremely long ode. He told the story of how a Co-op store was launched at Crook before it went on to have branches elsewhere.

The versifier from Waterhouses was a committee member of the organisation in its early days. His masterpiece starts:

"A few men at Crook in 1864

Resolved they would have a Co-operative store

They felt quite determined like good men and true

To see what their united efforts would do."

It explains how they began on a small scale and found it difficult to draw enough customers, so that by the end of the first year they were in debt. The ditty explains how critics decried their efforts and claimed they would never succeed.

It was a tough struggle for all the folk who set off with such high hopes. It was feared it would end in tears. "But they did go on and began to compete

And removed to a much larger shop in Hope Street

Our numbers increased every week more and more

And strangers in Crook asked the way to the store."

Once that outlet was doing well they started opening other branches. Large chunks of the poem are devoted to listing the hundreds of items on sale. It seems there was nothing you would not find at the Co-op -- food, clothing, furniture, kitchen ware, sports equipment, garden supplies, products needed by coal miners . . the range seemed endless.

A typical verse states:

"Clothes lines and clothes pegs, pick shafts and picks

Bait tins, candle boxes, tin bottles and cans

cake tins, loaf tins, lamps and frying pans."

It was like a modern advertising jingle but on a massive scale. Copies of it were written out and passed round. People were amused as they read it in their homes, so it must have helped to bolster sales.

Leaders of the Co-operative movement in the locality must have been pleased with Ashman's poetry, which came out in the 1880s.

The ode was included in Edward Lloyd's book on the history of the Crook district and its Co-operative Society, published in 1916. There must be quite a number of Co-op branches around the country which would not be averse to having such a helping hand today.

In fact the Co-op supermarket in Crook is closing soon and after some months of interior work will be reopened by Lidl. But a smaller Co-op convenience store in the town centre will stay open, so the organisation's 150-year local presence will continue.

PAULINE Bowles scored another notable success with her latest hay shed service on her farm at Ingleton. More than 100 people arrived to soak up the joyful atmosphere in a building which is a winter home for 50 or so cattle, and there were wide smiles all round as they left. The event raised £900 for St John's Church in Ingleton. The ever-cheerful Mrs Bowles played down her own role as usual and passed on credit to her family and friends.

A QUERY has come in about what happened to a stained glass window installed in the Primitive Methodist Church in Newgate, Barnard Castle, in 1922.

It was a memorial to 10 church members who died in the First World War. They were G. Wilfred Berry, William J. Coates, George W. Croft, J. Frederick Hopson, Joseph R. Watson, John T. Layland, George W. Waine, Alec Welford, William Waine and Harold Watson. The inscription read: "In loving memory of the young men of this church who laid down their lives in the Great War."

The chapel was built in 1887 at a cost of £1,500 but was demolished some years ago. The person who got in touch asked if the window was preserved, and if so where it is now. Perhaps someone can provide the answer.

POSTAL historian David Charlesworth is delighted that full information has been traced about all 24 names commemorated on the Barnard Castle PO Roll of Honour from the First World War. He said this week: "Thanks to you, your column readers and all concerned, we now appear to have reached the end of the road in the search for details of our hero postal staff. The project to trace facts and photographs has been a long and satisfying one. From what was just a list, a permanent record has now been compiled in their own names. We will remember them."