Nestled on a peninsula of the River Tees is the quaint town of Yarm. It was once the highest point of tidal flow on the River Tees, allowing a port to develop there. Not surprisingly, as its size and stature grew and roads were developed, a toll booth was built to collect taxes from the trade flowing through the town. Yarm Town hall was built c.1710, to replace this tollbooth.

 Yarm Town Hall

The grade II Town Hall was built in the Dutch style, immediately noticeable by its red-orange roof and bricks, large sash windows and central bell and clock tower. On it are various commemorative plaques. One shows the height of the famous flood of 1771 and is 7 feet above ground. Another remembers those who fought in the South African War 1899-1902. There is also a plaque celebrating the five pioneers of the first public railway in the world, which of course ran from Stockton to Darlington. They made the decision to build the railway in the George and Dragon pub on the high street. The Town Hall stands at the widest point of the high street, which was voted ‘Best High Street’ in 2007 by BBC Breakfast viewers, and dominates the view both up and down the road. The Town Hall was built by the 3rd Viscount Fauconberg, Thomas Belasyse, who was Lord of the Manor of Yarm. Not much is known about him, other than giving us this lovely building. His uncle, also Thomas, the Earl Fauconberg, was prominent in English history however.

 The 5 pioneers of the first passenger railway

The Earl Fauconberg was a staunch supporter of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War, becoming so close and trusted by Cromwell that he married Cromwell’s third daughter, Mary. As it seems to be with so many of history’s key figures, Thomas rebelled against his family, as both his father and grandfather were ardent royalists. He must have kept his nose to the wind though, as with the fall of Cromwell and the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Thomas once again became a supporter of the king. Such was his support that he was appointed a member of the Privy Council by Charles II. When James II provoked the Glorious Revolution in April 1688 by alienating the majority-Protestant nation, Thomas was one of the nobles to invite William of Orange and his wife Mary to take the throne. It was William who raised Thomas to an earldom.

Both Thomas’ were descended from the 1st Viscount Fauconberg, the grandfather of Earl Thomas. It was through his wife, who was of matrilineal descent of Cecily Neville and their descendants, that the remains of Richard III were identified when they were discovered in 2013.

The name Fauconberg is present throughout history since 1066. It is probable that all those with the name are descended from the 1st Baron Fauconberg, Walter. There are too many interesting stories to tell here, but one is of particular interest, that of William Neville, 1st Earl of Kent and 6th Baron Fauconberg (on his wife’s death). He played a major part in the Wars of the Roses, with some accounts attributing to him an important role in the First Battle of St Albans in 1455. Indeed, he was, according to many, a much more impressive and capable military leader than his more famous nephew, Richard ‘The Kingmaker’ Neville. William had previously been a key figure in the 100 Years War, eventually being captured in May 1449 and after refusing to surrender to a lowly archer, he was imprisoned, with the ransom of 8000 French ecus eventually being paid.

Researching this one building has provided a fantastic range of information concerning key events and people in English history, both local and national. Imagine how many other buildings, monuments and landscapes there are on our doorstep in the Tees Valley waiting to provide even more interesting material. All you have to do is look!  

 

The Town Hall dominates the high street