STEPPING BACK: Local historian Peter Singer with members of Barnard Castle WI
STEPPING BACK: Local historian Peter Singer with members of Barnard Castle WI

Barnard Castle WI

MEMBERS met on Monday, August 19, for an evening walk around the town.

Peter Singer – a local historian – took us around the alleys and yards giving us lots of history about life in Barnard Castle and how names came to be.

In the latter half of the 12th century, Bernard de Balliol rebuilt the earth fortifications of the castle which gave rise to the name of the town. It remained a stronghold until 1569.

Many of the buildings up the high street were built using stone stolen from the castle, as happened with so many ruined castles around the country.

Horse Market and Corn Market were so named because of the sale of horses and corn. We learned that many of the small houses built along Waterloo, Star Yard and many others would have had a strip of land opposite to keep animals and grow vegetables.

He explained this was called a burgess which is linked to the original meaning of being an inhabitant and freeman of a town and therefore able to rent land.

Over the centuries Barney has had many diverse but flourishing industries.

These included high quality leather bridles from a tanning business, 400-plus people working in the wool business and weaving in their homes, a carpet industry where the carpets were so good some were sent to the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, plus the use of flax to make rope shoe laces.

The Hole in the Wall yard was another interesting stopping place for Peter. The building there has great Wesleyan connections and the story goes that as the Methodists set about building a meeting house there, the Anglicans – who disliked them strongly – would come along in the dead of night and take down the walls that had been built during the day.

We finished our walk in St Mary’s churchyard where we were shown a memorial for the 145 people who were buried there when cholera broke out in 1847.

It had started in Bridgegate, where conditions were horrific due to overcrowded yards and houses. It was a grim place to live with seepage from the churchyard and nearby slaughterhouse and no toilet facilities whatsoever.

All in all, we had a very interesting and educational evening learning so much about the historical background to our lovely town. Viv Guy gave a vote of thanks to Peter for leading us and sharing his wealth of knowledge about Barney.

To finish off the evening everyone enjoyed fish and chips from Katie’s fish shop.

Business was dealt with quickly. Barney WI is holding a coffee morning on Saturday, September 28, at Barnard Castle Methodist Church from 10am to noon. Coffee and homemade cakes will be available.

The Christmas meal will be at Capri Pizzeria, Newgate, in December.

Next month we shall be having a make-up masterclass on September 23, with Joanne Arnott at 7pm. Visitors welcome. Enquiries to Sheila Jones 01325 733228.

Sheila Jones