Skip to main content
The Lambton Castle

The Lambton Castle

This is the story of the Lambton Castle at No 1 High Street Stockton-on-Tees in Victorian times.

It was probably named after the ancestral home of John Gordon Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham AKA “Radical Jack” a Whig statesman who became the Governor General of the Canadas and died in 1840 or so Wikipedia tells us anyway.

In a book on the Occupants of the High Street by Stockton Museum Services dated 1981 the earliest reference to the Lambton Castle Hotel situated at No.1 High Street was in 1855-6 with a W. Oakes listed there.  In the 1860s it seems to have been the business premises of the Mathewman family who were Milliners & Dressmakers, although there was another reference to a Lambton Castle Hotel in 1862-63, so No1 may have housed both businesses. The Mathewmans get no further mention after 1868.

Next on the Lambton Castle list in 1871- 77 was a R. Hammond & by switch the search over to local newspaper archives we can add a bit more flesh to the bones. A John Fox submitted plans for an additional room at the North end of the Inn.

The Fox family own the property for many years and had been brewing Beer locally from at least 1828-1893 after John’s Nephew, John Henry Fox died at the Retreat in York & their licenced premises were sold off in 1894. The Lambton Castle raised the highest price of the entire sale coming in at £2,550.

Richard Hammond seemed to have been a well-respected man in his local community. In 1873 he was the Hon. Secretary of a Grand exhibition of Canaries, Mules and Linnets at a fund raiser for Stockton’s First Annual Brass Band Concert which took place under the patronage of the Licence victuallers Association at Westbourne House behind the North Eastern Railway Station. Sadly he came to a sticky end, on a Monday evening in January 1879 Mr Coroner Settle held an enquiry at the Stockton Police Court into the circumstances under which Mr Robert Hammond, late tenant of the Lambton Castle Inn, came to his death. The first Witness called was Mr George Iceton, a blacksmith residing at 23 Clarence-street. He said the deceased and he went to the Blue Post Inn and had refreshments together. Whilst in the Inn the deceased gave him his watch and cigar holder, wishing him to get the former repaired and to take care of the latter, as he himself might break it. They left at eleven o’clock in the company with Mr Walton a builder. They were quite sober and the deceased appeared to be in good mental and bodily health, and was hearty and jocular. He walked a few yards behind Walton and the witness and after proceeding some distance on the way home they suddenly missed him. Witness went back, and seeing nothing of the decease he concluded he had gone home. He saw nothing further of him till his body was picked up in the Tees on Saturday. He had known the deceased a long time and always quite sane. The decease went to Carlisle Races in June last, and much to the astonishment of his friends did not turn up in Stockton for nine weeks. He then found he was no longer landlord of the Lambton Castle-Sargent Gould stated that all the money he found on the deceased pocket was one and a half pence. There was a letter from his wife, dated from Ushaw Farm, Durham, November 7th. She informed him therein that she had received the gas bill, and advised him to pay; otherwise the creditors would “take" him.  There being no evidence to show how the decease came to his death, the jury returned of “found drowned”.

William Farthing took over the tenancy of the Lambton Castle from 1879 to 1881. As a young man he was apprenticed to his father and in the 1891 Census he is described as a retired blacksmith living with his family at the Albion Inn, Stockton where his son Joseph was the Landlord.

Nicholas Edward Toner took over from William from 1881 to 1887 and seemed to have had a more interesting time. In the July of 1886 at Stockton Police Court a young man named Patrick Johnson was charged with being found on enclosed premises in the Lambton Castle public house. The landlord Nicholas Edward Toner said the prisoner and two other men were in the bar, and had a quart pint of beer amongst them. Nicholas had occasion to leave the bar for a few minutes, and when he returned he thought the men had gone. Two or three minutes afterwards he looked into the bar again and found Johnson behind the counter on his hands and knees near the till. He must have climbed over the bar counter to get there. When challenged he threatened to split the landlords head open with a tumbler. Johnson pleaded drunkenness, but Sergeant Taylor proved that he was not drunk and as a consequence he was sent to prison for two months with hard labour.

In the November of same year 1886, Mr Coroner Settle held an enquiry in the Stockton Police Court respecting the death of Esther Tait aged 49 who died on the premises of the Lambton Castle Inn on a Thursday night. The deceased was a widow of a Tailor who had died three weeks previously. Since then she had been following the occupation of a tailoress. On the Thursday evening she went to the Lambton Castle Inn and asked for a half a glass of whisky, but before tasting it she was seized with illness, She was assisted to the yard by Mrs Toner, and shortly afterwards returned to the snug. Mrs Toner seeing she was the worse, tried to get her to take some brandy, but failed, and Dr Watson was summoned, but the poor woman expired just after his arrival. The medical evidence showed the deceased had died from Syncope, (decline of blood flow to the brain which nowadays would be regarded as a symptom and not the cause of death) and a verdict to that effect was returned.

The next tenant covering 1887 to1892 was George Wright (here we have to declare an interest as we are related to the family) he was the last licensee under Fox family ownership as in March 1894 the property was sold on. The various Censuses tell us George started working as a railway engine fireman, following his father, a train driver, into that line of work. In the September of 1885 he married Jane Crosby, the daughter of Thomas Crosby of the Station Hotel in Port Clarence, That branch of the Crosby family came from the Robin Hoods Bay area, some of whom had been Master Mariners who shipped coal to Russian in the summer and brought back pine for the ship building industry. Kelly’s directory of 1887 as well as telling us that Toner ran the Lambton Castle it also notes that George Wright had the Station Hotel at Billingham Junction. The newspapers, apart for a few ads for staff, reveals very little about the Wright family. It’s only after they have packed their bags and moved out that the cracks in the marriage begin to show. In the April of that year the Daily Gazette published a Legal Notice which stated “Take Notice that I George Wright of No 15 Beach Street Middlesbrough engine driver will not be responsible for any debt or debts contracted by my wife Jane Wright, on and after this date 6th day of April 1894.) This is followed by a similar one four years later on the 11 Feb 1898 published in the North East Daily Gazette the only change being the address and occupation of a Barman. But what really lets the cat out of the bag is the 1901 census that informs us that a John Pinkney, a Brass Moulder, lived with his wife, Jane, and two children, Ernest W Wright stepson aged 2 years, and baby Lily Pinkney aged 8 months. In other words Jane Wright live with Pinkney however  they were not married as George Wright’s petition for divorce was not finally settled till a year later in the May 0f 1902. Ten years later in the 1911 census John Pinkney is recorded as the husband of Rachel nee Wright, manageress of the Eagle Hotel in Middlesbrough. Now going back to the 1901 census George is now listed as a publican, living in two neighbouring terrace houses with a nephew, Walter Wright, and four nieces, daughters of George’s Sister, Jane Whitaker & while three of his own children lived in lodging in Redcar. A study of some local business Directories takes us further with George’s journey. George went to work for his brother Alfred Wright at the Cleveland Bay in Middlesbrough, Alfred a former beer retailer in Commercial Street Middlesbrough acquired the tenancy in 1897, but sadly died in the September quarter of 1899, luckily for George he managed to take over tenancy lasting to about 1907 then he disappeared off the radar. Jane can be found on the 1911 Census married to George Lidster with a daughter Ivy aged 4 months then she too falls off the radar, a family story, we are unable substantiate, is that she spent the last years of her life in an asylum been feed champagne, our interpretation of that tale was that she may have been an alcoholic staying in a privately run asylum.  

In the March 1894 edition of the Northern Echo we find that the Lambton Castle was purchased by Mr R Stephenson* for £2,550 quickly followed by an application for planning permission to pull it down for the purpose of rebuilding it upon modern principles with the aim to increase drinking facilities and would afford better opportunity for supervision by the police. This was approved subject to alterations. After the work was completed Richard Sleightholme took over the running of the refurbished establishment, three years earlier he had been the landlord of American Tavern and after his stint at the Lampton Castle he had the Talbot Inn situated a few doors down at no 9 the High Street. A Mr Bonner followed in his foot steps in 1886-7 he may have been there a bit longer but there are no records to show this, however  John Foxall seemed to have looked after thing between 1889-1901, he describes himself as a barman age 24 years in the Census of that year living in Hartington Road.

*An interesting foot note on Stephenson can be found on a planning application for the William IV owned by a  J. Chrisp & Sons on the High Street listed by Teesside archives making it probable that he purchased the Lambton Castle on their behalf for reasons I am about to relate.

At the same time the name of the owner changed in1900-05 to J. Chrisp & Sons employing George Russell as manager in about 1902. James Chrisp was the last Victorian owner of the Lambton Castle seems to have been a very colourful character. When he died on the 26th of January 1905 he left £64,781-13s-7d which was an awful lot of money in those days, although inheritance taxes and the like seemed to have reduced that by more than half it. As well as being a local Councillor and chairman of the licenced Victuals Association in Sunderland. In 1891 he sold all his eight licenced premises in that area having had quite a few adventures, but not necessary the type you want to be associated with.

In 1885 the newspaper headline read “Extraordinary charge against a Sunderland Clergyman” it seemed the Rev W F Cosgrove was summoned by James Chrisp for being on licenced premises during prohibited hours. On the night or rather the morning in question a policeman walking past the White Horse Inn in Hendon Road saw the defendant  climbing up to the window of the Inn and peeping though the window, he then climbed down and went up to the constable saying “there are some men in there drinking” the constable replied they are the barmen, however the defendant insisted that the constable go with him to the house to see if the men were drunk the officer at length yielded and knocked on the door of the premises. He explained to the manager the reason for entering the premises. All the men were perfectly sober - The magistrates saying the case was a trivial one and they dismissed it with costs against the prosecution.

On the 8th of March 1889 the next interesting Newspaper headline was “Alleged assault by Hotel proprietor,” this was an action brought by a Thomas Hatton a homeopathic chemist against James Chrisp the owner of the Shades Hotel in Sunderland to recover £500 damages for a serious assault on him in the Shades Hotel. The defendant denied the assault and said the plaintiff when he entered the premises was in a drunken condition and no force was used other than was necessary to turn him out. The plaintiff side argued that he got into altercation with the barman and on the arrival of Mr Chrisp it is alleged he beat him about the head with a stick. James Chrisp licence of “the Shades” was not renewed on in the August of 1890 on the grounds he was not a fit and proper to be licensee. The premises had been conducted in a disorderly manner and the premises were unfit to be an Inn and not required, he appealed against the decision to no-avail even after stating as soon as he got the licence back he would sell the property immediately as a going concern. On the 20th of June 1891 James Chrisp applied and was successful in transferring his eight other licences in Sunderland to another party. As well as owning the Lambton Castle in Stockton he also had the William IV Hotel (between 1900-1907) located on part of what is now the Castle Centre on Stockton High Street. James decided to dig a cellar and as a consequence had to alter the path of the share with his next door neighbour drain. The plaintiff, his neighbour, William Philips a merchant tailor claimed damages on account of a series of alleged trespass and negligent acts. It was explained that the William IV was on one side of a passage leading down to the river whilst William Philips owned a property on the other side and who decided in early 1897 to rebuild his property as a number of houses and at the same time as James Chrisp decided to pull down his property and rebuild it. They shared the same contractor. This work required the construction of new drains for which he was assure there would be no risk to his own property if the earth was properly rammed in. Building went on till the 12th of November when a portion of his buildings collapsed the plaintiff claimed £1,183. The jury found for the plaintiff and accessed the damages at £40 and associated costs.

The Lambton Castle is still about today having been recently refurbished. It will be nice to see it open again.

Sources: Censuses: St Catherine’s Index of Births Marriages & Deaths: Trade Directories in Stockton & Middlesbrough Libraries: Wikipedia: Nineteenth Century Newspapers data base: Occupants of the High Street by Stockton Museum Services: Family History Archives.

Stories from the High Street participant: Bryan Cooper

The ‘Stories…’ project is part of the Council’s wider “Grants for Heritage Buildings’ programme, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Council, to help promote awareness and understanding of the town’s heritage.

Years of Interest