St Agnes Church – Easterside

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St Agnes Church Easterside was built in 1967. The Church was designed by Robert Mortimer of Northallerton. The steel-framed pyramid was supposed to reflect the product of local industry.

The church was built with money donated to the Church of England by Agnes Spencer-Whitfield. Agnes was born in Marton. Whilst living in Leeds, she met Thomas Spencer, and the couple were married in 1892. Thomas Spencer and his business partner Michael Marks were the founders of Marks and Spencer. Following the death of her husband, Agnes moved back to Middlesbrough and lived in a house on The Grove, Marton. Agnes died in 1957 and is buried in the graveyard of St. Cuthberts church, Marton

The church is currently unused and showing the signs of neglect, the last service held here was in 2019. Over the years, thieves have stripped some of the roofing panels under the mistaken belief that they were made of copper sheet. The panels are actually made of copper covered felt and are little value.

The church dominates the housing estate that surrounds it. The people who live around the church are confronted with its gradual decay on a daily basis. That such a distinctive local building should be allowed to fall into neglect is a disgrace, especially given that the Church of England is sitting on an investment fund of 8.3 billion pounds and pays asset management executives 6 figure salaries.*

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt would be wonderful if this building could be restored and given back to the community as a useable space but I suspect the history of this building will end in a mound of rubble.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/06/clergy-hardship-church-of-england-wealth

https://www.churchofengland.org/about/leadership-and-governance/church-commissioners-england/how-we-invest

https://www.fnlondon.com/articles/church-of-england-pulls-money-from-big-hedge-fund-managers-20171214

Haredale

Out of lockdown I took a short trip up onto the moors.  The skies were grey and threatened a downpour but it had to be done. I chose Haredale, it’s close to home and one of those places that many people pass but few visit.

Haredale is a short valley running across the western edge of Moorsholm Moor from the top of Smeathorn Road down to the A171 Moors road. A small beck runs through the valley and crosses beneath the Moors road to become the Oven Close Beck which after a short run becomes the Swindale Beck then the Hagg Beck, which joins with the Liverton Beck to become the Kilton Beck and eventually finds the sea at Skinningrove.

I’ve been interested in this tiny dale for years as it’s on the margins of an area of quite intense prehistoric activity. Half a mile to the east of the valley there are burial mounds, enclosures and prehistoric rock art. At the head of the valley is a probable prehistoric trackway that follows a line of Bronze Age barrows across Stanghow Moor to Aysdale Gate.

Moorsholm moor

On the valley side is a glacial mound called Old Castle Hill. A row of at least 3 standing stones were erected on the low hill that juts out onto the dale and probably dates to the Bronze Age.

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Today there are only two stones left, both of which are laying flat in the heather.

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There are also a pair of small upright standing stones at the top of the valley.

tracksThe head of the valley is deeply scarred with long linear ditches, these were caused before the modern road was constructed. The ditches are multiple trackways formed by people and horses using a track until it became too deep or difficult to navigate, and then starting a new trackway parallel to the original. Over a period of a few hundred years, multiple trackways are formed. These features can be seen all over the moors.

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On arriving on the moor I walked down on the keepers track along the western edge of the valley towards the stone row. When I was last on the moors they were still in their winter coat of browns, there are now vivid green patches of bilberry spread across the valley, in a month or two the heather will begin to bloom and the bilberries will be ripe and sweet.

On the opposite side of the valley is a large erosion scar, when ever I’m around here I take a look to see what is washing out of the peat. I scrambled down to the valley floor. In my joy at being out on the moors again I neglected to pay attention to  where I was walking, what I thought was a small island in the middle of the beck was in fact a deep bog. My first leg went in to the top of my thigh, my second leg, just over the knee. A moment of panic, I’m stuck in a bog at the bottom of a valley with no one around, time to be calm, I lay across the surface and slowly levered my legs out of the mire.

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I sat on the bank for a few minutes checking that I’d not dropped anything into the bog, car keys, camera all present. I was sodden and mud-caked but happy, laughing at myself for making such a basic error.

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I had a mooch around the scar, at its head is a chalybeate (iron-rich) spring, the red waters of the spring contrast with the grey stoney clay, eroding-out from beneath the peat..

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..then the heavens opens, soaked from the feet up and now being drenched from the head down, I decided to give up and head back to the car.

This may all sound a bit grim but it isn’t. It’s days like these that make me feel truly alive and thankful to have such wonderful places to escape from the present awfulness of the world.

Postscript

On checking the North York Moors Historic Environment Record, the Stone Row and Standing Stones are listed as prehistoric but unlike nearby prehistoric monuments, show no statutory protection, which is a shame as they could so easily be lost.

Maggra

Walking from Boosbeck to Margrove Park, known locally as Maggra, the path follows the route of the old Guisborough to Brotton branch line. The line was opened in 1865 servicing the East Cleveland ironstone mining communities.

Hidden in the woods beside the path is one of the kilns from Carrs Tilery which operated from 1867 until 1879 and produced land drains, pipes and tiles for the Skelton Estate and the local ironstone mines.

Pipes produced in the the kiln can found in the undergrowth. The buttresses supporting the walls appear to be later additions.

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I’ve been unable to find out if there is any level of official protection on this building.

Remnants from the past and present

The ponds are now a nature reserve managed by the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, beautiful orchids line the footpath.

This area was once home to a thriving mining community with an ironstone mine located at each end of the small valley. The few structures that remain of this industry and being allowed to decay, which is a shame when so little is left.

Boosbeck

Bosbek 1375 Barbour’s Bruce

‘Stream near the cowshed’ from OE bos(ig) and bekkr.

Margrove Park / Maggra Park

Magerbrigge 1230-50 Guis

Maugrepark 1407 YI Maugrey 1575 FF

v. pearroc. The form Maugre– possibly indicates that the first element is the OE pers. name Maepalgar; cf. Meagre

Sources

Hidden Teesside

Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

East Cleveland Image Archive

The Place Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire by A H Smith. 1928

Thanks to Chris Wynn

Slave ownership and compensation

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Recent events have prompted me to think more about the history of slavery in our islands. I recently came across the Legacies of British Slave Ownership Database. It’s uncomfortable but necessary reading if we are to understand what role slavery played in the prosperity of many institutions that still exist today e.g. The Bank of England, Barclays, Baring Brothers, Lloyds of London, Royal Bank of Scotland, P&O Navigation Co and many others.

It is easy to think that our region was not part of this vile trade in human lives and that it was all taking place in Liverpool, Bristol and Glasgow, but this isn’t correct, many institutions such as regional manufacturing works and transport companies had investments in the slave trade, the whole of Britain and Ireland prospered on the profits derived from enslaving our fellow human beings.

On the abolition of slavery, British taxpayers paid out £20 million in compensation to the slave owners, in modern terms this equates to £16.5 billion, needless to say, the slaves themselves received nothing.

As well as institutional investments, individuals from our region were slave owners and received compensation from the taxpayer when slavery was finally abolished. Here are a few examples from the database.

Screenshot 2020-06-08 at 13.01.33Screenshot 2020-06-08 at 13.02.27Screenshot 2020-06-08 at 13.04.12Screenshot 2020-06-08 at 13.05.29Screenshot 2020-06-08 at 13.06.22Screenshot 2020-06-08 at 13.06.39

Image Title: [Negro portraits, 16 small drawings with notations]. Creator(s): Berryman, William, artist. Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. USA

Written in solidarity with the protesters who removed the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston from the streets of Bristol.