Felton and Swarland Local History Society

The first record of the Cresswell family living in their eponymous village is of Sir Robert de Cresswell in 1191.

In the 15th century, to protect themselves from attacks by Border Reivers, they built a defensive pele tower next to their medieval house.

It was this tower and Cresswell village itself that the Felton and Swarland Local History Society visited on the last of their incredibly sunny summer trips.

Guided by Barry Mead, the well-known local historian, the group explored the substantial remains of the Grade II listed tower.

From the ground floor area, used to shelter animals in times of strife, we were able to climb two flights of an easily-defended narrow, twisting stone staircase, through the living quarters above, to access the ramparts.

From there we were able to drink in the fabulous panorama of Druridge Bay and its sparkling sands.

Cresswell, village and family, has always had close links with the sea.

In May 1941, Joe Baker-Cresswell, captain of HMS Bulldog, captured the German submarine U110 after it had been forced to the surface by a depth charge. On board was an Enigma cypher machine.

This find enabled British scientists to crack the German naval code and helped win the war in the Atlantic.

King George VI described it as ‘the most important single event in the whole war at sea’.

The Brown family can be traced back to at least the 17th century. When four members of that family were drowned returning from a fishing trip in 1874, it led to the establishment of a lifeboat station in the village.

Margaret Brown played a major role in the rescue of crew and passengers from the Gustav on a stormy night in January 1876.

In 1921 the RNLI presented her with a gold brooch in recognition of her services over nearly 50 years.

From the inception of the lifeboat in 1875 until 1944, when it was disbanded, every single coxswain had the surname Brown.