RESTING PLACE: Robert Lendrem’s grave, in the old churchyard at St George’s, Fatfield, near Sunderland
RESTING PLACE: Robert Lendrem’s grave, in the old churchyard at St George’s, Fatfield, near Sunderland

A FAMILY‘S 18-year search for their great-great grandfather’s grave has yielded success thanks to the Teesdale Mercury online archive.
Dennis Lendrem’s search for the whereabouts of George Robert Lendrem’s gravesite began in 2003 when he inherited a partial family tree on a piece of paper following his father’s death.
The top of the family tree had the words George Robert Lendrem 1822-1892, Barnard Castle.
Mr Lendrem said: “We knew from my father and grandfather that Robert was a Barney man.
“We were very fond of the town and as kids in the 60s we visited our great-aunt Jane and her husband Bob, and played down by the river.
“A note in the margin of that piece of paper marked him as ‘drowned’ and, in brackets, ‘Irish Sea?’”
And so began the search for Robert Lendrem and the mystery surrounding his death.
Through research, the family learned that their great-great grandfather was born in Ashfield, Cootehill, in Ireland, and like many the country to seek his fortune in the 1840s.
Known by the first name Robert, he travelled to Barnard Castle where he found work at a mill.
He later met and married Jane Wigham, the mill owner’s youngest daughter. The couple went on to have six children, four daughters and two sons, and lived at various locations along Bridgegate over the years.
Mr Lendrem said: “Then, in 1878, Jane died and Robert lost his wife of more than 30 years.
“Fast forward to 1891, Robert had retired and was living alone at 94 Bridgegate. His health was deteriorating and there was some concern about the balance of his mind. Perhaps this was when he drowned?”
However, the family later discovered that his eldest son William had invited Robert to share Christmas with them in Durham.
He seemed reluctant to return to Barnard Castle and on January 24, 1892 set off for a walk along the River Wear and simply disappeared.
On June 1, 1892, the mystery of his disappearance was revealed in the Teesdale Mercury which reported that George and Thomas Oliver had discovered a body in the River Wear, at Fatfield, near Sunderland.
After an inquest returned a verdict of “found drowned,” an order was issued to inter the body at Fatfield, as the identify could not be established.
The article reads: “Our readers will regret to hear that the body has since been identified as that of George Robert Lendrem, an old and respected inhabitant of Barnard Castle.”
His great-great grandson said: “Mystery solved – Robert did indeed drown, but not in the Irish Sea as we thought, nor in the River Tees at Barnard Castle.
“William marked his father’s grave with a simple headstone. Sadly, this was lost when the old churchyard closed in 1971.
“But with the aid of an old map and the help of the vicar and church officers of St George’s Church, Fatfield, we found his grave.”
The online Teesdale Mercury Archive is run by a group of volunteers and can accessed at