A series of campaigns that will tell the stories of North Yorkshire’s people and places.

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The Record Office search room is currently closed to the public because the ventilation and heating are not COVID-secure for public access. We are working to change this, but regret that we do not as yet have a date for reopening. We can still be contacted by email at archives@northyorks.gov.uk and will answer archive related enquiries remotely where possible.


Edition 1 - Great North Yorkshire sons and daughters

Great North Yorkshire sons and daughters is the first edition of Made in North Yorkshire. It will bring to life the resources held at the County Record Office, to capture the lives of important, but widely unknown people from across our county.

October 2020 - Miss Winifred Jacob Smith MBE

This month’s nominated Great North Yorkshire Daughter is Miss Winifred Jacob Smith. Winifred and her family were extremely community spirited and well known within the local area of Knaresborough. Alongside her invaluable contribution to the war effort during World War Two, Miss Winifred Jacob Smith is perhaps best known for bequeathing Scriven park (now Jacob Smith Park) near Knaresborough to her community upon her death in May 2003, aged 91.

Caption: View of Jacob Smith Park in the sunshine. (Image courtesy of the Friends of Jacob Smith Park)

Early life

Winifred was born on 4 August 1911, in Humberton (between Knaresborough and Boroughbridge), to parents Jacob and Dora Smith. It had been tradition within the Smith family for the eldest son to be given the first-name Jacob, however as Jacob and Dora only had daughters; they incorporated ‘Jacob’ into Winifred and her elder sister Dorothy’s surname, so the tradition could live on. The Smith family had long established roots within the farming industry in Knaresborough; and Winifred’s mother, Dora, was President of the Knaresborough Women’s Institute (WI).

Yorkshire women's land army

At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Winifred, aged 30, and her sister Dorothy joined the Women’s Land Army for North Yorkshire. The purpose of the Women’s Land Army was to fill the agricultural jobs left vacant after many farmers had gone to fight in the war. The work on the farms was labour intensive, and involved long days working in the fields.

The work of the Women’s Land Army was crucial to feed the nation during both wars and even after the Second World War. Despite this, it has been argued that much of the work of the Women’s Land Army has not always been fairly recognised.

Caption: Photograph of Winifred (left) and her sister Dorothy (centre) at a Women’s Land Army recruitment stand. (Image courtesy of the Yorkshire Museum of Farming)

After joining in 1939, Winifred soon became Organiser for the Women’s Land Army for North Yorkshire, and later the whole of Yorkshire. This would involve carrying out welfare visits on Land Girls in their accommodation, and writing monthly Women’s Land Army newsletters, which were sent out across Yorkshire, an example of which can be seen below from November 1943.

Caption: Copy of the Yorkshire Women’s Land Army newsletter from 11th November 1943. Held at the North Yorkshire County Record Office (Ref: ZFN 1/4/1/8)

Yorkshire museum of farming

The Yorkshire Museum of Farming, based at Murton Park near York holds the archive of Miss Winifred Jacob Smith, including records from her time as Organiser of the Yorkshire Women’s Land Army. This archive has formed the basis of their permanent Women’s Land Army exhibition, the largest exhibition on the Women’s Land Army in the country, images of which can be seen below:

We spoke to Dr Mike Tyler and Tegwen Hammersley from the Yorkshire Museum of Farming to find out more about the importance of the Women’s Land Army in supporting the war effort, and the type of work Winifred Jacob Smith would have carried out as organiser:

Dr Mike Tyler, curator at the Yorkshire museum of farming

Tegwen Hammersley, education officer at the Yorkshire museum of farming

Member of the Order of the British empire

On 28 February 1951, Winifred Jacob Smith received an MBE from King George VI for her leadership of the Yorkshire Women’s Land Army during the Second World War. The photograph below shows Winifred receiving her MBE at Buckingham Palace, alongside her sister Dorothy and mother Dora.

Caption: Photograph of Winifred Jacob Smith (centre) receiving her MBE at Buckingham Palace, with her sister Dorothy (left) and mother Dora (right). (Image courtesy of the Yorkshire Museum of Farming)

A lasting gift

Upon her death in May 2003, Winifred bequeathed what was then called Scriven Park near Knaresborough to her local community for all generations to benefit from “the freedom and beauty that public parks bring”. The land, which would later become the park covered 30 acres, and had once been home to Winifred and her sister Dorothy’s award winning Ayreshire cattle. Prior to this, since the eighteenth century, the land and Scriven Hall had been part of the Slingsby family estate. Winifred left the park to Harrogate Borough Council, who continue to maintain it for the local community to enjoy, and it was officially opened to the public as Jacob Smith Park in 2008.

Caption: Aerial photograph of Jacob Smith Park. (Image courtesy of Friends of Jacob Smith Park and Doug Young)

Friends of Jacob Smith park

The Friends of Jacob Smith Park is a local community group, which was established in 2008, alongside the opening of Jacob Smith Park to the public. We spoke to Jo Smalley, secretary of the Friends of Jacob Smith Park group, to find out more about the purpose and aims of the Friends group, she said:

"By providing the link between the community and the local authority, we are committed to encouraging all ages to value and enjoy their park, whilst sharing it with respect for one another and nature. We are also passionate about enhancing the biodiversity of the park and bringing people together to care for such a special recreational green space, an important home for wildlife, a historical landscape and a valuable educational setting".

Caption: Photograph of Jo Smalley, Secretary of the Friends of Jacob Smith group, at the wildlife pond in Jacob Smith Park.

Jo continued by discussing the important legacy Winfred Jacob-Smith left in her local community by bequeathing the park in her Scriven, she said:

‘Miss Winifred Jacob Smith MBE granted us all the freedom of the park, and we must never take it for granted. The park really does greet us like an old friend every time we enter its gate – offering us safety inside its impressive stone walls as we walk in the company of ancient trees.’

‘It is so important that it is enjoyed as Miss Jacob Smith intended- by everyone- and cherished for generations to come.’

We would like to thank to the members of the public, and particularly the Friends of Jacob Smith Park and Yorkshire Museum of Farming for their support and insight into the life of Miss Winifred Jacob Smith MBE.

Further information

If you would like to find out more about Miss Winifred Jacob Smith MBE and her influence in North Yorkshire, you can visit:

The Friends of Jacob Smith Park website, and Facebook page

Or for more information about the role of the Women’s Land Army in North Yorkshire you can visit:

The Yorkshire Museum of Farming’s permanent Women’s Land Army exhibition and website 

Sources

  • Yorkshire Museum of Farming Women’s Land Army exhibition
  • Friends of Jacob Smith Park website
  • Yorkshire Women at War: Story of the Women’s Land Army Hostels by Marion Jefferies. (Pen & Sword Books Ltd), including a chapter on Winifred Jacob Smith.
  • Boroughbridge and District Historical Society
  • Harrogate Herald
  • Knaresborough Post Archives

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Great North Yorkshire sons and daughters is the first edition of Made in North Yorkshire, and will be launching at the end of this month. It will bring to life the resources held at the County Record Office, to capture the lives of important, but widely unknown people from across our county.

It will focus on ten people from our history who have shown the resilience, strength, honesty, innovation and creativity that made North Yorkshire the special place it is today.

Each month will feature one great North Yorkshire son or daughter, who were either born in the county or who moved here during their lifetime and made a positive change.

The records held at the County Record Office date back to the 12th century, and include a variety of photographs, maps, documents and letters which will be used to unlock the hidden narratives of our Great North Yorkshire sons and daughters.

 

A Great North Yorkshire Daughter 

Our first Great North Yorkshire Son or Daughter is VAD nurse Ursula Lascelles, who travelled from the rural North Yorkshire village of Slingsby, to the battlefields of France to support the war effort during World War One. Ursula Lascelles was born in Sheriff Hutton in July 1890, and died in 1992, aged 102.

She was the daughter of the local vicar of Sheriff Hutton, and was educated at the girls’ grammar school in York. At the outbreak of World War One, Ursula (aged 24 years old), and her mother, Elizabeth Lascelles, began volunteering as VAD nurses.

 
 

 

Supporting the war effort

The VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurse, was a role created by the Red Cross during the first World War, due to a shortage of professionally trained nurses. VAD nurses were voluntary nurses who helped care for injured soldiers in military hospitals across the UK and Europe. Their duties included dressing patients wounds, (which could be more than twice a day), giving patients medicine and bed baths, as well as lesser medical tasks including making beds and tidying the wards. Ursula began volunteering at the British Red Cross Hospital in Swinton Grange, near Malton.

Whilst volunteering in North Yorkshire, Ursula put herself forward to nurse on the frontline in France. Ursula spent months pleading with the head of the Joint Women’s VAD department, (Dame Katharine Furse) to be relocated to France, where she felt she could make a real difference. In 1917 Ursula was accepted to work at the No.6 General Hospital in Rouen, France, where she worked as a VAD nurse until 1919.

After the First World War, and throughout her life, Ursula continued to fundraise for the British Red Cross.

 
 

 

Why Ursula was a Great North Yorkshire Daughter

The influence Ursula Lascelles had upon the patients she treated is evident in the records held at the North Yorkshire County Record Office. The Lascelles family collection (Ref: ZGC) includes hundreds of letters from soldiers she had looked after thanking Ursula for her care. Ursula kept in contact with many soldiers for several decades after the First World War, showing how thankful the soldiers were to have had Ursula by their side in their time of need.

The County Record Office also holds Ursula’s nursing autograph books, which includes messages of thanks from the patients she had looked after whilst they were at the hospital, some extracts from these can be seen above. The records show the social change Ursula brought to the county, and to soldiers from across the world. She cared for them in not just a nursing capacity; but she extended this care by remaining in contact with patients for many years after the First World War. Through nursing in France, and by writing to soldiers overseas, Ursula exported the values and culture of North Yorkshire through her strength and resilience.

Volunteering pioneer

Although Ursula came from a privileged background, she dedicated her life to supporting those in need and less fortunate than herself through supporting and volunteering for the Red Cross. North Yorkshire is still dependent on volunteers to bridge the gap between demand and the money we have to spend as a council.

The county’s ability to support each other, and come together when needed is part of what makes North Yorkshire a great place to live. The work Ursula carried out shows that she was a pioneer for early voluntary work within the county, something which we still rely upon on and cherish today.

 

A Great North Yorkshire Son

Our second Great North Yorkshire Son or Daughter, is Sir George Cayley, known as the ‘Father of Flight’. George Cayley was born in 1773 in the Paradise area of Scarborough (probably at Paradise House, where there is now a blue plaque commemorating his birth). He died in Brompton-by-Sawdon in 1857, aged 83 years old.

His childhood was spent in the village of Brompton-by-Sawdon, where his family had held the baronetcy title since 1661. He was educated by tutors, and his mother, Isabella, ensured his education focused on mathematics and physics. Surrounded by North Yorkshire’s nature and wildlife, George Cayley was an inquisitive child, who took inspiration for his inventions from the rural landscape and birds surrounding him.

Discovery and Innovation

By the time George was 19 (1793) both his father and grandfather had died, at which point George became the 6th Baronet, and moved into the main property of the estate at Brompton Hall (now a school for boys with special educational needs). Not long after George moved into Brompton Hall, he constructed a workshop within the grounds where he could experiment and create many of his inventions. The workshop still exists today, and George’s initials and notes can be seen carved into the doorframe dated from 1820.

Father of Flight

Out of all of his creations, Sir George Cayley is perhaps best known for his revolutionary theories surrounding aviation. In 1853 he made history when he flew the world’s first human carrying glider across Brompton dale. At almost 80 years old, Sir George Cayley considered himself too old to fly the glider himself. Instead he ordered his coachman to fly the glider, who upon a bumpy landing said: “Please, Sir George, I wish to give notice, I was hired to drive and not to fly!”.

Nonetheless, Sir George Cayley had achieved something world-changing. Only fifty years after his breakthrough, in 1903, the Wright brothers flew the first powered flight in America. The Wright brothers credited Cayley’s discovery, as Cayley himself was already aware of the need for an engine to sustain flight (as shown in the image of his experimental air engine below). 

Philanthropist and Political Thinker

Sir George Cayley’s inventions were often inspired by his tendency to look out for those less privileged than himself, which is a key attribute that makes him a Great North Yorkshire Son. Ian Richardson, Head of Memorial and Heritage at the Yorkshire Air Museum stated: ‘He was continuously concerned with railway safety, inventing the first ‘seat belt’ for restraining rail passengers in the event of a collision. Cayley was appalled by the fact that second and third class passengers in their carriages were the ‘buffer’ for first class travellers’.

He has been described as a philanthropist, and someone who cared about those who had suffered. In 1837 he created the first ever artificial hand for the son of one of his tenants, George Douseland, who tragically lost his hand in an accident at Brompton mill. Ian Richardson continues: ‘The mechanical hand was an incredible deviation from his path, but so typical of Cayley to respond to someone in need’.  

Cayley extended this care to the political sphere, when he was elected as the Whig MP for Scarborough between 1832 and 1834. 

Our third Great North Yorkshire nominee come in a pair, and are brothers Richard and Cherry Kearton. The brothers were born in the tiny Swaledale village of Thwaite and went on to become global pioneers of early wildlife photography. 

Background information

Richard Kearton was the elder brother, born on 2nd January 1862, and Cherry was born on 8th July 1871, they had another brother, Foster (Jack) and two sisters, Jane and Margaret. The images below show the baptism registers for Richard and Cherry, which are held at the North Yorkshire County Record Office.

Richard Kearton’s baptism entry held at the North Yorkshire County Record Office. It shows that Richard was baptised in Muker on 28th January 1862, and his parents are listed as John and Mary Kearton, John’s occupation is noted as a lead miner.

Cherry Kearton’s baptism entry held at the North Yorkshire County Record Office. It shows that Cherry was baptised in Muker on 28th September 1871, and his parents are listed as John and Mary Kearton, John’s occupation is noted as gamekeeper.

An inspiring landscape

The brothers came from humble roots; they were brought up in relative poverty, at a time when the Swaledale lead mines were in decline. Day to day life, as well as the surrounding landscape could be harsh, but also offered great opportunity for inspiration and adventure.

The brothers’ father, John (known as Jack) Kearton taught the brothers where to find birds’ nests, and how to identify different bird songs. Their grandfather, Cherry, was a keen fisherman, and would take both boys out to teach them how to fish. The brothers spent their childhood surrounded by people with a shared passion for the natural world.

The brothers always pushed themselves and the limits of the photographic technology available at the time. To achieve many of the wildlife photographs that they captured, they created natural hides where they could sit and wait for birds and other animals to return to their habitats whilst in disguise. Their hides included an artificial ox, which they constructed with the help of a taxidermist and covered in ox skin. The brothers would crouch inside the ox, and position the camera on top of a wooden frame inside and wait patiently for the right shot.

As a result of their innovative techniques, in 1892, the brothers became the first to take a photograph of a birds’ nest with eggs inside. The brothers had to overcome many physical obstacles to capture the shots they did. This included climbing sheer cliffs and waiting patiently for hours inside often claustrophobic conditions, without moving for hours. They were utterly committed to getting the perfect shot, no matter the risk.

Early life

Born in Leeds on 6 March 1885, William Pickles attended Leeds Grammar School and subsequently studied medicine at Leeds Medical School. Once qualified in 1910, Dr Pickles worked at several GP surgeries across the North Riding, including Bedale. In 1913, Dr Pickles, with his partner GP, Dr Dean Dunbar, bought the Aysgarth practice where he looked after around 3,000 people in the village and surrounding area.

 

Role in the great war 

Dr Pickles served in the First World War, joining the Royal Navy as a surgeon in April 1914. He also helped to set up a local VAD scheme in Aysgarth, recruiting twenty VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurses to help support the war effort at home. VAD nurses were voluntary nurses, with no previous nursing experience, who helped to care for injured soldiers in military hospitals across the UK and Europe during the First World War. Amongst the recruited VAD nurses was Gertrude Adelaide Tunstill, whom Dr Pickles would later marry at St. Andrew’s church in Aysgarth on 5th May 1917.

The man who enhanced medicine

Alongside his duty as the local GP, Dr Pickles spent much of his time researching the incubation period of epidemics and the spread of disease. He recorded and analysed data for every epidemic that occurred in Aysgarth for over 20 years, including measles, influenza and jaundice outbreaks. In 1939, Dr Pickles published Epidemiology in Country Practice, a book of his medical observations which focused on a particularly severe outbreak of catarrhal jaundice in the dales in 1928-1929. Dr Pickles and his wife, Gerty, recorded data of the outbreak for over two years, and eventually concluded that the incubation period for the disease ranged from 26 to 35 days. Epidemiology in Country Practice has been recognised as an essential source in the study of epidemiology, and promoted the idea of practical, real life research as a way of achieving medical breakthrough. Whilst some medical advice has changed and advanced since Dr Pickles’ research, his advice for preventing the spread of the common cold was ‘to keep away from other folk’, advice which is all too familiar today.

Legacy

Despite his fame, Dr Pickles remained a country doctor and was once described as Britain’s friendliest GP. For locals in Wensleydale, Dr Pickles was their family doctor for generations, a dependable and familiar face for over fifty years. Dr Pickles was the doctor for local resident, Penny Ellis’ family, her grandparents, father and uncle were all patients of his. She remembers Dr Pickles being spoken of very fondly, and believes the following comment made by Dr Pickles, and now quoted in John Pemberton’s biography of Dr Will Pickles, best describes his legacy: “And as I watched the evening train creeping up the valley with its pauses at our three stations, a quaint thought came into my head and it was that there was hardly a man, woman or child in all those villages of whom I did not know their Christian name and with whom I was not on terms of intimate friendship. My wife and I say we know most of the dogs and, indeed some of the cats.”  

The photograph below taken in September 1962, shows the Pickles family celebrating Dr Pickles’ 50th year in practice in Aysgarth. Dr Pickles went above and beyond the expected role of a GP, from setting up a local VAD scheme, to studying every local pandemic for over twenty years; his commitment and passion for helping others through medical care and medical advancement is undeniable. Dr Pickles was cherished locally, by the patients he cared for and by the wider medical community.

Early Life

Bridget Elizabeth Talbot was born in January 1885, at Little Gaddesden in Hertfordshire. Her father, Alfred Talbot, was the youngest son of the 18th Earl of Shrewsbury and her mother, Emily de Grey, was the eldest daughter of Lord Walsingham. As the daughter of aristocracy, Bridget lived a privileged life alongside her three siblings, Humphrey (1883-1944), Geoffrey (1888–1916), and Kathleen (1893-1958).

Although Bridget was not born in North Yorkshire, she had familial connections to the county through Kiplin Hall, a Jacobean country house located between Northallerton and Richmond. Kiplin Hall was owned by Bridget’s paternal uncle, Admiral Walter Carpenter, and the family would enjoy regularly visiting Kiplin throughout Bridget’s childhood.

Role in world war one

At the outbreak of World War One, Bridget was 29 years old. By this stage she had already begun campaigning for causes including road safety and providing help for the unemployed. Bridget continued supporting others throughout the war, including setting up an allotment scheme in her home village of Little Gaddesden. Bridget also volunteered for the Red Cross, and in 1914 she became a VAD nurse (Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse), and housed injured soldiers at Kiplin Hall. The image below shows her VAD qualification certificate from 1914.

During World War One, Bridget also travelled to the Austrian-Italian front line to care for soldiers; Susan Lay describes her day to day work: ‘The task of the nurses there was to receive the trains of wounded soldiers, address their needs and arrange their transfer to base hospitals. The trains usually carried about 500 men, fifty thousand men passed through in just six months.’ The mountainous terrain and extreme climate worsened soldiers’ injuries. As recognition of her work during the war, Bridget was awarded the Italian Croce di Guerra and the OBE for her war service. After the war she went on to work with refugees in Turkey and Russia. 

A life saving invention

Bridget had a lifelong passion for the sea, and in 1934 she fulfilled her dream and sailed on a four-masted windjammer vessel from Cork to Finland. Bridget thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and her journey sparked a desire to improve the safety of sailors. It led her to invent a watertight torch that could be used to rescue naval crew and boats, especially at night. Believing so strongly in her design, Bridget campaigned for several years for her invention to be recognised. Bridget’s persistence paid off, and eventually the torch was made a compulsory addition to all life belts for men serving in the Navy and the Royal Air Force. Her invention saved hundreds of lives during World War Two. Sarah Mayhew Craddock, curator at Kiplin Hall quotes an extract from a letter to Bridget which shows how important her invention was for saving lives at sea:

“While serving in the Channel in 1943 a Norwegian destroyer was blown up. We picked up the survivors - over 100 - and believe me, we would never have seen them except for the little red lights.”

The fight to save Kiplin Hall

By the 1930s, Kiplin Hall had fallen into disrepair. Bridget’s paternal uncle, Admiral Walter Carpenter had inherited Kiplin Hall in 1868, and his daughter, Sarah Carpenter inherited the Kiplin estate in 1904. Sarah and her husband, Christopher Hatton Turner had no children to pass on the estate to, and as such, Sarah sold most of the associated land and property. As a result, there was little income to maintain the hall, and it had started to decline. After already successfully saving the Ashridge estate near her home in Hertfordshire, in 1937 it was agreed that Bridget would buy Kiplin Hall and its furniture from Sarah for £5000. Susan Lay commented that Bridget was a wise choice due to ‘her affection for Kiplin, which was deeply rooted in her childhood memories but she was also experienced in attempts to save historic buildings’.

In 1968, Bridget made the decision to form a Kiplin Hall trust, with the aim of preserving the history and beauty of the hall for future generations. Miss Bridget Elizabeth Talbot died at Kiplin Hall in 1971 leaving the contents of the house, including many of her personal and creative possessions to the Trustees. Bridget had fulfilled her goal to save Kiplin Hall, and as a result of her fierce determination, the hall still stands today as a well-loved North Yorkshire tourist attraction. As Kiplin Hall curator, Sarah Mayhew Craddock states, ‘it was clear that Bridget was emotionally attached to Kiplin, and to the north of England, and its people, in general’.

Early Life

John Carr was born on 28 April 1723 in Horbury near Wakefield in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Carr was the eldest of nine children, and came from a humble, yet skilled, family of masons. John Carr’s father, Robert Carr was described as a ‘master mason’, and held the role of the County Surveyor for the West Riding, a role which John would later hold himself. John received formal masonry training via an apprenticeship with his father which gave him a sound understanding of classic design, but it soon became clear that John wanted to apply these theories beyond just masonry.

Architectural career

It is believed that Carr’s first commissioned building was Huthwaite Hall, not far from Carr’s birthplace of Horbury. It was built in 1748 for John Cockshutt, whose family owned the local ironworks. 1748 was also the year that Carr set up his own architectural practice, and from this point onwards, Carr began to establish himself as one of the most skilled up and coming architects in the North of England.

We spoke to Dr Ivan Hall, architectural historian, North Yorkshire resident, and author of ‘John Carr of York, architect – A Pictorial Survey’ (2013) who notes that Carr built up a reputation for very consciously fulfilling his clients’ briefs.  He adds: ‘he wanted to ensure his clients received what they wanted, and within budget; he was a cautious and methodical designer, well versed in traditional styles and very adept at drawing up a specification which ensured he didn’t overspend whilst also providing a good set of drawings for builders’.

Carr’s dedication to his commissions meant that he was able to build up his portfolio to over three hundred buildings, located mostly across the North of England. An example of one hall for which he supplied designs was Busby Hall, near Little Busby in North Yorkshire. Busby Hall was commissioned by Jane Turner, daughter of George Marwood of Little Busby. In around 1757, Carr designed some alternations to the property, including the introduction of a grand staircase.  Some of Carr’s proposed designs for renovations to Busby Hall can be seen below.

Legacy

Beyond architecture, John Carr also served as the Lord Mayor of York in 1770 and 1785. In his later years, Carr purchased an estate in Askham Richard near York, where he died on 22 February 1807, aged 83. Carr’s legacy can be seen across the county in the designs and architecture he left behind. He also inspired the next generations of architects, including Walter Brierley, whose firm originated in the eighteenth century from John Carr’s practice. Walter Brierley became an established architect across the North Riding and designed buildings including the Brierley building, at County Hall, now the Northallerton headquarters of the North Yorkshire County Council.

Dr Ivan Hall best sums up John Carr’s legacy: ‘Carr generated an enormous output, most of which remains today, which is an outstanding achievement. None of Carr’s buildings collapsed due to lack of skill (although some owners may not have maintained them adequately); his work has stood the test of time and can still be enjoyed today.’

Early life and career

Thomas Richardson was born in Darlington in 1771, one of nine children from a humble family.  He is known as Great Ayton’s ‘greatest benefactor’. His father, Robert Richardson, was a brush maker, and Thomas himself began working as a greengrocer’s apprentice in Sunderland. In the 1790s, Richardson moved to London, and worked his way up from a messenger in the Quaker financial services to become one of the wealthiest bankers in the city.

Richardson put his wealth to good use in the North East; alongside supporting the construction of the Darlington and Stockton railway, becoming a partner in the establishment of the locomotive industry in Newcastle, and being one of the six ‘founders’ of the Middlesbrough port, he also invested heavily in education and schooling.

Richardson had familial connections with Great Ayton through his father’s mother, Lydia Richardson. As such, upon his retirement in 1830 Thomas decided to move to Great Ayton. In the 1840s, Richardson built a home for himself in Great Ayton, Cleveland Lodge, which still exists today.

Thomas Richardson continued to support the school both financially and through his advice on the curriculum until his death in 1843. Richardson also left money in his will to support the education programmes of the Friends’ society.

In 1854, the school was renamed the ‘Friends’ School’, and by 1890 the agricultural element of the school had faded, although learning in the outdoors was still encouraged. As part of their learning and natural history classes, the students regularly went out on walks in the local area, including at nearby Roseberry Topping and Captain Cook’s Monument.

In 1991 the school was renamed ‘Ayton School’ until it eventually closed in 1997. The Friends’ School building still stands on High Green today, and has more recently been converted into flats.