ONE of the first impressive buildings to greet visitors as they arrive in Barnard Castle from the east is a former hotel guarded by a pair of large ornamental lions.

It began as a substantial Victorian villa, built in 1878 as a statement in stone of the success of its owner, bookmaker Joseph Errington, who called it Beaconsfield House.

The Northern Echo: Streatlam Castle was between Barnard Castle and Staindrop. It was the home of John Bowes and should not be confused with Streetlam Castle between Danby Wiske and the Cowtons, which didn't exist

In 1954, it was taken over by a brewery which converted it into the Beaconsfield Hotel.

The brewery swung a sign outside it which featured a picture of the Earl of Beaconsfield, the Conservative politician Benjamin Disraeli who was twice Prime Minister in the 1860s and 1870s.

This was the literal and obvious explanation of its name – although perhaps at odds with the local political history as south Durham was a Liberal place in those days and the land for the house had been bought from John Bowes, of Streatlam Castle, the founder of the Bowes Museum who had been the local Liberal MP in the 1830s and 1840s.

As Memories 510 told, we met John Bowes as the museum he founded has just bought a picture of Cotherstone, the racehorse he bred at Streatlam Castle. Cotherstone won the 1843 Epsom Derby and won for Bowes himself £30,000 – a spectacular gamble worth nearly £4m in today’s values – but he then had to flee to France for a year to lie low and avoid his horse racing enemies.

The Northern Echo: John Bowes, founder of the Bowes Museum and owner of the Streatlam Stud. His horses won the Derby on four occasions - Cotherstone was his second winner

And the story of the Beaconsfield House, in Galgate, is also connected to a spectacular gamble.

Indeed, after a six-year controversy in the 1950s, the brewery backed down and switched the picture on the inn sign from Beaconsfield, the Conservative Prime Minister, to a racehorse called Beaconsfield.

This story is told on Catherine Ryan’s beautifully presented, and fascinating, blog about bygone Teesdale folk – it can be found at – and has been added to by some great detective work by Malcolm McCallum.

When Joseph Errington died in 1913, the Teesdale Mercury devoted nearly two long columns to him, saying that he was “a well built man, with a commanding appearance and an iron nerve, and never without a flower in his coat”.

The Northern Echo:

It told how he had been born in 1835 in the Red Lion (now Fat Face), and grew up in the Golden Lion (reputedly the oldest pub in County Durham dating from 1689) and the Angel Inn (now Heron Foods), all within staggering distance of one another in the Market Place.

However, his mother, Jane, was one of the 145 townspeople who died in the 1849 cholera epidemic, and then his father, John, died in 1852, throwing him out into the world. His brother, Robert, went off to Ballarat in Australia in hope of finding gold; Joseph went to London to seek his fortune.

He became a cheesemonger but quickly changed horses and became a bookie.

“His forte was arithmetic, and in the calculation of odds he was matchless,” said the Mercury’s obituary. “For nearly 60 years, he was a regular race-goer, and must have travelled many thousands of miles for, at the time of his demise, he was one of the best known men on the English turf.”

After 25 years, he had made enough to return home to Barney, buy a prominent plot of land from John Bowes, and build Beaconsfield House to the designs of the Raby estate architect.

The Mercury told how he filled the house with an exquisite collection of art and antique silver, and he owned many pockets of land all around the town. He was, it said, a very good shot and he owned shooting estates on Bowes Moor and at Drygill, in upper Teesdale.

The paper told that a large congregation of mourners had gathered at Whorlton church to say farewell to him and then, in a later edition, it told that he had amassed an estate worth a staggering £123,663 – that’s worth about £14.6m in today’s values, according to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator.

The Northern Echo: The Teesdale Mercury\'s obituary, from July 30, 1913, did not explain how Mr Errington came by his multi-million pound fortune

At the time of his death, though, the paper didn’t explain how the bookmaker, who had grown up a publican’s son, came by such an astounding fortune – nor did it say why his home bore the name of a town in Buckinghamshire.

Beaconsfield House remained a private house until it was converted into a hotel in 1954 with a picture of the Earl of Beaconsfield, a Buckinghamshire MP, over the door.

But in 1959, it reported: “For six years the dispute over the derivation of the name of a Barnard Castle building, the Beaconsfield Hotel, has perturbed a number of people.

“On Wednesday last week, workmen replaced the portrait (of Benjamin Disraeli) with a full length one of a racehorse, also called Beaconsfield.”

Mr Errington, it said, had built the house “out of a fortune won on the horse reputed to be of the order of £300,000. He perpetuated the name of Beaconsfield, the racehorse, which had been responsible for his windfall, by calling the house after it”.

The new inn sign, it said, was painted in dark blue and yellow, which were the colours of Baron Rothschild, who had bred the horse Beaconsfield at his stud near Ascot in 1871.

Beaconsfield had not been a successful nag, although in 1873 in the Rutland Stakes at Newmarket, it finished in a dead heat with a horse called Blantyre. Blantyre did not contest the re-run, and so Beaconsfield was awarded a walkover.

Could it have been on this curious turn of events that bookmaker Errington made £300,000 – worth a whopping £36m today?

“Mr Errington died in 1913, but the legend of this fabulous resident continues,” said the Mercury in 1959 before going on to explain one further line in its obituary. “It is recalled he consistently wore a flower in his buttonhole to commemorate another fantastic wager on a horse called Flowers.”

Today, Beaconsfield House awaits a new future. It was most recently an Italian restaurant called Il Palazzo which turned into a bar and grill called Paradise which closed in April 2019. We believe it has recently been sold – it was on the market for £675,000 – and so it awaits a new future.

ONE of the reasons Joseph Errington built Beaconsfield House was that it was conveniently located for Barnard Castle station, which enabled him to travel easily to racecourses – he was a well known figure at tracks across the north of England and Scotland.

This railway link enables us to seamlessly move onto a plug for an online talk Chris Lloyd, who compiles these notes, is giving a talk about the coming of the railways to Teesdale for St Mary’s Church in Barnard Castle. It is as part of the Windows to the World project, which is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, aimed at restoring and promoting the heritage of the her-itage of the church.

The talk, entitled Teesdale Tracks and Derailing Dukes, is on Wednesday, March 3 at 6pm, and is free. To book a place so you can join from the comfort of your own home, go to and follow the links.

GEOFF SOLOMON in Danby Wiske, near Northallerton, was interested to see that John Bowes lived at Streatlam Castle because he has an 1803 map of his neck of the woods in which there is a Streetlam Castle marked.

There is indeed a hamlet called Streetlam near Danby Wiske, but there has never been a castle there.

The map is drawn by the noted cartographer John Cary, the pre-eminent map-maker of his genera-tion who was renowned for his accuracy. So how did he come to make such a mistake?

Cary’s works were so good that renegade printers copied them illegally, and Geoff believes that Streetlam Castle is a “cartographer’s folly” – a deliberate mistake drawn into map so that the cartog-rapher could tell if his work was being plagiarised.

It almost looks as if Cary was setting a trap for an unwary copier who might have known that there was a castle called something like Streatlam in the area and so would not have been suspicious when he stumbled across Streetlam Castle.