Newsletter 4

Ayton’s Story Project Newsletter No 4 – September 2008

This is the fourth Ayton’s Story newsletter and we are now into the second year of the four year project. We are at that critical stage where early enthusiasm can dribble away, and I am very conscious that we have not been able to follow up with everyone who expressed an interest at the start. There will be opportunities for us to re-engage with people at the autumn presentations.

1 Audit panel

Our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund included the appointment of an independent Audit Panel to keep an eye on our activities, giving us a nudge if we strayed too far from the project objectives and budget. The panel (Barry Hallam from Great Broughton, Linda Polley from the University of Teesside and Shirley Hetherington from Ayton) gave us a generally favourable review after the first six months of the project, and their second audit is being arranged. Anyone interested can have a copy of our first report to the panel and their response by asking Ian Pearce, by e-mail if possible.

2 Village fete

We had three Treasure Hunt quiz sheets available at our stand, but with poor weather take-up was low. The adult winners were Dot and Shirley of 78 Guisborough Road, the under-11 winner was Samuel Graham of Holmlea, Stokesley Road. Copies of the sheets (choice of High Green questions or High Street questions for adults, plus a sheet of children’s questions on High Green) can be obtained from Ian Pearce if you missed the fete, but there aren’t any more prizes.

3 Autumn presentations

The attendance at the spring evening presentations was a bit disappointing, but the content, such as the recreated medieval costumes of Rosa Mundi and the film of the building of Hollygarth, was enjoyed by those present. To our relief the £1 contributions requested at these meetings just covered speakers’ expenses and refreshments.

This autumn we are to have a series of presentations on specific aspects of Great Ayton’s history, combining screen shows with walking expeditions around the village. Provisional titles are:
1) Ayton’s amazing sewerage system. We were one of the first villages to have a proper sewage treatment scheme, constructed in the 1890s. This presentation will trace the origins of the system and go out to trace some of the system by spotting inspection covers.
2) Early development around Low Green. We believe that Ayton, as we know it, began as a Saxon settlement after the Romans left the area. This walk around Low Green will try to identify the sites of early buildings, and describe the early village.
3) Cine films. This will include some clips from old Pathé Newsreels of Ayton, and the more recent television film of the building of Hollygarth.
4) A look at what can emerge from population studies, raising questions such as what influenced the choice of a marriage partner and where were all the Wesleyans buried?
5) Immigration and the growth of California. Unlike other local villages, Ayton saw a population explosion in the later years of the nineteenth century. This meant a boom in speculative housing and social tensions. We will look at how housing was squeezed into available plots, and some of the problems and opportunities created by this bonanza.
6) The changing face on Ayton as shown in maps. We will show the village on maps from the 1856 first edition Ordnance Survey to the present day, including the village through the eyes of the Russians in the Cold War.
7) A few examples of the history of some houses in the village.
8) A look at the village from the air in 1964, just at The Wheatlands was being built, with reminiscences of Ayton in the mid-twentieth century.

There will be presentations on Wednesday evenings, 15 October, 29 October, 12 November, 19 November and 3 December, all at 7:30pm in the Friends’ Meeting House on High Green, plus some more in the early part of 2009. All the presentations are free, but any contributions for the refreshments afterwards will be welcomed. With some of the presentations there will be an outing the following Saturday morning to look at the evidence in the village. Details will be published shortly in the Darlington & Stockton Times and on notices posted around the village.

4 Work at North Yorkshire County Records Office

After a lot of work at the County Record Office, we are well on the way with computerising the census records from 1841 to 1901 and the baptisms, marriages and burials from the parish registers from 1749 to 1901. These will be placed on our special website at where they can be studied from home. This will open the door for those who are interested in population studies.

We are also working on other records at Northallerton, with the aim of getting all the material relevant to the village onto the website. Recently the Record Office, with our support, has been successful in a bid for funding to index the North Riding Quarter Session records. We really could do with some extra help with transcribing records, and your neighbourhood contact will soon be asking you if you are interested in this.

5 Website

We are posting material onto, a special work-in-progress website set up by Dan O’Sullivan. Do have a look at it. If you have any material relevant to village history that you feel would be good to put onto the website, please ask any of the group’s members.

6 IT

Mike Newton has been working on our computer systems. We now have a master computer and satellites that can be linked by WiFi. Data entered onto the master computer can easily be transferred to the satellites. We have standard formats for recording all our project information. It has been hard work, but we are now well equipped to record, store and retrieve all our information about the village.

Ian Pearce 21 August 2008

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