HOLIDAYS, said a journalist writing in the Echo’s sister paper, the Darlington & Stockton Times, 100 years ago this week, are of such “short duration” that it is crucial that we “spend our precious fortnight of freedom from routine” somewhere special so that “the jewel of our slack time has been fixed in a setting which contains it for ever in memory”.

The journalist, who signed himself WD, had just returned from upper Wensleydale where, he said, “it is quite delightful to find the Old Hall, Askrigg, on the list of boarding houses where hospitable doors are wide open to those who make wise application for them”.

The Northern Echo: The Old Hall, Askrigg, which burnt down in 1935.

The Old Hall (above) was built for the Thornton family in 1678 and, with the Market Cross in front, it looked fantastically olde worlde.

“To walk within the ancient doors, and find oneself on the right side of its leaded windowpanes, to see the wainscot and the depth of its deep stone windows as a frame to the village street…is something of an event,” wrote WD. “Time’s legacy is written into walls which speak of humanity in varying moods of joy and sorrow…”

The Old Hall had one especially impressive feature which WD noticed.


“That wooden balcony overlooking Askrigg Street, once the scene of the exalted admirers of bull baiting, still holds good for the feet of guests,” he said, “but now such eyes look upon a scene of a more peaceful quality.” The Thorntons were said to have built the balcony specifically so they could watch bulls being tied to the ring on the Market Cross and then tormented by dogs.

The hotel, said WD, was run by Mr and Mrs Thomas Weatherald, whose long association with the dale had given them a large store of native knowledge.

It had 12 bedrooms, some of which “contain two beds, with ample means of spacious promenade”.

He concluded: “Meals are of the right fashion for a moorland district, where fishing and shooting find devoted servants of fresh air…and the late dinner, which gives the time for long hours in the sun, is in fellowship with nature”.

Tragically, 100 years later, we are unable to take our holidays in the Old Hall because seven years after WD’s visit, on October 10, 1935, it burned down.

“Its dignified walls were so much a part of the market square and all of Askrigg that its destruction is felt like the loss of a friend,” said Ella Pontefract in her 1936 book on Wensleydale.

The 250-year-old hall’s largely wooden construction probably made it susceptible to fire, but it seems that it was torched by a pyromaniac guest, a Mrs Harrington, who had also ignited another hotel in the upper dale.

Can this be true?

The Northern Echo: The Old Hall and market place, Askrigg.

The Northern Echo: Leyburn Town Hall, with the lion\'s head fountain bottom right

LEYBURN Town Hall (above) is perhaps the icon of the North Yorkshire market town. A large datestone looking down on the Market Place tells that it was built in “AD 1856”, and one it is of a cluster of Grade II listed buildings that gives the town its character.

The Northern Echo: The Leyburn lion\'s head fountain

We stumbled, quite literally, over the smallest of those buildings recently: the lion’s head drinking fountain which, unnoticed we’d guess by most visitors, is at the north east corner of the Town Hall.

The Northern Echo: The rear of the lion\'s head fountain showing the maker\'s name

A fondle around the fountain’s backside reveals a plate with the maker’s name: “Glenfield Coy Limited Kilmarnock”.

“The Glen” was probably the largest hydraulic engineering company in Britain, founded in 1865 by Thomas Kennedy, the inventor of the water meter.

Glenfield marketed the cast iron lion fountain as “Kennedy’s patent, self-closing, anti-freezing pillar fountain” and its heyday seems to have been the 1880s.


It has a pineapple on top – a symbol of hospitality – which a thirsty person would turn to let the water come gushing out of the lion’s mouth. A tin drinking cup would have been chained to the fountain, and there’s a tray at the bottom for dogs to use.

The lion’s head fountain was a popular ornamental feature to many towns and parks across the country – indeed, around the world.

There are lion’s heads from Stirling to Shrewsbury. Several are to be found in the Irish Republic and there’s a very good sprinkling of them in the Scottish borders – Kelso, Peebles and Midlem. Plus there’s a lion’s head fountain identical to the one in Leyburn Market Place in Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands.

The Northern Echo: A 1906 postcard of a very empty Leyburn Market Place with the lion\'s head fountain clearly visible as a white shape to the bottom right of the town hall

A 1906 postcard of a very empty Leyburn Market Place with the lion's head fountain clearly visible as a white shape to the bottom right of the town hall

The Northern Echo: Joseph Whitwell Pease.

SIR Joseph Whitwell Pease (above), of The Woodlands in Darlington and Hutton Hall near Guisborough, was the chairman of the Tees Commissioners when, in 1888, their work of 25 years which involved five million tons of slag from the bottom of blast furnaces: the South Gare pier near Redcar.

And they celebrated, as we told a fortnight ago, with a slap-up feast provided by the finest caterers in the country.


But look at our photo of Sir Joseph: at the bow, his tie is adorned with a jewel.

“I was delighted to see the photo because he is wearing a gold tie ring which matches the ones (below) he gave his sons to mark his silver wedding in 1879,” says Matthew Pease, the great-great-grandson of Sir Joseph.

The Northern Echo: Joseph Albert "Jack" Pease's gold tie pin which his father, Sir Joseph, gave him in 1879 to mark his silver wedding

Sir Joseph married Mary Fox of Falmouth in 1854 – her parents created the famous maze in Glendurgan Garden on the Cornish coast which is now the property of the National Trust – and they had six daughters and two sons: Alfred and Jack.

The Northern Echo: Glendurgan Maze

Alfred, of Pinchinthorpe Hall, near Guisborough, featured here in March as he was a great lover of Yorkshire dialect and folklore and also a big game hunter who went on African expeditions with Theodore Roosevelt.

And Jack, of Headlam Hall near Gainford, featured here last year as in 1922, having already been Darlington’s youngest mayor, he became the first chairman of the BBC and the 1st Baron Gainford.

Now their tie pins have also featured here.

“They were made by the famous London jeweller Carlo Giuliano,” says Matthew, “and now, with a bit of practice, we should now be able to work out how they work.”