One of the things I most enjoy about writing a weekly column is that fact that you lovely readers get in touch with comments, observations, recollections and feedback. Firstly, it gives me enormous satisfaction to know that my efforts to entertain are not in vain, and secondly, your messages often result in new opportunities to research topics which provide material for future columns.
This week I was showered with an embarrassment of riches on the ‘readers getting in touch’ front. No less than five people contacted me, all talking about different subjects.
Gillian Hunt (who was featured last week) furnished me with more fascinating details relating to aspects of sampler embroidery, which I may come back to at a later date, while Jeremy Williamson wrote to me revealing that we are related. My great-grandfather Thomas Rhea, who was licensee of the Three Blast Furnaces Inn (later the Anglers’ Rest) in Glaisdale, was married to Sarah Jane Williamson, Jeremy’s great aunt. Sarah Jane was sister to his grandfather George Henry Williamson, and George was landlord of the Robin Hood and Little John pub in Castleton from 1939 until the 1960s. Sadly, that pub went a similar way to the Angler’s Rest, and has been converted into a house. Jeremy has only recently found out that George Henry was one of nine children, and went on to father ten children. We have a wonderful picture of my nana’s family outside the Three Blast Furnaces when she was around three alongside her parents and five siblings (she did have two more, an elder brother who died when he was just two, and another younger brother yet to be born). Imagine buying Christmas presents for that lot. It makes me think my family of three children barely qualifies me to call myself a parent.
Terry Ashby got in touch after reading my column about pathways a few weeks back. Terry is a staunch advocate for the protection of historical footpaths, bridleways and boundaries and has written extensively on the subject. He laments the fact that many routes either disappear, or their original use becomes lost when not protected, observing: “There are many instances of, for example, bridleways which reach boundaries or other dividing obstacles and become footpaths on the other side. Some tracks or paths end for no apparent reason.” I wonder if any of you have encountered that problem? I imagine it must be very annoying if you’re out enjoying a leisurely hack when the bridleway you’re following suddenly disappears.
Peter Allen emailed me following my article about poltergeists, correcting me about ‘Lady Nunnington’. In fact there never was a Lady Nunnington – the ghost was actually known as ‘The Proud Lady of Nunnington’.
And lastly, Linda Chambers, in an old-school 20th century manner, wrote me an actual letter. She used to live in my home village, and recalled (as do many long-term residents), the sight of my dad climbing the local hill every day in his trademark white, cable-knit sweater. She came up with a question that I couldn’t answer, asking if I had heard of ‘King Henry’s Night’.
“I was told about this some years back by an elderly gentleman (now dead) who lived at Thorgill,” she says. “It apparently centred around young people going out on a particular night and meeting up with likely suitors. Not sure what their parents thought but no doubt it was eagerly anticipated.”
Naturally, I was straight into my dad’s vast collection of cuttings, files and books gathered over the sixty years of his writing career, but came up empty-handed. I also tried a few searches online, but they were pretty fruitless. So this is where you come in. Have you heard of it, and if so what can you tell us? Recent requests for help on all sorts of subjects have come up trumps, so I am hopeful that at least one of you reading this will either know, or has the means to find out.
Then I can write about it and take all the glory.
Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug
This column appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on 28th and Ryedale Gazette and Herald on 26th April 2023