“CAN you help settle a discussion between friends,” asks Gordon Stephenson. “Was the original name of the hotel and pub in Middleton One Row the Davenport, the Devenport or the Devonport?

I seem to remember my parents calling it the Davenport.”

Memories has mentioned the hotel in Middleton One Row many times over the years, and has always referred to it as “the Devonport”, but we have never explained how it came by that name, and the derivation could settle how it is pronounced.

The hotel’s history is long, stretching at least into the 18th Century, but we know that it was substantially rebuilt in the early 1820s when Middleton One Row was booming.

The Northern Echo: An Edwardian postcard of the front of the Devonport at Middleton One Row

An Edwardian postcard of the front of the Devonport at Middleton One Row

Out drilling in search of coal in 1789, William Henry Lambton instead struck a sulphurous spring at Dinsdale, near the village. In 1797, a cold plunge bath was created so visitors could bathe, as well as drink, the eggy water in the belief that it would do them some good.

Visitors began to flock to the area, spurred on by the arrival of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1825.

Middleton One Row saw the potential in offering accommodation and refreshments to the visitors. About 20 of its houses offered lodgings, and the hotel was rebuilt between 1821 and 1826 when it probably acquired the name “Devonport”.

But why?

The Northern Echo: The Hurworth Hunt meeting outside the Devonport in Middleton One Row

The Hurworth Hunt meeting outside the Devonport in Middleton One Row

For centuries, the Killinghall family of Low Middleton Hall had been the lords of the manor. In 1762, John Killinghall, the last of the Killinghalls, died childless and the estate was inherited by his cousin once removed: William Pemberton, of Aislaby (William’s grandmother had been a Killinghall).

William’s son, also called William, inherited the estate, but when he died in 1801 without an obvious heir, he left Middleton to his mother’s sisters, Elizabeth and Sally Cocks of Plymouth Dock on the south coast. They moved up from the south coast, and died in the village in 1809 and 1811 respectively when their brother, Elisha, took over. His son, Henry, was known as “Squire Cocks” and he was a major figure in Middleton for much of the 19th Century – the Fighting Cocks area gets its name from his emblem, which showed a couple of battling cockerels.

Plymouth Dock, where the Cocks family originated, was built around 1700 by the Government as a naval base, but it never was given an official name – it was referred to as the “dock near Plymouth”. By 1800, Plymouth Dock – perhaps the best dockyard in the country – had grown so that it was bigger than Plymouth, and its proud residents resented being mistaken for, and lumped in with, the old town down the road.

In 1823, they petitioned King George IV to give them a proper name and as they were the port of Devon, Devonport became their name, with the king issuing a proclamation to that effect on January 1, 1824.

The Northern Echo: SHIP: HMS ALBION returns to Blighty

HMS Albion arrives at Devonport, which is a port in Devon

To say that Devonport was pleased to be free from Plymouth is an understatement. There were street parties and processions, plus medals were struck and a song, Devonport Forever, was written. It is very long, but a couple of its verse go:

That George our King has been the friend
Of Devon’s nameless baby,
And since she’s grown so stout and fair
Has made her quite a lady.

So Devonport he called the town
And Devonport we roar,
And from this day, though mother frown
Of Plymouth-Dock no more!

Our theory is that that roar was heard on the banks of the Tees, where a proud Devonport family was settling in, and a newly rebuilt hotel in their village was given it as a name to help it appeal to a the fashionable spa visitors.

If that’s the case, it is definitely “Devonport” and not “Devenport” or “Davenport”.

Are there any better theories?

The Northern Echo: A 1950s postcard showing the newly white Devonport

A 1950s postcard showing the newly white Devonport

IN the heyday of the Dinsdale spa in the middle of the 19th Century, the Devonport became the centre of the ancient sport of “trowsing”, which kept visitors entertained when they were not taking the water.

“Trowsing” was a form of salmon fishing that seems to have been unique to the Tees. A trowser had two boats which were linked together by a wide, flat piece of wood. The trowser stood on the plank and tried to spear salmon swimming in the river beneath him.

Several Middleton One Row villagers in the 1840s and 1850s who were experienced and skilled trowsers had a lucrative sideline entertaining visitors to a spot of trowsing.

The Northern Echo: Middleton One Row from the air

Middleton One Row from the air