WE stumbled into a hornets’ nest recently when we tried to describe the location of an old local telephone exchange. It was the Croft exchange, we said, but it was located in the front room of a house in Hurworth Place…

An innocent statement as today we think of Croft-on-Tees as being the village three miles south of Darlington on the Yorkshire bank of the Tees. The great river has for centuries been the natural boundary between two ancient counties and so on the Durham bank is a settlement called Hurworth Place.

However, in times past, there was no such separation. Hurworth Place did not exist. Croft – perhaps controversially to 21st Century eyes – was the name given to land on both sides of the river.

“I remember when the sign saying Hurworth Place was put up near the end of the drive of the house in which I then lived,” says Robin Pease, who grew up in Croft in County Durham. “My mother and grandfather expressed real horror, saying that someone at the council had got it all wrong!

“The letter heading of my home was CROFT HOUSE, CROFT-ON-TEES which was situated a little way along the road from CROFT post office before you got to CROFT bridge.

“You went up the hill known as CROFT Bank, past CROFT working men’s club, and you came to CROFT Spa railway station.

“Over the railway bridge was Hurworth Road where the properties gave their address in CROFT, and the first building in the terrace on the right was CROFT Village Hall.”

John Wearmouth agreed. He said: “I am not sure that the telephone exchange, Station Hotel or the carnival processors or the shopowners on your pictures in Memories 495 would have regarded themselves as being in HURWORTH PLACE.

“Growing up in Grange Avenue in the 1940s and 1950s, I do not recall Hurworth Place being used at all as the name for where we lived.

“All of us on the Durham side of the river up as far as the entrance to Rockliffe Hall lived in CROFT where there was Croft Post Office, Croft Methodist Chapel and Croft Working Men’s Club.

“I recall reading an old guide to the area which described the Durham side of the river as “Hurworth Place, commonly known as Croft”. It would be interesting to know if anyone has any evidence on the origin of the Hurworth Place name and whether there is currently any distinction in its use between long-standing and newer residents.”

In 1829, when the Stockton & Darlington Railway opened a horsedrawn branchline to terminate on the Durham side of the river near Croft bridge, it called it the Croft branchline which supplied the Croft coal depot. However, Mackenzie and Ross in their 1834 history of County Durham, mention Hurworth Place as being a hamlet which was “rapidly growing” because of the railhead – this may well be the first mention of Hurworth Place.

The name did not catch on and, as our correspondents show, Croft was certainly the name of choice into the late 20th Century.

During the Second World War, many place names were removed for fear of helping the enemy, and it would seem that around 1950, the local authority felt it had a blank canvas and so installed a “Hurworth Place” sign on the A167 at the entrance to the village. At the same time, the properties were given new numbers and so Croft House, which was built in the early 1860s, became 2, Hurworth Place.

Such unilateral actions by a high-handed authority are bound to inflame local residents who rebelled and continued to call their settlement “Croft”.

Many people will buy their Northern Echo this very morning will have had it delivered to them from Croft News, which is in the former Croft post office which is, of course, in Hurworth Place.