IN the Victorian era, there were four collieries within three miles of Brancepeth castle: Brancepeth, South Brancepeth, New Brancepeth and North Brancepeth. It must have been confusing, so in honour of the family in the castle, the latter colliery was nicknamed "Boyne".

Exactly 150 years ago this week, The Northern Echo was reporting on an extraordinary cucumber-related incident at Boyne Colliery. A miner, named Bent, had visited the big city of Durham and had bought his children as a treat "some candy fancifully made up like a cucumber".

The Northern Echo: A cucumber

But, said the paper, "soon after they had eaten it, all of them were seized with violent sickness and vomiting, which continued all night".

With their condition showing no signs of stabilising, Dr JF le Page was called from Brandon.

When he arrived, he saw the cucumber candy and "expressed his opinion that the green paint contained a deleterious ingredient" and that the children were suffering "arsenical poisoning".

Even 150 years ago, the toxicity of arsenic was not well known, and it was turned into a yellow-green compound that was used to colour paint, wallpaper, clothing and even food. Victorian women were known to pass out if wearing bright green dresses; newspaper printers had health issues after working on green publications, and people who painted or papered their houses green were seen to waste away.

The Northern Echo: French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte SUBMITTED foreign-nov-12.

Indeed, the favourite colour of Napoleon Bonaparte (above) was bright green, and he had his prison home on St Helena decorated with it, including his bathroom. Long, hot, steamy baths caused the green walls to run with arsenic infused condensation which is one theory for the cause of his death.

The Echo doesn't say if the little ones in Brancepeth recovered after their brush with cucumber candy.