Here is the news from 150 years ago: Cockneys skedaddle, poisoned by a…

Here is the news from 150 years ago: Cockneys skedaddle, poisoned by a…

SKEDADDLING Cockneys, being poisoned to death by a future Darlington mayor, prayers for a deeply unpopular prince, and being haunted in Bishop Auckland by a terrifying ghost with claws for fingers…

One of the fabulous things about old newspapers is that they give an amazing insight into life as it was lived by ordinary people in our own towns and villages. Some of their experiences are very different to our lives today – is anyone in Bishop Auckland nevertheless haunted by a window-breaking ghost with claws for fingers? – and however some people already today might have offered up an exasperated prayer on behalf of the royal family.

All of these stories come from The Northern Echo and its sister paper, the Darlington & Stockton Times, and were published in this week in 1871, exactly 150 years ago…

Poisoning at Albert Hill

A fascinating inquest was held in the Allan Arms in Nestfield Street in Darlington 150 years ago this week that gives an insight into the healthcare system of those days.

Furnaceman Alexander Parias, 69, of Edward Street, in the ironworking community of Albert Hill, had been sent by his wife, Eliza, to get another “three pennyworth” of laudanum to treat her shortness of breath.

Laudanum is a tincture of opium – a tiny bit of opium dissolved in alcohol – which was quite commonly used in those days. It contains morphine, a painkiller, and is also addictive.

The laudanum came in a bottle marked “poison”, and Mr Parias took a swig from it as way of reassuring Eliza, saying: “You need not be frightened, lassie.”

Mr Parias was not sober: he had had six glasses of whiskey.

He took the laudanum at 8pm. By 10pm he was drowsy. By midnight, he was asleep, moaning and sweating. Eliza sent her son-in-law, Henry Christen, a puddler, to get the doctor.

Mr Parias paid 2d-a-week to Dr Howison for “medical attendance”. Dr Howison didn’t live on Albert Hill but had an “assistant” who did. The assistant was Lewis Eastwood, who “was not however qualified”.

Mr Eastwood questioned Mr Christen about the patient’s alcohol intake, and when he learned he wasn’t sober, he gave Mr Christen an emetic to flush the poison out of Mr Parias. However, when Mr Christen gave Mr Parias the treatment, it failed to work, and with Mr Parias’ condition deteriorating, he returned on several occasions to try and get Mr Eastwood to attend.

ultimately, at 4am, Mr Eastwood arrived, but he couldn’t rouse Mr Parias, and he left advising that mustard should be rubbed on his chest.

Mr Parias died at 5.40am.

Mr Eastwood explained that “he had gone so many times all for nothing” when dealing with an intoxicated patient, and already if he had gone when first called, there would have been little he could have done for a man who had drunk laudanum.

The Echo said that the jury concluded that Mr Parias had died of an “overdose of laudanum inadvertently taken while under the influence of drink, and we beg to add the following: that we consider the medical accompanying highly censurable in not attending closest when sent for and suggested there be a more qualified medical man in his place resident in Albert Hill”.

Mr Eastwood had just arrived in Darlington from Halifax. He qualified as a doctor in 1877, started his own surgery and, 40 years after this incident, became the town’s mayor.

Lewis Eastwood when mayor of Darlington in 1921 – he was indicated in a patient’s death in 1871

Cockneys at Stanhope

THE proprietors of Frosterley limestone quarries had brought in a large number of Cockneys to work for a month on high wages. At the end of the month, the “emigrants”, as they were known locally, dropped onto the same pay as the local quarrymen who were paid by the ton, but while the locals made six shillings a day, the emigrants only made six pennies.

consequently, the Cockneys began to “skedaddle” – leaving without paying their rent.

“Two of the Cockneys, who lodged with a widow, put on two suits (being all the clothes they had), and after ordering the good woman to make a cake for tea, went out, and have not however returned,” said the paper.

Another landlord kept guard on his front door to ensure his lodgers didn’t escape without paying – so they left via an upstairs window during the night.


On the rear of this picture is written “6th DLI Volunteer Band, 1880”. The soldiers appear, then, to have borrowed a big bass drum from the Stanhope Saxhorn Band

On the rear of this picture is written “6th DLI Volunteer Band, 1880”. The soldiers appear, then, to have borrowed a big bass drum from the Stanhope Saxhorn Band. There is no suggesting any of the soldiers are skedaddling Cockneys

New colliery near Ferryhill

THE first sod of a new colliery was turned at “Mensforth” near Ferryhill in a ceremony involving Henry Stobart of Witton Tower, Witton-le-use, whose family owned many pits in south Durham.

There was a large gathering of miners present and “refreshments were afterwards served up to the men by Mr Reay, of the Swan Hotel, Ferryhill”.

“A short branch will connect the mine with the Ferryhill and Hartlepool Railway, and the coals will be within easy transit of West Hartlepool,” concluded the report.

This was the start of Mainsforth colliery. However, its two 270ft shafts were abandoned six years later when it flooded. New techniques at the start of the 20th Century promoted it to reopen, and it became one of the county’s largest collieries: in the 1940s and 1950s, it employed more than 2,200 men.

Mainsforth closed on December 6, 1968.

Foot race for £100

PEDESTRIANISM was a hugely popular worldwide sport. It was competitive walking regulated by the “fair heel and toe” rule, whereby a toe could not leave the ground until the preceding heel had touched down.

A contest over 120 yards for £50 each “which for some time past has been the medium of important speculation came off in Gateshead Borough Gardens”, said the paper. M Temple of Darlington took on T Wright of Toft Hill, who was the favourite.

There were clearly all sorts of strange tactics employed in the walking race.

“A good deal of finessing took place as to the start, and after some short time, the backers of wright met with a disappointment,” said the paper. “In one of the false starts, and after Temple had gone fully a dozen yards, Wright ventured over his mark, seeing which, Temple dashed off, and although Wright tried his best to repair his blunder, he was unable to get near the Darlington man, who won by ten yards.

“The consequence naturally gave rise to a ‘scene’ but there was no help for it, and Temple was declared the winner by the referee.”

Prayer for the Prince of Wales

PRINCE Albert Edward (above), the heir to the throne, had contracted typhoid from the drains at Londesborough Lodge in Scarborough where he had been attending a house party. One of his fellow guests, Lord Chesterfield, died, and Albert, aged 30, was taken to Sandringham where his mother, Queen Victoria, was told he would succumb imminently.

In St George’s Church in Northgate, Darlington, the Echo reported that the preacher prayed “that the young man, whom we do not keep up in very high respect, now stretched on a bed of sickness at Sandringham, may be raised in thought, in character, and in spiritual life, that he may become, as was his father before him, an example of virtue and piety to the nation”.

This strongly worded prayer reflected the national mood. Albert spent his life gambling, hunting, spending and eating and more – he had just been indicated in a high society divorce case where he denied committing adultery. He had grown so large, he was nicknamed “Tum Tum”; he was booed at the races and in the streets, and republicanism was on the rise.

But God moves in mysterious ways.

The prayers in Northgate were answered. On December 11, he rallied, and on February 27, 1872, when a thanksgiving service was held in St Paul’s Cathedral, he was cheered. Nearly 30 years later, such was the longevity of his mother, he became Edward VII.

Strike at Darlington gasworks

DARLINGTON’S streets had been plunged into darkness by 30 remarkable gasworkers who wanted a rise from 28 shillings a week to 30. Their colleagues at the John Street works had continued during the day to supply private houses and shops, “and as the early part of the night is illumined by the moon, no very great inconvenience has been experienced from the streetlamps not being lighted”, said the paper.

With the council’s gas committee not budging, and the moon doing a bit of moonlighting, the men realised their strike was pointless and went back to work.

A deplorable row

IN a public house in Osmotherley, a “deplorable row” had broken out. A young soldier, George Rhymer, a native of the village who was on furlough from the army in Ireland, “is lying in a precarious condition, from blows to the head and in other places, received from the policeman’s baton”.

The paper doesn’t say what caused the policeman to lash out so wildly, but it hints that this would not be the end of the story…

Ghost story from Bishop Auckland

THERE was much alarm in the Corn Close area of Bishop Auckland following reports of midnight visits of a ghost to the home of a “hard working pitman”.

The unfortunate fellow was in bed, smoking his pipe, in a room warmed by a good fire, when “a ghost, in the shape of a man, attired in a blue shirt, stood before him. Its arms were long and thin, and its fingers like claws, and then it stood feinting as if about to mesmerise the terrified pitman”, said the paper.

The ghost then inspected a dog sleeping with its puppies in a corner of the room, and then paid great attention to a identify in the room which the pitman “thought hid some dreadful tragedy”.

The ghost peered into the fire, and looked up the chimney.

“Suddenly, it put up its hands as if about to dive, and turning on its heel took a flying jump right by the window, carrying away the frame and breaking the glass,” said the report. “The pitman, who had all this time watched his visitor’s manoeuvres in a terrified state, rushed out of the house and his not since attained courage to re-go into.

“It is said that a woman was sometime ago so terrified in the same house that she lost her reason.”

Where was Corn Close in Bishop Auckland, and is it nevertheless haunted by a ghost with claws for fingers?

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