Swept under the carpet

Although called ‘apprentices’ chimney boys were in fact little more than child slaves
A chimney boy with the master sweep

Following my last column about the advent of insurance after the Great Fire of London, I wanted this week to talk about another, unsettling consequence of that disaster.

While researching fire marks, I began reading about the practice of sending small children up chimneys to clean them. I hadn’t previously fully appreciated just how terrible it was, and what a truly shameful part it plays in our history.

Chimneys, in the form that we know them now, didn’t really exist before the 12th century. As my dad explains in his column from 25th August 1979, when buildings were single storey, fires were built at the centre of the house to heat the whole building and smoke escaped through a hole in the roof.

As building techniques developed, and more floors were added to homes, they had to find another way of getting rid of the smoke. So the fireplace was moved to the edge of the room and passages were built within the walls to direct the smoke upwards and outside. Thus the chimney was born.

Before the Great Fire in 1666, chimneys were large enough for a fully-grown man to climb in and clean away the soot. However, following the disaster, fire safety regulations were introduced imposing restrictions on the width of chimneys. Some were no more than 18 inches wide, and many had corners and twists and turns that were impossible for adult men to navigate.

So it became commonplace to send small children up into the chimney stacks. Although these children were officially called ‘apprentices’, they were in fact no more than slaves. Boys (and occasionally girls) as young as four would be taken from the streets, or bought from orphanages or impoverished parents. Once they ‘belonged’ to the master they were treated no better than dogs.

It must have been terrifying to be sent up into these dark, cramped, sooty tunnels, and masters would sometimes light fires below or stick pins in their feet to make the petrified children ascend. These ‘climbing boys’ used their elbows and knees to shimmy up the chimney, holding a brush over their heads to dislodge the soot, which was collected in sackcloth lying at the bottom, and given to the master to sell.

The youngsters worked non-stop from morning until night, were rarely paid, were fed basic rations, and were left to sleep among the coal sacks.

The consequences on their physical health were dire. As well as skin infections caused by burns and open wounds on their elbows and knees, they would suffer soreness of the eyelids and mouth, stunted growth and deformed ankles, and breathing problems due to inhalation of soot. By their teens, many had started to suffer from what was known as ‘chimney sweep’s cancer’, a painful and fatal carcinoma of the scrotal sack, which has the distinction of being the first identified ‘occupational’ cancer. Not only that, but throughout their miserable lives they would have been deliberately underfed to keep them skinny, and then tossed like rubbish into the street once they grew too big.

Although a number of acts were passed aiming to stamp the practice out, they were largely ignored, not only by master sweeps who feared losing their livelihood, but also by institutions like the police, churches, factories, hospitals and municipal buildings that knowingly employed them. In other words, for years and years, the authorities turned a blind eye to the appalling suffering of thousands of children.

It took the death of 12-year-old George Brewster in 1875 to put a stop to the outrage. George was sent up a chimney at Fulbourn Hospital in Cambridge, but became stuck. Rescuers had to dismantle a wall to get him out, but it was too late, and he died from suffocation. Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, had long been campaigning against the use of climbing boys, but it was following George’s death, which he cited in Parliament, that his Chimney Sweepers Act 1875 was passed. It introduced annual licensing for chimney sweeps and the enforcement of the law by the police.

George Brewster’s boss, William Wyer, was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to six months in prison with hard labour. George certainly wasn’t the first to die this way, but he is the last known climbing boy to perish, and I hope you’ll take a moment to think of him, and the countless other children who suffered.

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 23rd  August and the Gazette & Herald on 21st August 2019

Fire up the engines

Fire crews tackle the wood yard blaze near Wass
A Yorkshire Insurance Company fire mark. 
A Phoenix Insurance Company fire mark in Pickering (Picture by Pauline Eccles, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.)

I was very sorry to read in the news this week that our local timber merchant, who is based near the village of Wass, has been hit by an awful fire that destroyed 120 tonnes of wood and one of their wagons.

Thankfully, the blaze did not spread to their nearby home and no-one was hurt. Fire crews from Easingwold and Thirsk were on the scene in just 12 minutes, which no doubt was the reason why the damage was not worse.

In times gone by, especially in rural areas, such a fire would have resulted in far more damage due to the fact that there was no organised service to tackle incidents. And in the days of no insurance, victims would likely lose everything they had.

The notion of insurance against fire came about following the Great Fire of London in 1666 which lasted four days, consumed 13,200 houses, destroyed 87 parish churches and displaced up to 80,000 residents. The death toll is officially very low, one reason being that many people fled rather than try to fight the flames themselves. But also the poor were not properly documented and techniques to identify cremated remains didn’t exist, so it’s impossible to say how many of them perished.

Of course, none of these poverty-stricken Londoners owned their own homes, yet their tenancy agreements held them liable for repairs, and they were expected to pay rent while their burned houses were being rebuilt. As well as being extremely unfair, this system was clearly unworkable so an emergency ‘Fire Court’ was set up by the authorities to settle any disputes arising from the rebuilding programme.

The disaster demonstrated that improvements in fire safety were essential. A very entrepreneurial economist and physician called Nicholas Barbon established the first ‘Fire Office’ in 1667 which, in return for prepayments, offered to rebuild homes affected by fire. Similar companies soon sprang up so that by 1690, one in 10 houses in London was insured.

By 1700 they realised that it was more cost effective to limit fire damage and repair a home, than to have to rebuild it from scratch. Therefore they trained up teams of employees, gave them uniforms, and bought their own fire-fighting equipment. This team would be dispatched as soon as they heard that a fire had broken out.

But as these were privately-owned fire brigades, they would only tackle fires at establishments covered by their own insurance and, as my dad explains in his column from 18th August 1979, the way to recognise their own clients was by fixing a lead plaque to the exterior of the premises.

These markers bore designs unique to each insurance company, so that those raising the alarm would know which company to call out, and those summoned to the fire could tell that the building was covered. The system wasn’t failsafe though, and situations arose where the wrong company’s fire brigade were called, only to stand by as the building burned to the ground. Not long afterwards, the insurance firms came to an agreement that if they extinguished a fire in a building covered by a competitor, the costs would be reimbursed by the correct insurer.

In 1825, the Royal Exchange, the Union and the Sun insurance companies united their fire fighting forces, with others following suit not long after, and by 1833, an association named the London Fire Engine Establishment comprising all the principal insurance agencies was formed. On January 1st 1866, all these brigades were brought under the control of the Metropolitan Board of Works and named the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, later to become the London Fire Brigade.

It meant that there was no longer any need for the fire marks to be fixed to buildings, although some of these markers can still be seen adorning older establishments. I have seen one on the wall of a shop in Gillygate, York, but many have disappeared over time.

Incidentally, Nicholas Barbon is not only noted for his role in establishing insurance against fire. He is also famous for his fantastic middle name. Are you ready for this?

His middle name is ‘If-Jesus-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned’. I kid you not. Apparently, it was common in the 17th century for Puritan parents to give religious ‘slogan’ names to their children.

It makes me rather thankful that when naming me, my own parents were happy to stick to simple Sarah Jane.

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 16th August and the Gazette & Herald on 14th August 2019

Brace yourself for an argument

My sister Janet in the garden of the police house in Oswaldkirk where my dad was posted as a village bobby in 1964
My brother Andrew in the garden of the police house at Oswaldkirk in 1964

Next Monday is the Glorious Twelfth, the date when the shooting season officially begins. Depending on which side of the fence you sit, you might prefer to call it the ‘Inglorious Twelfth’, and there is furious debate as to the positive and negative aspects to shooting game birds.

The argument for shooting goes that effective moor management helps sustain the red grouse population, with managed burning of heather supporting the precious peatland habitat that enables them to thrive. According to the Moorland Association, heather, which forms the main part of the grouse’s diet, is now more scarce across the world than rainforest, with the UK being home to 75% of what is left globally. In fact, the North York Moors National Park has the greatest continuous expanse of heather moorland still surviving.

Supporters also argue that the industry provides 2,500 full time jobs in rural areas, and contributes £150m to the national economy. As my dad explains in his column from 11th August 1979, red grouse are unique to this country and notoriously difficult to shoot, thanks to their propensity to fly very low at incredible speeds of up to 70mph, and then suddenly change direction at the last minute. So overseas enthusiasts will pay huge sums of money for the privilege to shoot them on the North York Moors.

Those against shooting suggest that the burning in fact damages the habitat and pollutes the environment. As well as the obvious argument of it being cruel, supporters of animal rights accuse gamekeepers and landowners of forcibly getting rid of the grouse’s natural predators such as foxes, stoats and hen harriers (which are protected, so killing them is illegal) in order to boost the population of grouse for the shooting season.

As for me, I am one of those infuriating fence-sitters. My animal-loving side can’t abide the idea of killing any creature just for fun, and I can’t understand how any pleasure is gained from loading a gun and aiming it at a defenceless creature. However, shooting estates argue that their sport is not just for fun, but is one of the most effective ways of looking after the land and its animal occupants. Land management has evolved through the experience of generations of country-dwellers, and so they must know a thing a two about it. So you see, although I wouldn’t ever participate in it, I don’t have anything against a properly organised and responsibly-managed shoot.

I am also an enthusiastic meat-eater, and love a well-cooked game bird. In fact, London restaurants pay a hefty premium to get grouse shot early on the 12th August on to their menu by evening service. Back in the day, it was quite normal to prepare the game meat from scratch yourself. My dad’s mum, Nana Walker, was a dab hand at plucking pheasants, and I have a memory of her sitting on her back step amidst a cloud of flying feathers, a bird between her knees, and her hands moving with phenomenal dexterity and speed. It’s a skill that only a few outside the butchery or restaurant trade have today.

Here in North Yorkshire, it used to be normal for newcomers to be welcomed into a village with various foodstuffs left on their doorstep, such as a bag of home-grown vegetables, a rabbit, or a brace of game birds hung on the door handle.

When my parents moved into the police house at the top of the bank in Oswaldkirk in the mid-1960s, they were welcomed in such a way, as my dad describes in his first Constable book, Constable on the Hill. As was usual, there was no note with the gifts:

“We were surprised to find a cabbage in a string bag hanging from the door knob…” and then, on the back door, “..a brace of pigeons from that door knob. Then, on the office door, was a monster of a hare…Here was I, on my very first day at Aidensfield, with presents all around me, and not a single hint as to their origins.”

Back then, the attitude towards small game was that they were a valuable source of food, and the sort of sentimentality that I feel towards the animals was, well, just plain daft. Nevertheless, whatever side you fall upon, I don’t think you’ll dislodge me from my perch on that fence.

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 9th August and the Gazette & Herald on 7th August 2019

An ant-a-social insect

Aphids on a lupin stem
Some of the lupins in this border have been ruined by aphids

I was listening to a local radio gardening show the other day and a caller was concerned about the proliferation of ants in her garden. Apparently, she had thousands of the industrious little creatures running up and down and underneath a number of plants in her borders.

She wondered why they were behaving like that, and whether this activity was in some way damaging to the plant. I was interested to hear the reply, and yet still a question remained in my head afterwards, which I will come on to.

According to the expert, the recent warm weather has resulted in a proliferation of aphids, which for the ants in your garden is like offering them a free pass to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Now, it’s not because ants eat aphids that you find them on your plants together. Rather, it’s because the ants ‘farm’ the aphids in a relationship that is mutually beneficial.

As my dad explains in his column from 4th August 1979, when aphids feed on your plants, they secrete a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew for which the ants go crazy (if only I could find an insect to secrete Prosecco. My supermarket bill would plummet).

Because of the ready supply of honeydew, they will go to some lengths to ensure the aphids continue to thrive. But aphids aren’t stupid, and don’t give away their delicious product for nothing. Oh no, they expect payback for their endeavours. And like bouncers outside a nightclub on a Saturday night, the ants will see off any invaders with malicious intent on their minds. So watch out all you ladybirds and lacewings daring to approach any aphids under the watch of a colony of ants.

Aphids are also prone to a fatal fungal infection, so ants preserve the health of their ‘herd’ by removing unhealthy, dead or dying aphids from the colony to avoid the rest becoming infected. Aphids in return are perfectly docile in the hands of their protectors, allowing themselves to be lifted and moved around, also also letting themselves be ‘milked’ for their honeydew by having their abdomens stroked by the ants.

As the expert on the radio explained, the ants in themselves are not a threat to the plants. But what I was then left wondering was how to get rid of aphids? We all know they are a pest, and can have a seriously detrimental effect on your greenery if left to their own devices.

I have not found many recommendations for using pesticides, not just for the fact they can kill other, non-harmful insects, but they also pollute the earth and air around the plants they are used upon.

Possibly, the best way is to find the ant nest and get rid of it. You can use poisonous ant bait, which they then carry back to the nest and the poor unsuspecting population feed upon it and wipe themselves out. Or a non toxic method is to wrap your plant in sticky film or netting to catch the ants, leaving the aphids unprotected. Then you can introduce aphid-feeding insects, like the aforementioned ladybirds and lacewings. To get the quantity you need, you may have to buy them in bulk, and larvae of the insects are commercially available and easy to find through Google.

Another non-toxic method is to spray the plant with a fairly strong jet of water. You have to be vigilant, though, and probably will have to do it a few times before all the insects have moved on. Of course, this means that you risk damaging your plants, and also that you just shift the problem on to another part of the garden.

When I was growing up, the usual way of destroying an ant nest was to pour boiling water on it. It does seem rather brutal, but at least they died instantly. I can remember one occasion when I was playing Cowboys and Indians and was dressed up in a long skirt. I got ‘shot’ and dramatically ‘died’ on a little hillock in the garden. Within seconds I was miraculously resurrected by the sensation of hundreds of little ant mouths biting my legs. Subsequently, if ever I came across a nest, I’d take gleeful revenge with the aid of the kettle. I’m sure my parents didn’t mind the resulting network of brown patches scattered across the lawn.

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 2nd August and the Gazette & Herald on 31st July 2019

Fannying about in the village

Fanny (L) and Minnie (R) Benson at their garage in Ampleforth. Picture: Camilla Veale
Minnie with on of the ‘Lassies’. Picture: Camilla Veale
Fanny serves a customer. Picture: Camilla Veale

When my dad wrote his column for 21st July 1979, the country was experiencing the effects of a global oil crisis following the Iranian Revolution, which had begun in early 1978 and ended on 11th February 1979 when the monarchy was toppled and an Islamic republic was established.

During the revolution, Iranian oil output fell dramatically, and the problem was exacerbated by large companies stockpiling supplies for fear of further uprisings.

Our TV screens and newspapers showed of lines of motorists queuing at petrol stations to fill up their tanks. Rural industries relied heavily on petrol, oil and diesel, and some resorted to the old ways of agriculture, using horses and cattle for transportation and farm work.

One of the countryside retailers most dependant on fuel was of course the local garage. The first forecourt attached to a supermarket was opened by Asda in Halifax in 1967, and Tesco and Sainsbury’s followed suit in 1974. Despite that, in 1979, they were still few and far between, so in rural areas, we relied on small independent garages to fill up our vehicles.

In my home village we had our own petrol station owned by a couple of characters straight out of an episode of Heartbeat. Sisters Minnie and Fanny Benson were a much-loved local institution, and had run the garage since the 1950s after inheriting it from their father. I’m sure many readers will remember, or still come across, these kinds of people who to outsiders might seem rather eccentric, but when you grow up with them, you just accept them as part of the fabric of country life.

As a child, Minnie and Fanny and their little garage were as familiar to me as my own back garden. They had always just been there and played a pivotal role in the community. They were Jacks (or should that be Jills?) of all trades, and could probably have turned their hands to just about anything. They delivered the papers, and would help out with all manner of odd-jobs if asked to. Of the two, Fanny was the most mechanically minded, and was proficient in a mind-boggling array of practical tasks which, especially back in the 1970s, were traditionally associated with men. She offered a bike-puncture repair service for 10p, and could fix any other bike-related problem. She also drove the school bus, operated a taxi service, and was the parish bell-ringer, as well as church warden. She chopped up wood and sold it for kindling, and the Bensons sold vegetables they had grown in their garden and eggs from their own chickens.

The pair were a familiar sight around the village, with Fanny always in her blue mac, boots, and a woolly hat, while Minnie wore a similar mac and boots, but was always in a skirt. They were particularly known for their posse of border collies that were forever by their sides. They had a succession of them, and no less than three when I was a child. The funny thing was, all of them were called Lassie. It didn’t seem odd to me at the time and it was only as an adult that it dawned on me how quirky it was. My mum recalls Dad once asking Minnie why. “Well, if I shout ‘Lassie!’, they all come.” Now that’s proper Yorkshire logic.

Minnie babysat for many families and most Saturday nights, my parents would go for a drink at the pub across the road, so Minnie would come and sit with us. I used to beg her to let Fanny bring the dogs down, so usually, much to my delight, about half way through the evening, she would turn up with one of them in tow. They always let me stay up later than I was supposed to, but eventually I’d have to go to bed and whichever Lassie it was would come upstairs too. My mum groaned inwardly when Minnie would later tell her, “Aye, Lassie loves that bed o’ yours.”

It was my late sister Tricia who told a rather amusing story that has led to a phrase sticking in my head ever since. She was working in public relations and was discussing some business with a client. They got on to the subject of Minnie and Fanny, and how people like them played an essential role in the community. “Yes,” said the client, “Every village needs a Fanny.”

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug


Flower of the gods

The field of poppies I drive past
A poppy in a field next to a cereal crop

There is a field I drive past which at the moment is as pretty as a Monet painting as it is full of red poppies. There is something decidedly uplifting about seeing such a view, even though poppies might not always be welcomed by farmers trying to grow a cereal crop.

According to my dad’s column from 14th July 1979, poppy seeds can lie dormant for some time, only to sprout into life once the ground is disturbed. Indeed, he recounts meeting a farmer leaning on a fence while gazing at a corn field that was bright red with poppies.

“Yon seeds lie doon there for hundreds o’ years, and when you disturb ‘em, you git acres o’ poppies and precious little corn,” said the farmer. He explained that it used to be a hay field, and that he had had no problem with poppies then. It was only after he’d ploughed it up and replanted it with corn that the flowers appeared.

My dad asked him how he’d get rid of them, as they were well interspersed with the crop. Would the harvest be ruined?

“Noo, Ah can’t get rid on ‘em, leastways Ah mebbe could by howin’ ‘em all oot, but there’s nut time for that these days. Besides, me combine fettles ‘em.”

The resilience of this little flower was demonstrated during World War I when Western Europe was decimated by bombardments and few plants were able to thrive. One notable exception was the red poppy and it inspired Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae to write his now famous and moving poem, In Flanders Fields, in 1915. The colonel had witnessed many deaths, and had just lost a close friend, when he was struck by the symbolism of the blood-red blooms rising from the ground where his comrades had fallen. His words are so poignant:

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Poppies can thrive where others fail because the slow-growing flowers can withstand the cold of winter and have a clever method of germinating. The seed pod sits atop a long swaying stem, and when the seeds are ripe, they are cast from their pod by the wind to be scattered far and wide. They can then lie on the ground for months until a helpful plough or combine harvester comes along and jolts them into life.

When agriculture was a mostly manual occupation, farm workers would remove poppy plants through patient hoeing. But today machinery does the job, although if the seeds do end up back in the earth, they will germinate in ever-increasing numbers.

The connection between poppies and corn fields dates back to at least Greek times, and in Roman mythology Somnus, the god of sleep, used the flower to make Ceres, the corn goddess, fall asleep. Demeter is her Greek equivalent and Ceres and Demeter are often depicted wearing garlands of poppies and corn intertwined.

In Ancient Greek myth, Hades, King of the Underworld, kidnapped Demeter’s beautiful daughter Persephone. Demeter was distraught and scoured the earth looking for her, neglecting her duties protecting the crops. Zeus, King of all the Gods, knew he had to do something as the crops began to wither, but he didn’t want to risk the wrath of his tempestuous brother Hades. He therefore came up with the plan that Persephone would spend six months of the year with her mother on earth, and six months with Hades in the underworld. Demeter was so sad each year when Persephone was away that all the plants died back until she came back home again. And so this is how the ancient Greeks came to explain the cycle of the seasons.

Of course the common poppy, which is also known as the corn poppy, the corn rose, the field poppy and the Flanders poppy, has a rather infamous cousin in the opium poppy. It is the most widely cultivated of the species and is a source of natural opiates which are used both in the drugs trade, and in medicine. The addictive and strong painkiller morphine derives from it, and once again we can thank the ancient Greeks for its name, coming as it does from Morpheus, god of dreams.

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 12th July and the Gazette & Herald on 10th July 2019

Bridges take their toll

Aldwark Toll Bridge (Picture: Maljoe)
The Humber Toll Bridge was still being built when Dad wrote his column in 1979 (Picture: Frank Dwyer)

I cut my writing teeth in the late 1980s and early 1990s on what was then the Yorkshire Evening Press and as part of my training was posted to Selby. If you have ever experienced travelling through Selby in pre-bypass and pre-toll-free days, then you will understand what kind of hell it was to get in and out of town.

At peak times, traffic would queue for miles along the A19 and it could take up to an hour just to get from one side to the other. The main cause of the holdup was the manual toll bridge in the middle of the town, when actual real people took your 7p to allow you to cross the River Ouse. It was the only crossing for miles, so unless you were prepared to take a lengthy detour, there was no alternative link between East and West Yorkshire for people living in that neck of the woods. So you just had to sit in the queue and wait your turn.

Tolls were finally lifted in 1991 after a buyout funded by Selby District Council, North Yorkshire County Council and some local businesses, and congestion was further eased with the opening of the Selby bypass in 2004.

The concept of paying tolls to cross privately-owned bridges dates back to mediaeval times. Parishes were supposed to maintain their own highways, which in those days were little more than muddy tracks, and until the mid-sixteenth century they were quite adequate.

But as the volume of wheeled transport increased, so did the damage to road surfaces, and deep and dangerous ruts formed, making some popular routes quite treacherous. There was no system for repairing them, and no doubt they caused many coaching accidents.

To encourage locals to repair the roads, the idea of turnpikes was introduced, whereby travellers had to pay to use certain sections, and the money would go to the upkeep of the highway. These turnpikes occurred every 20 or 30 miles, but many were soon highjacked by unscrupulous businessmen who only operated them to make money for themselves.

Road traffic continued to increase rapidly, and long queues would build up at the toll-gates, as would irritation and anger, which frequently boiled over among the frustrated road users. Mail coaches were the source of much resentment as they were exempt from the fees and would jump the queues. Their drivers had to be tough as nails to stand up to the constant verbal and physical abuse.

This simmering tension finally boiled over into full-on rebellion in 1735 when a group of locals in Hereford raided and destroyed a local turnpike. Others followed suit and soon every turnpike in the country was at risk.

Although some measures were taken to try and make the system fairer, it never really worked, and in 1839, a posse of farmers, disguised as women, demolished four gates on what is now the A40. They were never punished, nor the gates replaced, for fear of violent reprisals. This led to a group being formed, with members calling themselves ‘Rebecca’, which began systematically dismantling turnpike after turnpike until finally, in 1895, the system was abolished.

However, as we know, this was far from the end of tolls on our road network, and as my dad says in his column from 7th July 1979, there was talk of introducing them on our busiest motorways as far back as 1966. This approach does seem to work very well in France, which has a reputation for excellently-maintained motorways.

There are some tolls that I am very happy to pay, such as the one at the delightfully quaint Aldwark Bridge across the River Ure. It is one of the few privately-owned toll bridges left in the country, and is in a particularly lovely country location. You feel like you’re taking a step back in time as you hand your 40p to the bridge keeper and feel your wheels rumble over the wooden deck beneath. You wonder if this ancient crossing is capable of taking the weight, but I am told it can comfortably cater for vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes.

And I agree with the conclusion my dad came to in 1979 when he said, ‘Even the new Humber Bridge will have a toll system, so it looks as though toll bridges and toll roads will continue for some years to come.’

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 5th July and the Gazette & Herald on 3rd July 2019