HURWORTH churchyard, with the River Tees quietly flowing below it and shaggy brown cattle roaming the far bank, contains many notable monuments.

Beneath the church tower, there is a huge and heavy slab with two Georgian initials carved deeply into it: GS. This is the resting place of Lieutenant-Colonel George Skelly, a hero of the Siege of Seringapatam, in India, in 1799. He died, aged 61, in November 1828 at his home of Pilmore – the original farmhouse on the western edge of the village upon which Rockliffe Hall now stands.

Then there’s a very square monument with the words “Erected by the inhabitants of Hurworth” in big capitals shouting at the path. It is dedicated to Captain James Dryden, who died aged 68, in October 1836.

“From a very humble station in this village, he rose solely by his own merit to be an officer in His Majesty’s Second Regiment of Life Guards,” explains another face.

A third side has a lengthy poem which begins “Tis sweet when genuine goodness…” but the rest of the wording has weathered away. Perhaps it told how Capt Dryden served heroically under the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War of 1813-14 when Britain alongside Spain and Portugal defeated the dreadful Napoleon Bonaparte and his French armies.

Nearby is another once grand memorial which today lists as at a drunken angle and just has a metal pole sticking out of its top. It was erected by the members of the Hurworth Temperance Society and bears the names of about 30 people who led the battle against the bottle – opposite the churchyard are Teetotal Cottages and a former coffee tavern (now the dentist’s) and to one side is the Temperance Hall (now the village hall) where the non-drinkers waged their war in the middle of the 19th Century, led by the formidable Margaret Maynard whose name appears at the top of the list.

But perhaps the tallest monument in the churchyard is nearer the river. It features a delicate but downcast angel who sorrowfully is about to drop a rose blossom from her hand to the floor.

It is dedicated to the Bell family who, it says, lived at Mosslea, Hurworth.

Today, Mosslea is known by a totally different name: it is the Tawny Owl pub, near The Northern Echo Arena.

“Mosslea was built as a smallholding by my grandfather, George Henry Bell, after he married Mary Ellen Morrell in 1895,” says Clive Bennett, of Merrybent. “They kept a few cows and some poultry there – and they ran a dairy in Clifton Street in Darlington. My mother, Vera, was born at Mosslea in 1905 and when she was 12 or 13, she delivered the milk from the dairy in a horse and trap.”

George Bell originated from Hornby, near Great Smeaton, and his wife, Mary, came from Ravensworth. After they married in St Hilda’s Church in Darlington, George built their family home on narrow paddock on countryside midway between Darlington and Hurworth.

“My mother walked to Dodmire school across fields, unless she was lucky enough to get a ride in a horse and cart, and on Sundays, they had to attend Sunday school in Hurworth and walked across fields the other way to get there,” says Clive.

Mosslea was originally a nice, square late Victorian villa with a couple of bay windows and an interesting round window above the front door which looked out onto the road from Darlington to Neasham. It’s nearest neighbours were Creebeck House and Butcher House, both of which still stand on Neasham Road, and then, across the fields, was Hurworth Moor House, a mansion built in 1890 for newly-weds Helen Blanche Pease and her first cousin, Edward Lloyd Pease.

Blanche Pease was the grand-daughter of Joseph Pease, who stands on his statue in the middle of Darlington, and their Quaker wedding in Guisborough was the last of the lavish nuptials before their branch of the family went bankrupt in 1902.

Back in Mosslea, between 1895 and 1910, George and Mary had seven children. The second eldest, also George, died in 1919 aged 21 and the monument in Hurworth churchyard is dedicated to the loss of his young life.

However, when George Snr died in 1922, his name was also added to the monument. This marked the end of the family’s time at Mosslea.

In the 1960s, the smallholding was developed into Mosslea Poultry Products.

About 20 years ago, it became the Tawny Owl. It is hugely expanded from the Bells days 115 years ago, and the round window overlooking Neasham Road has gone, although one of the bays survives.

POTATO PIES were a subject we touched upon in Memories. Also known as potato clamps, they were means by which potatoes were stored in the field overwinter.

Clive Bennett remembers one on the outskirts of Darlington from when he was a student farmer in the hard winter of 1962.

The potatoes were heaped in the shape of an upturned pie and then a layer of long straw was battened around them before a layer of soil was placed over them.

“The soil was nine inches thick and we had to pat it down neatly,” remembers Clive.

These layers protected the potatoes from the elements and, hopefully, from rodents.

But in the winter of ’62, the soil froze solid for weeks. “We had to get crowbars and pickaxes at it to get in to the potatoes,” he says. “What a chew on that was.”

Once they had broken in to the pie, the workers used a sipit – a large fork – which had blunted tines (or prongs) to shovel the potatoes into a petrol-engined riddle. The revolving riddle knocked the soil off the potatoes and sorted them by size. The small ones dropped through for cattle feed, while the larger ones were put into sacks for human consumption.

“1962 was such a hard winter, minus 12 or minus 15,” says Clive. “It went on for three months until the end of March.”

BACK to Hurworth, because Memories 502 contained a selection of pictures of people who lived in the village in the 1880s and 1890s. One of the photos showed the Hanson children: William, Charles, Louisa and Joseph.

“Charles was my grandad,” says Muriel Joy, who grew up in the Station Hotel in Hurworth Place. “He became a coalman with a horse and cart.”

In 1829, the Stockton & Darlington Railway had opened the three-and-a-half mile long Croft branchline which brought coal off the mainline at Albert Hill and down to Croft depot which was near Croft bridge, so that packhorses could carry it over the river for sale in Yorkshire.

The depot – which also featured a gasworks and a tar distillery – closed in 1964 and is now the site of the Linden Court old people’s homes.

Charles Hanson lived in Coal House beside the depot and married Edith.

“He was only small but she was a big woman, like Ena Sharples,” says Muriel. “One day. She saw his horse and cart parked outside the Comet and she went in and told him to get back to work – she was like that! But he wasn’t a drinking man, he could even have been delivering coal to the pub.”

In later life, Charles became an odd job man for Sherwood’s garage in Grange Road, Darlington.

Also on the picture was Muriel’s uncle Billy. He was shellshocked during the First World War. He returned to marry Hilda and they lived in Park Lane, Darlington.

FINALLY, Memories 501 got enmeshed in a controversial debate about whether Hurworth Place really existed or whether it was all part of the village of Croft.

“Yes it does exist,” says Brian Denham, now over in Carlisle. “I bought a house in Banks Terrace in the mid 1960s under the impression I was buying a property in Croft.

“It was only when the solicitors got to work and sent me paper work referring to Hurworth Place that I realised that it was not in Croft.”

Banks Terrace is two sides of a square above the East Coast Mainline. The 12 substantial terraced houses were built in the 1840s just after the mainline was complete, and they were guesthouses for visitors coming to take the famed eggy waters of Croft Spa.

The best story connected to Banks Terrace is that it was once apparently the home of a Captain Maltby, whose father was Bishop of Durham in the 1850s. Capt Maltby made his name fighting in China, where he contracted Yellow Fever, and he brought home the first Chinese lilies which he donated to Kew Gardens in London.