From the priory to gooseberries - new book on Egton covers it all

Old Egton Author Alastair Laurence with his book in Whitby. pic Richard Ponter
Old Egton Author Alastair Laurence with his book in Whitby. pic Richard Ponter

From the priory and churchyard inscriptions to horses and gooseberries – a new history book on Egton has all bases covered.

Its author Alastair Laurence wanted to inject a freshness and colour into his record of the village near Whitby.

“I did not want to see history as something of the past and remote. I wanted to bring it up to date and make it a living history,” said Mr Laurence.

It took him a year to write Old Egton: A New History. Research took him to Borthwick Institute to look at wills.

He also visited the North Yorkshire County Record Office in Northallerton.

“I also spoke to farmers about their memories and got their anecdotes,” he said.

Mr Laurence is a piano maker and lives in Whitby.

Local history is, he said, his hobby.

Old Egton: A New History grew from another of his 22 books The Beggar’s Bridge, which is in Egton.

“Ever since I was 11 I have been fascinated by Beggar’s Bridge and the folklore which surrounds it.”

Legend has it that Tommy Ferres and squire’s daughter Agnes were in love – but her father Squire Richardson would not allow Tommy to pay court to Agnes because he was poor.

Tommy vowed to make himself worthy of his true love.

In his quest he nearly drowned in the River Esk and was prevented from saying goodbye to Agnes.

Once he had made his fortune in the Caribbean he returned and built the bridge to help future sweethearts.

“It is a beautiful folk tale but I always wondered if it was true. I researched it for two years and that led on to the Egton book,” said Mr Laurence.

“Once I started to investigate the bridge story I got interested in Egton which is a fascinating place for local history,” he said.

To add colour and originality to the book, Mr Laurence commissioned artists to do some of the illustrations.

These include a watercolour, Egton Market Toll Booth or Town Hall by Anthony Law; an acrylic painting Randy Mere by Hilary Thorpe and a watercolour, Hazelhead Woods by Carol Black.

There are also maps and drawings included in the narrative.

“The idea was to have local history and lots of colour and original art work printed on quality paper that did justice to it,” said Mr Laurence.

The subjects he covered in the book include Grosmont Priory, Barnard’s Toll Road, Beggar’s Bridge and the Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show.

He also talked to the families who live in the village about their heritage.

Family history covered includes the Burnetts, the Smiths and the Salvins.

He writes about Church and State, romance and tragedy, enterprise and business.

“I also wanted to encourage people to visit these places,” he said.

He is working on his next book, about Danby, now and hopes to have it finished by the end of the year.

Old Egton: A New History is available in bookshops now.