Newsletter 5

Ayton’s Story Project Newsletter No 5 – January 2009

A Happy New Year to everyone taking an interest in our project. Among the things we learn from local history are that banks going to the wall, bad weather, the high cost of fuel, and child neglect have all happened before, so there is no need to get too depressed about the state of current affairs. We are now at the half-way stage in the four year project, and making good progress.

1 Being checked up on

Our second independent audit went well, with the panel’s main concern being how we could maintain interest in the project. Anyone interested can have a copy of our second report to the panel and their response by asking Ian Pearce, by e-mail if possible. Towards the end of the year we were visited by BOP consultants, investigating the impact of our project on the community on behalf of the Heritage Lottery Fund. We do not have any feedback from this visit yet.

2 Money

North Yorkshire County Council has awarded the project £800 to purchase display equipment.

3 Telling you how we are getting on

The series of presentation in the autumn of 2008 went down well, with an average attendance of about 50 people. We have been asked about repeating them by those of you who missed the original presentations, and have provisionally arranged to run through all five on Saturday 14 March 2009 in the Friends’ Meeting House, starting at 9:30am. In some cases new material will be included.
1) Samples of population studies, at 9:30am
2) Ayton’s amazing sewerage system, at 10:30am
3) Early development around Low Green, at 11:30am
4) Growth of housing in California, at 1:30pm
5) Ciné films, at 2:30pm

There will be new presentations in the spring, Wednesdays at 7:30pm in the Friends’ Meeting House.
1) Houses on Dikes Lane, and some of the families living there
2) The village from the air in 1964.
3) The changing face of Ayton as shown in maps.
4) A few examples of the history of some houses in the village.
5) Buses and road haulage businesses.

Details will be published in the Darlington & Stockton Times and on notices posted around the village.

4 Recording oral history

At the start of the project some people said that they would like to record memories of village life in the past through interviewing elderly residents. We have the equipment to do this, and Margaret Williamson will run an informal session showing how to record oral history on Wednesday evening 21 January in the Friends’ Meeting House at 7:30pm. If you are interested, do come along.

5 Website

Mike Newton has redesigned our website at with drop-down menus for each category of topics. There is a good deal of material already posted onto this website, with more to follow shortly. We need to encourage everyone to put historical material onto this website.

6 North Yorkshire Historic Environment Day

There are nine presentations at this event, in the Hambleton Forum Building, Northallerton, on Saturday 21 February 2009. Presentations cover the coast gardens, Fountains Abbey, Malton and Skipton. Further details from or phone 08458 727374

7 What do you know? Some snippets from our past

Fashions in names are not new. In 1757 five of the eleven Ayton girls baptized were called Jane.

In the seventeenth century William Richardson started tanning leather in Ayton. His descendants went on to establish one of the largest leather manufacturers in Britain, Edward & James Richardson Ltd of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Waynman Dixon, who owned a ship-building business on the Tees with his brother Sir Raylton Dixon, lived at Ayton House on Easby Lane in the early part of the twentieth century. He spent several of his younger years working as a civil engineer in Egypt, where he discovered two passages leading from the Queen’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid at Giza. Later he worked with his other brother John on the design of a vessel to bring Cleopatra’s Needle to London.

Through the good offices of our partners in the project, the University of Teesside, we can search every issue of the Times newspaper, and other publications, from the late eighteenth century. A trial run revealed an advertisement placed by a man living in California for a housekeeper or a wife. Since we know his name it should be possible to check whether he was successful.

The Christchurch war memorial, carved by the local builder and stone mason Arthur Pearson and dedicated on 17 March 1920, features snakes and roses in its design. The snakes seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to the mysterious serpent on the gable finial at Langton House on Bridge Street.

We have excavated one of the cairns alongside the edge of Cliff Rigg quarry, above Aireyholme Farm. Whilst obviously man-made, with large stones at its centre, there was no positive evidence that it was a burial cairn.

Ian Pearce 7 January 2009

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