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Speaker Bob Woodhouse ‘Pubs, Parsons and Parasols’

Bob Woodhouse is a retired teacher and a keen walker. He is a regular contributor to the Evening Gazette on walks and has written 35 books on local history covering Gateshead, Harrogate and the Coast. He is writing a novel which has already had a gestation period of 20 years! He gave an interesting talk on 3 important aspects of local village life – pubs, parsons and parasols.

Bob traced the origin of the word ‘inn’ to Saxon times. At one time it meant a house of residence for students. Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn derived their names from this period. Inns were often found at road crossings in the early days. Where these were also alehouses, a horizontal brush outside became the standard sign. The turnpike system led to the establishment of inns which offered accommodation and sometimes fresh horses. Inns were often like ordinary houses inside. Beer was usually served from a jug and there was no bar. The Milbank Arms in Barningham is one of only 10 in the United Kingdom never to have had a bar counter.

Skittle alleys attracted customers and quoits and shove ha’penny were sometimes played. Games were played for money or beer until 1880, when wagers were made illegal. Inns were sometimes recognised stopping points for craftsmen, giving rise to names such as the Masons Arms, the Drovers Arms and the Bricklayers Arms. Publicans often undertook other trades such as blacksmiths and selling candles. Some were disreputable such as John Andrew who was involved in smuggling when he was at the Ship Inn at Saltburn. There were networks for handling stolen and smuggled goods involving publicans. Other interesting local pubs were the Wapentake at Sadberge (now the Three Tuns) and  Pierceburgh Grange at Worsall, which was the Malt Kiln Inn in the days when Worsall was a port. The Sun Inn at Bilsdale has its origins in the 18th century as the Spout House. The Ainsley family took it over in 1823 and were landlords until 2011. There has been a cricket pitch next to the pub since the 19th century and Prince Harry has played there.

There have been many local parsons who were remarkable characters. Canon Kyle rebuilt the church at Carlton, which had been destroyed by fire. He employed a nationally famous architect, Temple Moor, to design it. He also built a new school in the village and bought the Fox and Hounds pub, which was closed on Sundays. He was the vicar for 49 years. John Atkinson was vicar of Danby for more than 40 years. He claimed to have walked 70,000 miles in this time, but still found time to be married 3 times and to father 14 children.

Vicar Charles Gray in Helmsley dominated life in the area. He published a parish magazine, which mostly dealt with social issues rather than news and arranged a better postal service. He opened 5 new churches in the area, designed by Temple Moore. Moore also designed a new vicarage for him, which is now the headquarters of the North York Moors National Park Authority. Gray was fortunate in having Lord Feversham to bankroll his many ventures.

Occupying their time was a problem for many Ladies of the Manor. However some enterprising ladies did kick over the traces. One of the most remarkable was Lady Mary Montagu. She was of aristocratic birth, but eloped with her future husband who became Ambassador to Constantinople. She defied convention by introducing small pox inoculation to Western medicine. On her return from Istanbul she left her husband for an Italian Count.

Other ladies who were prominent in contravention of the customs of the day included Gertrude Bell, Lady Randolph Churchill and Lily Langtry.

Bob finished his talk with photographs of many of the subjects of his talk including the Spout House and cricket pitch in Bilsdale, the church at Carlton in Cleveland where Betjeman admired the Lych Gate, Gray’s village school, which has become a garage, the Fox and Hounds Inn (no longer a pub) and the Blackwell Ox.