11:46am Wednesday 18th July 2012
By Chris Lloyd
I WAS at the closing of Darlington Arts Centre the other week and, as I mooched around, became fascinated by the name over the door of a cavernous building out the back: Blanche Pease Hall.
No one seemed to know who Blanche Pease was, and she is one of the many Peases who have passed me by.
Hopefully, much more will be revealed in Memories 91 on Saturday (Jul 21).
She was Helen Blanche Pease (1865-1951), daughter of Sir Joseph Whitwell Pease, of Hutton Hall, Guisborough, and grand-daughter of Joseph Pease whose statue stands in High Row, Darlington.
My inquiries into why she should have a cavernous hall named after her have taken me to her wedding, on January 15, 1890, "in bright, balmy, springlike weather", at the Friends Meeting House in Guisborough. She married her first cousin once removed, Edward Lloyd Pease, one of Henry Pease's sons, and - a decade before the calamitous collapse in her family's fortunes which precipitated the death of her father - this was one of the last great Quaker weddings of the era.
"The occasion was of considerable rejoicing in the district," said the Darlington and Stockton Times. There were red carpets, covered awnings, triumphal arches and dripping diamonds everywhere.
I love the detail in those newspaper reports - they are such a fascinating insight into the time. For example, the D&S says the couple left Hutton Hall at 3.50pm on "a special train" for Darlington - because her daddy had been chairman of the North Eastern Railway, he'd had a private station, Hutton Gate, built on the Middlesbrough & Guisborough Railway in 1867. The Northern Echo said that their "special train" arrived at Bank Top in time for the 4.55pm express to their honeymoon in the south.
"As the 'special' neared the Middlesbrough Station, the speeding west of the happy pair was signalled by a rattling feu de joie of fog signals on the line," said the Echo. I presume these are the little explosive devices that were placed on the line so they would go off when a train passed over them.
"The event caused much jubiliation in the works of Messrs Ashmore, Benson, Pease & Co of Stockton, of which firm the briegroom is an esteemed partner. The works were gay with bunting, and from early morn cannons, fog singlas etc, were continuously fired, while at noon the works were laid off in honour of the auspicious event.
"Tonight a servants' ball will take place at Hutton, and on Friday, all the workmen and other servants on the estate will be entertained in the schoolroom at Hutton."
Both papers agree: "The bride's travelling dress was one of blue Vicugna cloth, trimmed with beaver and gold passementerie, and beaver felt hat to match, trimmed with velvet and feathers."
There are some words there that I did not know. Passementerie is fine trimmings and tassles, in this case made in gold, and a Vicugna, or vicuna, turns out to be a South American animal related to the alpaca and llama. Wikipedia tells me: "Vicuñas produce small amounts of extremely fine wool, which is very expensive because the animal can only be shorn every 3 years and has to be caught from the wild. When knitted together, the product of the vicuña's fur is very soft and warm. It is understood that the Inca valued vicuñas highly for their wool, and that it was against the law for any but royalty to wear vicuña garments." So Helen matched vicuna with beaver.
The detail doesn't end there, for both papers also published a long, long, long, list of the presents, which I hope I have managed to append here in a legible fashion. We learn Lady Pease gave her daughter a "diamond star and a grand piano"; we learn that Sir Joseph gave her a "diamond and pearl pendant". I am delighted, though, to note that the bridegroom's mother, obviously a practical lady, gave her son a silver kettle.
I reckon that despite the length of the lists, they don't include the one big present: a mansion. I think that after their marriage, the happy couple went to live in Hurworth Moor House which had been specially built for them - but I'm going to have to look into that further.
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