Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Dragon of Sexhow

I wrote this version of the old story a long while ago for schoolchildren and had quite forgotten it until I came upon it recently.

I have to admit - this is one blog post for which I really cannot make any claims of historical accuracy!
Once, long ago, when wolves hunted along the high moors and down the wooded valleys, there came one spring morning a mighty dragon to Sexhow. 
Down he flew and his shadow darkened the sky, and the children of Sexhow and Hutton and Rudby ran from their houses and down to the church where the bridge crosses the river and their elders came out and stood before the dragon and trembled for their lives. 
Down flew the dragon and wrapped his great tail three times around himself and roared in a voice that shook the hills that he must be fed or he would lay waste the land. 
"What can we give you?" called the people, quaking.  "We are a land without children.  Your kind have taken them all." 
The dragon hissed and his poisonous breath scorched the trees on Folly Hill. 
"Then it must be milk," he groaned.  "Milk me nine cows and I will drink it now." 
And every day he called for milk and hissed and roared until the ground where he lay was brown and burned and bare.  And the villagers worked and toiled.  There were no children to help them.  The children were playing hide and seek among the trees by the river where the dragon could not see them. 
"This is too much!" groaned the fathers as they hitched the oxen to the plough. 
"This is too much!" sighed the mothers as they fed the chickens and swept the floors. 
The dragon hissed for milk and the children skimmed stones across the river. 
And so it went on through the long summer days and the parents grew wearier and the dragon grew fatter and the children grew wilder.  And the lord of the castle at Whorlton whose walls were black from the dragon's smoky breath called for champions to save his people from their plight. 
But no one came. 
"This dragon is no match for us," said the King's knights.  "There is no glory in fighting a dragon who drinks milk." 
And so the parents toiled and the children played and the dragon hissed until there came at last an unknown knight journeying north to seek adventure.  He came one evening to the castle and the lord begged him to rid the land of the fiery serpent and the knight agreed. 
"But only," said he, "if no one knows my name.  There is no honour in killing a dragon who drinks milk." 
And early in the morning, so early that the villagers had not yet begun to milk the nine cows for the dragon's breakfast, he left the castle and surprised the dragon as it snored and, driving his spear deep into its heart, he left it dead and went on his way. 
The villagers were overjoyed and took their knives and skinned the great beast and hung its scaly pelt up in the church by the river in thanksgiving for the unknown knight whose bravery had saved them all.  And the children every Sunday would gaze at the dead dragon's wrinkled skin and remember the long summer when they had played all day. 
And so my story ends.  But where the dragon skin is now, that nobody knows.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Emailing me through the blog

Just to say that if you've tried to email me through the blog and found your email has pinged back - do try again!  I know at least one person has had problems, but the thing usually works.

Friday, 7 August 2015

John Cresswell Brigham of Darlington

I often wondered what happened to the Brigham family of Rudby.  Now, thanks to an email from their descendant Jonathan Taylor at last I know!

The son of George Brigham (1790-1841) was also called George.  He was a clerk for Backhouse's Bank in Darlington, rising to chief accountant.  His son was the noted antiquarian bookseller, historian & collector, John Cresswell Brigham.  This is from the online catalogue for Durham County Record Office:

Brigham Collection (Ref: D/XD 16/1-18a)
This collection, including many books which are now part of the Local History Collection, was bought by Darlington Library on the death of the antiquarian bookseller, John Cresswell Brigham, in 1936.  It was then described as three collections, one relating to Darlington, one to Durham and one to Yorkshire. Those archive items which have been identified as part of the Brigham Collection are listed here, but it is likely that many of the items without provenance which are listed as the Darlington Library Collection (D/DL), came from the Brigham Collection originally. 
John Cresswell Brigham owned a book shop at 26 Coniscliffe Road and also set up a private museum in Northumberland Street. He was a Quaker and married Eleanor Lingford of Bishop Auckland. He was a well known figure in the town and his son has donated some notes about his life to the library. 
J. C. Brigham's father was George Brigham, who was chief accountant for Backhouse's Bank till his death in 1892. The family came from Rudby where George Brigham was a land agent and valuer, coroner for Cleveland and chief constable for the west division of Langbaurgh.
He was quite a collector.  A 1935 newspaper article relates that eleven railway wagons were needed to transport the items bought from J C Brigham's executors by a purchaser in the Lake District.  They included books, manuscripts, pictures and curios.  There were 500,000 books!  These treasures included:-

  • an early edition of the Douai Bible (first published in 1582)
  • a Rembrandt etching dated 1641
  • signed copies of Dickens' works
  • first editions of works by Voltaire, Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott
  • a number of Saxton's C16 maps
  • the little satchel carried by Wordsworth on his mountain tramps in the Lake District.
And I notice from a quick search that it was John Cresswell Brigham who photographed the interior of St Cuthbert's Church, Darlington, just before the galleries that had been erected in 1730 were taken down in the major structural works of 1862.  Unsurprisingly for the time, it's not a very clear photo, but you can see it here.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Revd Thomas Todd (1799-1860), Rector of Kildale

Amongst the photographs I have received from Australia was this one:

It shows notes and cuttings about the parish and rectors of Kildale and the burial place of the Revd Thomas Todd, which must have been made by Isabella Mary Todd, his daughter.

Isabella has also kept a cutting about John Jackson's Charity, noting that John Jackson's brother was her grandfather George Jackson.  Perhaps, far off in Australia, she liked to remember her "mother's home" in Lackenby, where, in the words of the newspaper, "the family have been native for upwards of 300 years."

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

William King Weatherill of Guisborough: a sad story

Far off in Sydney, Australia, Richard Ord Todd and his aunt Isabella had photographs of her nephew William King Weatherill of Guisborough and his children.

(William was the brother of Annie Weatherill, whose diary I posted on 1 December 2012.)

William King Weatherill was born on 22 November 1844. These photos, taken in Harrogate, show him apparently in the prime of life and with everything before him.

William King Weatherill (1844-77)
He was married to Hannah Maria Pickersgill and they had two children.

Here is his son Thomas, and below, his daughter Mary. 

But William had known a good deal of sadness.

Monday, 3 August 2015

The Ords of Guisborough

Richard Ord Toddwas born in Guisborough.  His mother was Elizabeth Mary Poynter, the daughter of John Poynter and Ann Ord.  Here she is, with her husband Edward:

Edward and Elizabeth Todd

So the Revd Richard Ord Todd of Sydney was connected to the Ords of Guisborough, and the family photographs in Australia include pictures of the Ords.

The family is best remembered now for its most famous member, John Walker Ord, author of History of Cleveland:

John Walker Ord

John Walker Ord was the son of Richard Ord (1783-1879), a tanner and leather merchant, prominent in the public life of Guisborough, whose obituary in the Whitby Gazette records
The deceased whilst in the prime of life took a great interest in everything relating to the welfare of the town – was connected with nearly every public body in the district, and for over twenty years was vice-chairman of the Guisborough Guardians.  In politics he was a Liberal, and was a great support to the local party in the stirring times of the reform agitation.  
Richard Ord (1783-1879)

Richard Ord's wife was Ann Walker, whose great grandmother was the Dame Walker who is said to have taught Captain James Cook to read as a boy.

At least, that's what his obituary says but my Australian contact has pointed out :
I know that the obituary of Richard Ord states he married Ann Walker, the great great granddaughter of Dame Walker however her name was Ann Ovington and Richard and Ann were married 20 Jun 1805, her parents were William Ovington and mother Elizabeth Wood. Ann's grandparents were William Ovington Snr and Ann Walker the daughter of Dame Walker.
Another of their sons was Richard Ord junior (1807-77).  He was a currier and leather-seller, for many years an Alderman of Stockton and Mayor of the town in 1865.  Although of retiring disposition and having suffered some ill health he was a justice of the peace until his death.  He died at his home in Bowesfield Lane in October 1877.

Richard Ord jnr (1807-77)

The photographs show that Richard Ord senior was a keen supporter of cricket in Guisborough.  He he is (back, right) with the Cricket Team:

Guisborough Cricket Team