Newsletter 6

Ayton’s Story Project Newsletter No 6 – January 2010

It is a year since the last project newsletter, and some of you may have been wondering what we were doing. Along with the newsletter there is a quiz about local history, with a prize for the winner.

1 Summary of project progress

In 2007 we were awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for a four-year project involving as many local people as practicable in researching our past. The project looks at the way in which the village of Great Ayton grew, from its Saxon origins to the twentieth century, by considering different aspects of the village, such as business and industry, and then focussing in on specific topics, such as leather tanning and retail shops.

We are now half-way towards the scheduled completion date of end September 2011, and at the stage where individuals and groups are working through the various topics. This part of the project has thrown up much more material than we bargained for! Also, it has taken us longer than anticipated to get all the basic source information, such as census records, into an accessible format on a website. We need to do this before we can study aspects of population and society in the village. For these reasons, we will ask if the project may be extended for one year, with completion in 2012.

Project outputs will be readily available on a specially-commissioned website.

2 Highlights of 2009

o Discovering how to access newspapers on the internet, leading Peter Morgan to compile a fascinating series of articles about the village in the nineteenth century. Alongside this, Malcolm Race has been copying key articles from the Tom Kirby collection of 20th century press articles held in the library. We hope to place all this material onto the website eventually.
o Showing old films of Ayton to a large group at Hollygarth in February, including a film of the building of Hollygarth itself. This featured Leslie Smith at work plasterering; he is now 92 and was present in the audience.
o In the spring, delivering six new presentations about village history: two evenings on house histories, 1964 aerial photographs, mills and milling, important Aytonians from the past, and railways. Average attendance was 45.
o Putting on three guided walks as part of the country-wide Festival of British Archaeology.
o Going into Roseberry School for four days in October to help the children with their studies of Victorian life.
o Throughout the year David W Taylor and Robert de Wardt have been looking for evidence of the first Saxon settlement around Low Green.
o Realising that Brookside Farm, Little Ayton, was originally a cross-passage farmhouse. We were able to carry out a sketch survey of the building and to unravel its successive enlargements and modifications over the centuries.
o For the first time, the growth of California has been chronicled. Ken Taylor and his team have gained a real insight into the growth of California.
o Working with Teesside University to provide research opportunities for their post-graduate history students.

3 Website

We have a work-in-progress website at into which we are posting project information. Do have a look at it if you have not already done so. A valuable section is the listing of all the Ayton census returns, really useful to family historians. The Microsoft XL census files under Sources can be downloaded onto your own computer, and searched for specific names, occupations, etc. The general format of the website, with drop-down menus for each category, has been developed by Mike Newton, and will form the basis of a professionally-designed website which we will commission to carry our findings. We do not intend to publish much printed material.

Early in 2010, we are having a broadband wireless connection made to our meeting room, upstairs in the Friends’ Meeting House. This will enable us to access the internet and input data onto the website from the Friends’ Meeting House.

4 2010 presentations

Our presentations are open to all, and free, although we always appreciate a small voluntary contribution towards the refreshments.

3 February More famous Aytonians - Waynman Dixon (Ian Pearce)
10 February Dismantling of the Cook cottage on Easby Lane (Ian Wilson)
17 February Tanning Part 1: Traditional leather manufacture (Peter Morgan)
3 March Tanning Part 2: Tanning in Great Ayton (Ian Pearce)
10 March Outram Cottages and the adjacent houses (Barbara Grey and Ken Taylor)
17 March Events in Ayton as reported in the newspapers of the time (Peter Morgan)
31 March Public health in Ayton (Dennis Tyerman)

Tanning was a huge industry in the village before the growth of the whinstone and ironstone extraction. There must have been perhaps 200 tan pits in the village at the height of its success in the eighteenth century. The first known tannery was started by the Richardson family of Langbaurgh Hall, who were Quakers. Their descendents established tanneries in Whitby, York and Tyneside, the latter moving into Newcastle as Edward and James Richardson Ltd, their Elswick Leather Works becoming one of the leading tanneries in the country.

5 Recording oral history

Tricia Borrow is looking after the recording of older residents’ memories. She has already recorded several interviews, but would welcome assistance, especially with the typing up of transcripts of the recordings.

6 Shops

Shops and services are obviously a very important feature of a large community like Great Ayton. Unfortunately they come and go; shops change ownership or disappear completely. We want to record as much of their history as possible, based on personal memories and other sources such as trade directories and census returns. A start has been made with grocers (see our website under business/industry and shops) but there is a lot more to do: blacksmiths, the post office, shoemakers, butchers, the Co-op, etc. If anyone can help please get in touch with Hazel or Dan O’Sullivan; they would particularly welcome any old photographs, bills or receipts.

7 California

Ken Taylor and Barbara Grey have unearthed a great deal about the origins of California. Here are a few snippets:

The development of the village north of High Green started in 1851, when John Richardson of Langbaurgh sold 21 plots of land, on what is now Newton Road, for gardens and allotments. They were soon used as building plots, the first houses including some rather grand affairs with large grounds, such as Cliff Rigg House. Sometime between 1852 and 1856 the first row of terraced houses appeared, Melbourne Terrace, just up from the fish and chip shop. Much of the later expansion resulted from demand for housing to accommodate the influx of whinstone miners after the railway came to Ayton in 1864.

Cliff Rigg House, now three dwellings, was originally built by George Dixon, the first head of the Quaker school, for his retirement. He used the clay from the back garden to make bricks, and the resulting hole later became a small ornamental lake. This photograph shows the garden when the house was owned by the Derwent family, who had shipping interests.

One of George’s sons, John Dixon, was the first occupant of Woodville in John Street. This property was later used by ‘Milky’ Willie, who had a dairy behind the house in the 1920s. The Tees river pilot who built Pilot’s Cottage went to work on a donkey. The animal could find its way back to Ayton on its own, a necessary skill since the pilot was often in an inebriated state.

We are beginning to find out about the entrepreneurs behind some of the expansion of California. One of these men was Jeremiah Thistlethwaite, at first sight a humble Quaker grocer. At one time Romany Road and much of the land towards Guisborough Road was known as ‘Thistlethwaite’s Estate’. Pearsonville was named after the local builder William Pearson, whose business continues in the village to this day with Chris Pearson.

8 North Yorkshire County Record Office

We have been working in the County Record Office in Northallerton on alternate Wednesday afternoons throughout the year. June Marsden and Mary van Loo have been transcribing the entire records of Parish Council Minutes, commenting that today’s Parish Council still seems to be discussing the same issues as 100 years ago! Alan Bunn has led a small team going through the many boxes of papers left by the old Stokesley Rural District Council, many of which refer to Ayton matters.

Civil Defence was an important organisation in the 1950s, under the threat of nuclear bombs falling over Britain. Every year there was a large outdoor event, with lunch, arranged by the North Riding regional group. Their invitations usually included a stamped RSVP card, but one year, to save postage, they asked that these be handed in to the nearest local government office. Stokesley RDC not only sent cards handed in by post to Northallerton, but included individual covering letters as well!

9 Some of the activities planned for 2010

o Visit to the National Archives at Kew
o Visit to the Durham County Record Office
o Continued investigation of ridge and furrow patterns in fields, resulting from traditional ploughing techniques, usually with oxen.
o Searching the treasure-trove of deeds in the Records Office in Northallerton. This will be done for the period 1730 to 1880, with a view to tracking the details of property and land ownership in the village.
o Continuing the search for evidence of early Saxon settlement around Low Green. Some of this work may be done in conjunction with the Scouts, possibly working towards their ‘Archaeology Badge’.
o Producing a series of overlaid maps showing the growth of the village from the eighteenth century until today.
o We may possibly mark the 70th anniversary, on 11 February 2010, of the Lockheed Hudson crash near Cook’s Monument on Easby Moor.

We are starting our regular Wednesday morning meetings on 6th January 2010 in the Friends’ Meeting House on High Green. There will be the usual afternoon sessions at the NYCRO in Northallerton, starting on the same date.

9 Why not join in?

If you are thinking of getting involved with the project (remember the amount of time you would spend on project activities is entirely up to you) just ask Dan O’Sullivan (723358), Ian Pearce (722964) or David W Taylor (722748) .

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