The settlement “at the fish-weirs’. Iarun, Gerou (sic for Geron) 1086 J- Yarum 1198-1436, Yarom 1285-1470, Yarm(e) from 1300. Old English gear, dative plural gearum. Old English gear means “yair, a weir, a pool for catching fish formed by a weir”, here set in the River Tees.
Information about this place-name was supplied by Victor watts by personal communication.
Under the heading “Lands of the King” it says
“In Iarun (Yarm) Hawart (had) 4 carucates for geld. Land for 1 plough 4s.”
(A carucate was roughly 100 acres. Geld was a tax that had to be paid.)
See William Farrer’s translation in “The Victoria History of the County of York” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1912).
At the time of the Domesday Book, Yarm belonged directly to the king. During the reign of King Henry I it came into the hands of Robert de Brus and remained with the de Brus family until 1272. In the 14th century it descended to the heirs of Lucy de Thweng. From the mid-15th century until the mid-16th century it was in the hands of the Conyers family of Hornby.
See “The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Yorkshire North Riding” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1923).
An Early Mention
At the Northallerton Quarter sessions of July 1677 a yeoman of Yarm was presented before the magistrates for selling butter underweight. In addition there was “a Yarome yeomn. For selling butter and not marking the exact weight of the empty firkins upon the firkins in which it was sold.”
An early mention in literature appeared in “Magna Britannia Antiqua & Nova” vol. vi, Thomas Cox (1738):
“Yarum, another small Market-Town in this Wapentake, having its Market weekly on Thursday, and Fairs yearly on the Thursday before Lady-day, and Oct. 8 and 9.”
Another appeared in “A Description of England and Wales” vol.10, F.Newbery and T.Carnan (1770):
“From North-Allerton, a road leads north by east to Yarum, which is seated on the south bank of the river Tees, and divides it from the bishopric of Durham. Over this river is a fine stone bridge, and by its navigation, it carries on a good trade to London, in lead, corn, and butter. Yarum has a market on Thursdays, and four fairs, held on the Thursday before the 5th of April, on Holy-Thursday, on 2nd of August, and on the 9th of October, for horses, horned-cattle, and sheep.
The Lay Subsidy of 1301
72 householders paid tax on their movable goods in this government tax. However, this is not the complete total. It is quite likely that there were more than 100 other householders who fell below the tax threshold and so do not appear in the tax returns. The highest payers were Robert de Ayton at almost 27s and Henry Tannator at almost 26s. The total tax revenue from Yarm was more than £11, which was not as much as Whitby or Richmond, but more than anywhere else in Langbaurgh Wapentake. Several of the surnames in the Yarm tax returns were based on occupations, some from French, some Latinised. For example: le Taillur, le Glover, le Couper, le Salter, Pistor (baker), Faber (smith), Fulonis (fuller), Molendarius (miller), Sutor (cobbler), Scriptor, Tannator (tanner), Tixtor (weaver), Tinctor and Tintrix (dyers).
Derived from “Yorkshire Lay Subsidy” edited by W.Brown (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series) 1897.
Yarm Bridge (c.1400)
Hope House (late 16th or early 17th century)
Town Hall (1710)
Church of St. Mary Magdalene (1730, but with some Norman stonework)
Ketton Ox Public House (17th century)
George and Dragon Public House (early 18th century)
Methodist church (1764)
The Friarage (1770)
Yarm Viaduct (opened in 1852)
St. Mary and St. Romuald Roman Catholic church (1860).
A Few Lost Buildings
The old Friarage (1717) demolished c. 1770.
Grammar School (1590) demolished in 1884.
Toll Booth, demolished in 1710.
Some People of Note
Christopher Tennant (1780-1839) A merchant from Yarm who promoted the Clarence Railway and became superintendent of the works at Hartlepool docks.
Wendy Craig ( 1934- ) A County Durham-born actress who attended Yarm Grammar School.
Peter Scrope (1954- ) A Yarm-born major in the Royal Hussars who became a businessman. He was appointed High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 2012.
Rona Fairhead (1961- ) A Cumbrian-born businesswoman who attended Yarm Grammar School. She served as Chairwoman of the B.B.C. Trust. In 2017 she was created Baroness Fairhead of Yarm and became Minister of State at the Department for International Trade.
David Harper (1967- ) An antique dealer from Yarm who became one of the regular cast of the television antiques series Bargain Hunt.
Catherine Copeland (1990- ) Born in Ashington, she learnt how to row at Yarm Grammar School. Together with Sophie Hosking she won the gold medal in the lightweight double sculls at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Hearth Tax of 1673
In 1673 Yarm was a prosperous port for butter and lead, and this prosperity was reflected in the number of houses with more than 2 hearths. 24 houses had 3 or 4 hearths. There were 3 houses wth 5 hearths, belonging in turn to “Wm Sadler”, “Wd Foster” and “Rt Barrow”; one house with 6 hearths (“Char Harrey”) and 3 houses with 7 hearths, belonging to “Tho Read”, “Geo Allen” and “Wm Thompson”. There were 75 houses with 1 or 2 hearths that were liable to tax. A further 24 single-hearth houses were exempt from the tax on the grounds of insufficient means.
See “The Hearth Tax List for the North Riding of Yorkshire, Michaelmas 1673, Ripon Historical Society (2011).
Pigot’s Directory of 1828 listed 8 grocers, 5 bakers, 4 butchers and 11 people who were described as “shopkeepers and dealers in sundries”. The list also included 8 linen drapers, 5 milliners, 7 boot and shoe makers, 4 tailors, 3 watch and clock makers, 3 druggists, 2 ironmongers, 2 hairdressers, 2 spirit merchants, 2 eathernware dealers, 2 tobacco pipe makers, 2 linen weavers and 2 auctioneers. There were also blacksmiths, cartwrights, wheelwrights, joiners, carpenters, saddlers, masons, brick makers and bricklayers. 13 inns and their landlords were named.
Kelly’s Directory of 1913 offered a similar variety of tradespeople, albeit with fewer numbers. It listed 6 grocers, one of which was also a chemist, 4 confectioners, 3 butchers, 4 shopkeepers and a greengrocer. Only one draper was listed, one milliner, one dressmaker, one tailor, one watch and clock maker but there were still 4 boot and shoe makers. There were 3 hairdressers, 2 ironmongers and 2 carpenters. The following appeared only once in this directory, but it should be borne in mind that trade directories did not necessarily furnish complete lists: tobacconist, newsagent, stationer, picture framer, basket maker, coal dealer, corn dealer, earthenware dealer, plumber, joiner, cartwright, fellmonger, saddler, blacksmith, cycle dealer. There was also a woollen goods repository. 9 public houses were named, along with Albert Britton’s refreshment rooms.
A Selection of Dates
12th century The Hospital of St. Nicholas was founded by the de Brus family.
1207 Yarm was granted a weekly market and two annual fairs.
1266 Around this time Yarm Dominican Friary was founded by the de Brus family.
1273 The first reference to Yarm as a borough dates from this year.
1305 First documentary reference to a bridge at Yarm. This may have been a wooden bridge.
1400 Bishop Walter Skirlaw of Durham built the stone bridge across the Tees.
1405 The head of Sir John Colville, executed for treason, was displayed in Yarm.
1590 Thomas Conyers founded and endowed the Free Grammar School by the parish church.
1643 During the Civil War a Royalist army defeated a Parliamentarian troop at Yarm.
1710 The town hall was erected.
1724 Horse races were held at Yarm around this time.
1730 St. Mary’s was largely rebuilt after a fire.
1748 John Wesley paid his first visit to Yarm, where he preached in the market place.
1753 The River Tees overflowed and flooded the town.
1763 The octagonal Wesleyan Methodist chapel was dedicated.
1770 Edward Meynell built The Friarage as his family mansion.
1771 The River Tees flooded the town to a considerable depth.
1803 An iron bridge was constructed across the River Tees. The bridge collapsed in 1806.
1812 The Yarm and Cleveland Shipping Company was formed.
1814 Yarm Cricket Club was established.
1818 The National School was built.
1820 A meeting was held in the George and Dragon Hotel to discuss plans for a railway from Darlington to Stockton.
1829 The Union coach began running between London and Newcastle with a stop at Yarm.
1830 The Primitive Methodist chapel was built around this date.
1832 The Tees Paper Mill began production.
1840 White’s Directory stated that Yarm had one of the largest cheese fairs in the North.
1853 Yarm Railway Viaduct was completed.
1854 Oliver Strickland and John Holt opened their famous shop in the High Street.
1860 The Roman Catholic church of Ss. Mary and Romuald was consecrated.
1863 The Roman Catholic school was built
1884 A new grammar school was built . The building later became Yarm Preparatory School.
1895 The River Tees at Yarm was frozen over.
1921 Yarm Tennis Club was formed.
1933 Yarm won the B Division championship of the North Yorkshire and South Durham Cricket League.
1942 An R.A.F. Halifax bomber crashed near Spittal Flat Farm, killing 2 of the 7 crewmen.
1953 The Women’s Institute held a pageant of Yarm’s history to celebrate the coronation.
1974 On the creation of Cleveland County, Yarm became part of the Borough of Stockton-on-Tees.
1975 For centuries, Yarm High Street was part of the main road from Thirsk to Sunderland. In 1975 the A19 was re-routed to the east of Yarm and crossed the Tees near Middlesbrough.
1976 The Primitve Methodist chapel became Yarm Fellowship Hall.
1977 The grammar school was closed. Conyers School on Green Lane was opened. Yarm Grammar School was re-established as the independent Yarm School in the following year.
1980 Yarm School moved to the Friarage.
1993 Flood defences were constructed, but they failed to fully protect the town against the flood that followed in 1995.
1996 Yarm railway station was opened. Cleveland County was replaced by four unitary authorities. Yarm continued to be part of the Borough of Stockton-on-Tees.
1998 Yarm Rugby Club was established.
2002 The town’s flood defences were heightened.
2007 Yarm’s High Street was voted the best in Britain by television viewers.
2011 A monthly farmers’ market was established.
2012 The 750-seat Princess Alexandra Auditorium at Yarm School was opened by Princess Alexandra.
2016 The Friarage Theatre at Yarm School was opened.
This list of dates was compiled using “A History of Yarm” by J.Wardell (1957) and other secondary sources.
Suggested Further Reading
“A Postcard From Yarm” Stockton Museum Service (1987)
“The Yarm of Yesteryear” M.Race (1989)
“Yarm and the Butter Trade” D.Pearce, C.T.L.H.S. Bulletin no. 9 (1970)
“Shipbuilding at Yarm” P.Barton C.T.L.H.S. Bulletin no. 57 (1989)