Life in the Northern Dales – Stories from a Farming Family

LiPostcard Book Coverfe in the Northern Dales – Stories from a Farming Family – a new book by Frank Sanderson

This book has resulted from Frank’s fascination with his paternal ancestors, hill farmers from Weardale in the far west of County Durham.  In 1980, armed with a tape-recorder, he visited his uncle Francis Joseph Sanderson (FJS) at Great Holland, Essex.  Born in 1904 into a farming family at Bedburn near Hamsterley, FJS had an amazing memory, retelling stories he’d heard in his childhood of events as long ago as the 1830s.  He’d also had a particularly eventful life, and his reminiscences about lives and times long departed are at the heart of the book.

Many of FJS’s stories, together with stories the author extracted from Victorian newspapers, are inevitably laden with tragedy, with only a few “good news stories”.  Thus, alongside the idyllic story about summer picnics at the Meeting of the Grains at Ayhope Shield during the Great War, there are numerous accounts of tragic deaths from disease, clothes catching fire, accidental gun-shot wounds, drowning, suicide and murder.  FJS made frequent reference to childhood friends, cousins, uncles and aunts, farmers and village characters, in the process providing the author with ample material to organize, contextualize and supplement for this book.  The result is a mixture of family and local history which should appeal not only to family historians but also to anyone interested in the history of the Durham Dales, and most particularly the history of Weardale, Hamsterley and South Bedburn.

The book is available from selected local outlets and also from

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