Strong Hill – Richmond

Dodgson attended Richmond Grammar School for a year while his father was vicar of Croft

Hunting for erratics amongst the river-worn cobbles of Frenchgate.

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Shap granite

Zealous and Consistent members

The town has two subterranean legends. One tells of how a potter named Thompson discovered a cave beneath the castle. In the cave was a round table around which were a group of sleeping knights. Upon the table was a great sword and a horn. Thompson reached for the horn, waking knights from their sleep. Thompson fled and as he ran he heard a voice behind him say..

Potter Thompson, Potter Thompson!

If thou hadst drawn the sword or blown the horn,

Thou hadst been the luckiest man e’er was born.”

The second legend concerns a tunnel that runs from the castle to Easby Abbey. The tunnel was supposed to have been dug to allow the abbots to escape from the marauding Scots. Some soldiers wanted to explore the tunnel but found it too narrow. They sent a drummer boy into the passage and instructed him to beat his drum as he walked, allowing the soldiers to track his progress from the surface.  At a point between the castle and the abbey the drum fell silent and the boy was never seen again.

A stone has been erected on the riverside path to mark the point where the drumming ceased. The local legend is that the drummer boy’s ghost still walks the passage and occasionally his drum can still be heard beating.

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Chasing Kerbs

Red brick in the suburbs, white horse on the wall,

Eyetalian marbles in the City Hall:

O stranger from England, why stand so aghast?

May the Lord in His mercy be kind to Belfast *

*Ballard to a Traditional Refrain by Maurice Craig lifted from Brendan Behan’s Island 1963

There’s a guy works down the chip shop swears he’s Aleister Crowley

When I was in my early teens I used to wander aimlessly around Middlesbrough town centre. It was an exciting time, the tired, dirty town centre was undergoing a massive transformation. The soot-blackened Victorian buildings were being emptied and demolished to make way for bright new shopping centres and roads. The town was prosperous, industry was booming, the future looked bright.

I spent a lot of time wandering around the Marton Road area and I particularly loved the old masonic hall. All I knew about freemasons was that my Dad didn’t like them, he told me that freemasons were a corrupt bunch who didn’t like catholics, the symbols on the facade of the hall only served to reinforce this. At the time I was reading a lot of Dennis Wheatley novels and in my adolescent mind imagined the freemasons to be a mysterious sect who undertook bacchanalian rituals whilst plotting the downfall of the church of Rome.

A year or two later I was working as a waiter in a local hotel when one of the local masonic lodges held a function in the ballroom. The masons were all dressed up in dinner jackets, their wives in frocks and furs. The assembled group stood and applauded the entrance of the worshipful master and his wife.  My illusions were shattered, it turned out that leader of this mysterious cult was the bloke who owned my local fish and chip shop.

Sadly the hall, along with many other beautiful Victorian buildings, was demolished to make way for the A66, an elevated dual carriageway which bisected and dominated the town centre,  a moment of town planning madness, a collective madness that was being played out in towns and cities throughout 1970’s Britain.

I later learned that the statue on the top of the old hall represented Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking, the statue was saved and is now housed in the modern masonic hall on Roman Road. A photograph, by local historian Ian Stubbs, of the statue in its current home can be seen here

The photograph below shows the hall just prior to demolition, the freemasons had moved out and the building was being used as a nightclub.

Masonic Hall