The River Tees was the traditional boundary between the North Riding of Yorkshire and County Durham.  Local government boundaries in the 20th century have changed this, however.

Spoiler alert: if you’re not very interested in local government history, please skip the next couple of paragraphs.

Firstly the County Borough of Teesside was created in 1968, combining Middlesbrough with Stockton-on-Tees, etc.  This was expanded to create the new county of Cleveland in 1974, which was then abolished in 1996 when four unitary authorities were established.  So Middlesbrough is still for ceremonial purposes in North Yorkshire, though from 2016 part of the Tees Valley Combined Authority, which now includes Darlington, and with a mayor.

And secondly, further west, the parts of the North Riding that formed the Startforth Rural District were transferred to the new Teesdale District in County Durham in 1974.  This was abolished in 2009 when County Durham became a single unitary authority.  The Startforth Rural District villages are now lost to Yorkshire, even for ceremonial purposes, but we in the Yorkshire Milestone Society claim them anyway.

The Teesdale Way is a long-distance footpath, starting (or ending, depending on where you start) at Redcar.  It follows the south bank of the Tees, crossing to the north bank just after Middlesbrough, and then following the river quite closely as far as Whorlton near Barnard Castle.  It then continues, sometimes south, sometimes north, and sometimes on both sides of the river until it reaches Middleton-in-Teesdale, where it joins the Pennine Way.

Between Middleton-in-Teesdale and Gainford (just west of the Great North Road) you will find a series of parish boundary markers – short rust-coloured cast-iron columns resembling chimney-pots or milk churns.  These are in pairs, with the name of each parish carved vertically down the middle.  The following townships or parishes are marked, Y denoting those in Yorkshire: Middleton, Eggleston, Romaldkirk (Y), Hunderthwaite (Y), Cotherstone (Y), Lartingon (Y), Barnard Castle, Startforth (Y), Marwood, Egglestone Abbey (Y), Rokeby (Y), Wycliffe (Y), Westwick, Whorlton, Winston and Gainford.

The boundary markers were created in 1996 by artist and sculptor Richard Wentworth (born 1947).  It was an artwork commissioned by Teesdale District Council and part lottery-funded.  A book about the project, entitled ‘Marking parish boundaries along the Teesdale Way’ by A J Lewery, was published by the Council in 1997.

Illustrated here are the Startforth and Egglestone Abbey markers.  These are on each side of a bridge over the little Thorsgill Beck.  This was originally crossed by an old packhorse bridge, the listed 17th century Bow Bridge, which runs alongside the present one (pictured below).

RWH / December 2021

Bow Bridge, or Thorsgill Beck Packhorse Bridge, with the ruins of Egglestone Abbey