THE 1881 census found William Askew Jackson living in 39, Victoria Road, Darlington, on the north side of the street looking over to where the church hall would be built in 1897.

No 39 is now a web designer’s office, but Mr Jackson lived there with his wife, Elizabeth, and children, plus a domestic servant. He had been the landlord of the Queen’s Head in Tubwell Row and The Three Bluebells Hotel in Blackwellgate, but he had become a wine and spirit merchant, with a shop on High Row.

He was also the area’s travelling salesman for Ind, Coope, the Burton-on-Trent brewer.

So everything appeared to be going well for Mr Jackson and his family on the surface – but the real story underneath the surface has been pieced together by Colin Bainbridge on his splendid website,

Because, in July 1884, Mr Jackson successfully sued Christopher Sambers, of the Fleece Inn (where Boyes now is at the end of High Row), for slander. The two men had met in Comet Hotel in Croft (or Hurworth Place) where Mr Sambers had “called him a coward and a low blackguard”, and said that “of every shilling he had in his pocket, nine pence did not belong to him”.

Mr Jackson was awarded £12 10s plus costs, which is worth about £1,500 today – a substantial victory.

But Mr Sambers was probably correct, as in 1887, Mr Jackson was back in court to face bankruptcy proceedings – well, he was supposed to be back in court, but he was on the run, searching for someone to either lend him money or to give him a drink.

He ran through Teesdale, Liverpool, Sheffield and York, getting money and getting drunk, and always popping back to Victoria Road to fire off some letters before disappearing again.

Eventually, the long arm of the law reeled him in, and on July 5, 1888, the Echo reported that he had appeared in court under the headline: “A Darlington Debtor’s Adventures – Singular Evidence”.

He was £4,856 14s 4d (about £650,000 today) in debt, mainly to breweries.

Letters read to the bankruptcy court showed how he had tried to throw them off his scent by making up stories.

In one to Ind, Coope, he promised that as soon as he put his pen down he was going into hospital for an operation because he had mysteriously lost the power of speech, and he had left the brewery more than enough in his will to cover his debts should he die.

Another, to the Tadcaster Brewery, had been written by his daughter, Emily, under duress, saying that her father had left the country because he had “certain expectations” of inheriting “immense wealth” following the death of his uncle.

The outcome of the case – for everything for bankruptcy to perjury – is not known, but in the 1891 census, Mr Jackson was back living with his wife and daughter in Arden Street, which is opposite their once comfortable home at 38, Victoria Road. He is described as a “traveller”, but letters on the About Darlington site show how he was drinking all day with his wife and daughter living in fear of his violence.

But, amazingly, on June 1, 1899, The Northern Echo reported that Heighington farmer Joseph Sayer had been granted a divorce from his wife, Henrietta, on the grounds of her adultery with none other than Mr Jackson. By now, he was over 60, and the affair had come to light when he was stopped at 3am leaving Henrietta’s house by a policeman.

He told the policeman that there was nothing naughty going on as he was a widower – and then he promptly returned to Elizabeth in the marital home in Victoria Road.

Indeed, the 1901 census found Elizabeth, Emily and the errant William living in 47, Victoria Road, which is where the Darlington Bedding Centre is today. Elizabeth died in 1903, when Emily built herself a new life as a housekeeper in Cambridgeshire, and Mr Jackson died sometime after 1911.

The full story is on the About Darlington site.