Hartlepool without a frying pan!

Formerly – in the stirring times – Hartlepool kept its beacon ready for setting ablaze when requisite. On sight of a suspicious sail in the bay, it was fired and its red glare was instantly seen along the coast both north and south. The whole of the Tees Bay and Cleveland coast was thus informed the enemy was at hand. As soon as the ruddy glare was perceived through the darkness, the church bells were set agoing – The authorities astir, – the peasantry mustered in arms and the gentry on horseback in armour. Cattle were driven inland for greater safety and valuables removed etc. Whether the Hartlepoolites were a timorous people, is not stated, but it appears the beacon was fired too often, causing unnecessary alarm, and great complaints from the hardy Cleveland yeoman and others, who had the trouble of driving cattle for miles on several false alarms.

Complaints were made to government, and an order came down prohibiting Hartlepool from “firing any beacon in future.” The order like the generality of government papers, was hurridly written, and in addition to its poor calligraphy, the chief magistrate was an illiterate man, and read it as a prohibition of “Frying any bacon in future!” he duly considered the despatch, and to make sure of the order being obeyed, went round the town with a cart and took possession of all frying pans and gridirons and locked the collected articles up in St. Hilda’s Church!

The Whitby Repository. February 1st 1867


The Barguest


Glassensikes, near Darlington, is haunted by a Barguest, which assumes at will the form of a headless man (who disappears in flame), a headless lady, a white cat, rabbit or dog, or a black dog. There is a Barguest, too, in a most uncanny looking glen, between Darlington and Houghton, near Throstlenest.

William Brockie 1886

Throstle Nest

Northallerton Jail

HMP & HMYOI Northallerton, Noth Yorkshire

YP, Male

Opened in 1785, back then in was called the North Yorkshire House of Correction (no human rights in them days). Cor not ‘arf. There were worms in the porridge and maggots in the straw (no beds). Then in the 1930’s it became a military prison and a tough one at that: hard and brutal. Now it’s a YP jail with 300 cons in it. Get the ball out and have a kick about…

Loonyology: The Autobiography of Britain’s Most Notorious Prisoner

Charles Bronson. 2008

The Jail closed in 2013 and is currently being demolished.

Saltergate Moor Cairnfield and Stone Row

After visiting the Newtondale Spring, Graeme and I took a walk over to Saltergate Moor to have a look at the cairnfield and find a Bronze Age stone row. We took the footpath through the fields beneath Saltergate Brow to the moor edge.

Saltergate Brow  The margins of the moor are extremely wet and we had make our way across a small bog to reach the moor. Once on the moor we started to encounter a number of cairns and upright stones, many of which were propped up by smaller stones.

Upright Stone

This beautiful tree is growing out the middle of a cairn. The RAF Fylindales ‘pyramid’ is visible in the distance.

Cairn Tree

The summit of Blakey Topping and Whinny Nab from the moor

Blakey Topping and Whinny Nab

We eventually found an alignment of stones that matched the Historic England description of the stone row.

Saltergate Stone Row

There is another alignment of three stones running at 90 degrees from the southern most stone

Saltgergate stones

We walked back along the path from the moor passing a large pond that contained more frogs than I have ever seen in my life. There we so many that we were able to hear them croaking even though we were a few yards away from the pond.

As we left the moor we noticed a large Larsen trap beside the pond, there were no birds in the trap but it set me to thinking. The moor has no sheep on it but whilst we were there we found one freshly dead sheep and a couple more piled up beside a ruined stone hut on the edge of the moor. These dead animals must have been moved onto the moor for some reason. Earlier that day we saw a beautiful buzzard soaring over Newtondale, I just hope that the dead animals and the  Larsen Trap had nothing to do with this magnificent bird.

Dead sheep

A description of the Cairnfield and Stone Row can be found on the Historic England website here


stanwick-horsePrehistory ends with the Romans and the introduction of the written word into our islands. We only know the names of a dozen or so 1st century Britons from the time of the Roman occupation of our islands, two of them are women, Boudicca and Cartimandua.

At the time of the Roman invasion Cartimandua was a ruler in her own right, she was the living symbol of Brigantia and ruled a tribal alliance that covered much of northern England. She is the first recorded British Queen and her royal palace is thought to have been at Stanwick, four miles south of the River Tees.

stanwick-earthworksWe do not know a great deal about Cartimandua but the Romans must have considered her a very important figure as they chose to maintain good relations with her. Her reign lasted  twenty six years, a time of military occupation and massive social upheaval.

stanwick-tofts-rampartTacitus’s account of Cartimandua is brief and not very complimentary but it does give us a glimpse into the life of an extraordinary northern British woman in 1st Century Britain. The fact that she managed to keep her throne, and maintain a relative peace for more than a quarter of a century during a time of war and rebellion, is a testament to a powerful leader in a society that was rapidly changing


Apart from an account in Tacitus’s Histories there is no archaeological evidence that Cartimandua ever existed.  There is a possibility that her life passed into oral history as the legend of King Arthur and his wife Gwenhwyfar and was recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his work The History of the Kings of Britain.

Newtondale Petrifying Spring

My good friend Graeme Chappell and I took a walk up to the Newtondale Spring today. Graeme has been researching and cataloguing the holy wells and springs of Yorkshire for many years.

The spring is located at the foot of the crags on the northern edge of Newtondale. There is a path to the spring via Needle point which is partially blocked by fallen boulders. In the past a wooden platform was built at the spring but it is now in a state of disrepair. There is also an information board at the site.

The spring produces large volumes of water, the striking bright orange colour is caused by algae living in the mineral rich waters. As the spring water runs down the hillside it precipitates calcium carbonate which then solidifies to form a solid deposit known as tufa.