The family which rose to power before war wiped them out

The Battle of the Somme.
The Battle of the Somme.

From eloping couples to encounters with highwaymen - one of the North-East’s most influential families has been investigated by retired teacher Maureen Taylor-Gooby.

Her focus turns on the Burdons who were behind the construction of railways, involved in the creation of a famous Sunderland bridge, and who played a big part in the establishment of healthcare facilities in Hartlepool.

Maureen Taylor-Gooby whose new book takes an in-depth look at the Rowland-Burdons.

Maureen Taylor-Gooby whose new book takes an in-depth look at the Rowland-Burdons.

The end result is a new book which is a real insight into North-East history.

Chris Cordner reports.

They were a family which had defintite influence on Wearside.

But the Burdons started out a little further south in Stockton, before they settled in Castle Eden and eventually had most of their estate overtaken by the rise of Peterlee newtown.

It is interesting to speculate how things might have turned out differently if the Burdon family had not been wiped out by the First World War and had been able to maintain its influence in the area

David Taylor-Gooby

Not that their influence was limited to those areas. Sunderland got their attention and so did Hartlepool and Newcastle.

Maureen Taylor-Gooby has produced The Rowland Burdons, North Country Gentlefolk, which is a 550-page read. Maureen, 76, admitted: “It’s that long because there were so many of them in the family.”

And indeed, this is a clan which spanned the eras and still remained prominent - until the world became embroiled in conflict, that is.

Husband David has prepared an introduction and said: “It is interesting to speculate how things might have turned out differently if the Burdon family had not been wiped out by the First World War and had been able to maintain its influence in the area.

Peterlee sits on the former Burdon estate.

Peterlee sits on the former Burdon estate.

“The Burdon family did not just look after their estate. They and their relations were involved in many contemporary events, from the Civil War, to the wars in India, the abolition of the Slave Trade, mining disputes and of course the First World War.”

Other than national events, this was a family which helped shape everything from healthcare to transport.

David added: “The Burdons were also responsible for building the Turnpike (now the A19) and the first Wearmouth Bridge in Sunderland (although there was an ongoing dispute as to actually designed it.)”

One of the Roland Burdons, as they were commonly known, was a friend of William Pitt and had an encounter with a highwayman. There were at least two elopements in the family and a JP who sentenced convicts to transportation.

Horden-born Maureen, a former advisory teacher in maths across County Durham, said: “It is not the sort of book you would read all at once but it’s the sort where you will find an interest.”

A picture emerges too of a family which was concerned about, and cared for their local community, “albeit in a paternalistic way,” said David.

“The book gives an insight into a way of life which has passed away, and provides much information for those interested in the political and social history of the period and this area.

“The Burdons were involved in the construction of railways, Hartlepool docks, and perhaps most importantly Hartlepool hospital. They also helped many local charities and community organisations on a smaller scale.”

He said the Great War wiped out all the sons who “would have continued the line” including Roland Burdon VII who would have inherited the estate.

David said: “Now the family home has become flats and the church where the family was buried has been closed. It is therefore important that we remember the contribution the Burdons made to East Durham.”

The Burdon family lived in Castle Eden from 1758 until 1944. “The book paints a wide canvass of what life was like during that period, and more importantly, how it changed,” said David.

“Castle Eden was originally a small agricultural society, but this changed both with the development of agriculture, and then the arrival of coal mining. The book shows too how society changed, and it is fitting

to see towards the end of the book how the position of the Burdons in society was eclipsed by the leader of local government and the miners, Peter Lee.”

The book, The Rowland Burdons, North Country Gentlefolk, is available on Amazon at £20, and directly from the Taylor-Goobys by emailing david.taylorgooby@btinternet.com or calling (0191) 3741827.