Friday, 13 November 2015

Papers deposited at NYCRO

I have now deposited all the papers relating to John Richard Stubbs with the North Yorkshire County Record Office.

The deposit includes his diaries and also family letters mainly from the 1870s.  The letters from Ellis Macfarlane of Helensburgh written during their engagement and in the early years of their marriage are particularly lively and interesting, as are the letters from John's mother.

Anne Weatherill's diary from 1863 – which is such a tiny scrap of a document that over the years the family has had several moments of fearing we had lost it – is now also safely at NYCRO, I'm glad to say!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Lewis Carroll & the North East

Don't miss Alice in Teesside, Simon Farnaby's programme on Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland!

It was broadcast on Radio 4 last Thursday and is now on iplayer.

I can't help but think that their shared roots in the North East must have made for an extra bond between Carroll and Henry Savile Clarke, who wrote the first stage adaptation of the Alice books.

For the remarkable story of Henry Savile Clarke, go to my earlier blog posts - there are four of them, and this is the first.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

'The Live Bait Squadron Remembrance Book'

Henk van der Linden is the founder of the the Live Bait Squadron Society and the author of The Live Bait Squadron: three mass graves off the Dutch coast.

Henk is now proposing to produce a commemorative volume called The Live Bait Squadron Remembrance Book.

It would be a large, high quality hardback book in colour.  It would include a DVD of the moving documentary film The Live Bait Squadron made by Dutch diver & filmmaker Klaudie Bartelink (the film's in English!) and a DVD of the centenary commemoration at Chatham Historic Dockyard last year, which Klaudie also filmed.  The book would include accounts of the disaster, its historical context, stories of the men (sent to Henk by their families and descendants), and details of the memorials erected to their memory ...

In order to get this book published, Henk needs to guarantee to his publisher that it will achieve a certain number of sales.  So he needs a list of subscribers who will engage to buy the book when it becomes available.  The price will be £40.

So if you are interested, contact Henk!

His email address is

(The only thing that might put you off is that I feature rather more in Klaudie's film than I ever expected when filming took place!  I try not to think about it too much ...)

Monday, 7 September 2015

From Hutton Rudby to Nova Scotia in the 18th century

I have already mentioned in this blog the emigration from Hutton Rudby to Nova Scotia in the 18th century.  It was prompted and encouraged by Charles Dixon (1730-1817), who owned the paper mill in the village (you will find a reference to him, for example, in this chapter on the Faceby Mormons).
As a result, quite a number of his fellow Methodists left the village for Canada.

I have just realised that the account of Charles Dixon's life can now be read online.

You will find it here – but if for any reason that link does not work, search for "Charles Dixon" and "Nova Scotia" and you will find it.

The Community Hub at Hutton Rudby

I mentioned the Sycamore Tree Project or Village Hub in my reply to Joan (see last post) and I think I should include a mention of it here.

I don't live in Hutton Rudby any more, but friends tell me it's a great place to go for coffee and meet others and I think people who are visiting the area in search of their family history might find it a pleasant place to encounter the village today.

You will find details of the daily opening hours, Zac's Coffee Servery, the Book Area, etc, here on the website of the Hutton Rudby Methodist Church.

Flintoff family of Hutton Rudby & Nova Scotia

Joan McDougall has just commented on the About this Blog page, but I thought I'd also post her comment here, in case it's missed.  Her family, the Flintoffs, were among those who emigrated to Nova Scotia in the 18th century:
I am researching my family history, descended from Jane Flintoff who lived in this interesting village, but left (probably) with her brother Christopher or sisters Mary or Sarah around 1772-1774 to move to Nova Scotia on Canada's east coast. I think her father's name was also Christopher and in Nova Scotia, she married William Humphrey (another Yorkshire emigrant, thought to be from Northallerton). They had 5 children and interestingly the name Flintoff remained in the Humphrey family for 4 generations! 
I am coming to visit the area in mid Oct and would love to speak with a local historian who may be able to fill in some blanks. My email is look forward to seeing Hutton Rudby and meeting my past...
So if anybody has any information about the Flintoffs in the 18th century, please contact Joan!  

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.