Programme of Study
The group decided to use a chronological timeline to give us a foundation for our study, however we are not limited by this and may deviate if something of current interest sparks our interest. Members also research topics themselves and are happy to take the lead and share the fruits of their labours.
1. The history of the “Harbour View”, and the interpretation of images of the building from the past, as well as the history of Thomas Prosser the father and son.
2. Detailed scrutiny of an 1850 map of Seaham, to identify and explain specific details.
Scrutiny of William Chapman’s drawing of the docks and using his report to interpret his drawing.
3. Using a local map for support we followed the history of ship building in Seaham.
4. We interrogated the will of Matilda Bowes, wife of William Bowes of Dalden 1420.Archaic terms were explained and we used the will to identify what it revealed about life in this area and the social hierarchies prevalent at this time.
5. Looked at the booklet about the Seaham Fishing Fleet. We considered the special features of a coble. This was linked to the mention of cobles in the will of Matilda Bowes 1420. Finally we studied local postcards illustrating the different types of boats to be found in the docks of Seaham Harbour over the years.
6. Seaham Hall; the history and evidence of early settlement-a hall or manor house.
7. The history of the Rock House Dene; the bridges and roads crossing the dene and the owners of Adam and Eve’s Garden.
8. History of the town supply of gas.
9. History of the town supply of electricity.
10. History of the town supply of drinking water.
The group continue to research the building that was the Inn of Old Seaham in 1808.We looked at the 1784 map of the village and tried to assess how much we know of other inns, and how relevant it would be to ours. We wondered what newspaper the grandfather would have access to. Would other people come and drink at the inn because they brewed, or was it mostly for private use?
We considered building materials and styles, and since we may never know, we made reasoned judgements about the walls and window styles. We know that the walls of the parlour were green, so we consulted Farrow and Ball and feel that their Olive Green is probably the most likely shade. The names of the paints are fascinating; Elephant’s Breath, Churlish Green, Dead Salmon , Cat’s paw, to name but a few. It was interesting to note that if you wanted India Yellow in 1808 you would need a herd of cows and feed them on mango leaves before you collected their urine to reduce down, and despite it being extremely toxic, white lead is still used on some National Trust houses.
We read about Bessie the daughter of the mistress of the inn and her seasonal “adoption” by Lady Milbanke, as a companion for her daughter Annabella. We wondered whether Bessie could be related to the Bessie of “Bessies Hole”. Any local knowledge would be gratefully received by the group.
The group studied an etching of the village of Old Seaham in 1784. It was drawn by the vicar of Saint Mary the Virgin, the Reverend Richard Wallis.
The etching shows six houses, the Inn and the medieval Manor House, but which was which? We also considered information from a book published in 1889, but written about a visit to Seaham in 1808.The book is called “The Memoirs of a Highland Lady” by Elizabeth Grant.
Hidden artistic talent came to light when we tried to create paper 3D models of the rooms of the
Inn using the available facts.
Making a plan of the house and gardens gave us some compelling evidence for which building was
Would you like to know more? See our display at the next monthly meeting and see if you can find
Leader : Beatrice Wilson
The group meet upstairs in the The Featherbed Rock Café at 2pm on the second Tuesday in the month. It’s a fitting rendezvous as the building has an interesting history.
For a time it was the home of Mary Ann Cotton who is considered to be Britain’s first female serial killer. She was convicted of killing one of her stepsons and is thought to have murdered up to 21 people, including some of her own children. Following the conviction, she was hanged in 1873 at Durham Jail.
In addition – and unrelated to Mary Ann Cotton – the building is also said to be haunted, with the sound of children upstairs and on the stairs being reported – although not by anyone in the group!
Away from the fascinating venue, enjoyable visits to local churches, memorials, Bede’s World, Crook Hall, Washington Old Hall and Wallington Hall in Northumberland have taken place over the last year.