YARM, a parish in the wapentake and liberty of Langbargh; 4 miles from Stockton, 15 from Guisborough, 16 from Northallerton, and 44 from York, The town is situated on a low peninsula, and is nearly surrounded by the river Tees, which winds round in the form of a horse shoe, and is here navigable for vessels of sixty tons burthen.
The main street runs north and south and is very spacious. There is not much trade, and no manufacture of any importance. The commerce in the place consists principally in corn, flour, cheese, butter, and bacon, which are shipped hence to London. A great deal of salmon is caught in the Tees, and this place partakes with Stockton in the advantage of the fishery. The market day at Yarm is on Thursday. but from the vicinity of this place to the rising town and port of Stockton, it had considerably declined, but is again reviving owing to the erection of several corn mills in the town and neighbourhood. The fairs, of which there are four annually, are on the Thursday before the 6th of April; on Ascension Day; on the 2d of August; and on the 19th and 20th of October. The fair of the 19th of October is for horned cattle and horses, and that on the following day for sheep and cheese. The October fair is one of the most considerable in the north of England, and brings a great influx of money into the town and its vicinity. Some idea of the extent of the business done at it may be formed from the subjoined return of the number of waggons and carts laden with cheese, exposed for sale that day for four successive years:-.
On the 20th of Oct.. 1818- 359
Averaging about a ton and a half each, so that five hundred tons may be taken as the quantity sold, at each of these fairs, besides large supplies which are purchased by the merchants about the same time in the neighbourhood, and which never come into the fair. The new iron railway from Stockton to Darlington, and from thence to the collieries near Auckland, passes within a mile of Yarm, and a branch is completed from the main line to bring coals, lime, &c. down nearly to the bridge, which promises great advantages.
Owing to the peninsular situation of this town and to its slight elevation above the bed of the river, it is very liable to floods, the most memorable of which are those of the 17th of February, 1753, and the 16th and 17th of November, 1771. The inundation of 1753, was occasioned by a sudden thaw on the western hills, which laid the town seven feet deep under water in the higher parts, and which swept away great quantities of furniture, wares and live stock without occasioning the loss of any lives. The flood of 1771, at the time of the eruption of the Solway Moss in Cumberland, was more fatal and tremendous, the water in some parts of the town rose upwards of twenty feet in perpendicular height, and many of the inhabitants were taken in boats from the roofs of their houses: a great quantity of property and some lives were lost, and many more must have perished inevitably had they not been preserved by the active humanity and timely assistance of the people of Stockton and the neighbouring villages. Similar, though less awful visitations have taken place since, and in the flood of the 3d of February, 1822, the water was seven feet deep in the main street of the town.
To abate the violence of these frequent inundations, the bridge of five arches, built by Walter Skirlaw, Bishop of Durham, in the year 1400. has undergone several important alterations; the arch to the north has been made more capacious and built in a semi-circular form, and the bridge itself has been widened and rendered a substantial structure. In 1805, an elegant iron bridge consisting of one arch one hundred and eighty feet span, east by Messrs. Walkers & Co. of Masbrough, near Rotherham, was erected here, but owing to some defect in the abutments it unfortunately fell down about midnight on the 12th of January, 1806, when it was just on the point of being opened. This bridge is stated by Mr. Graves, in his history of Cleveland, to have cost £8000. and the weight of iron contained in it was 250 tons.
The parish church of Yarm, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen, stands at the west side of the town, and was rebuilt in 1730. The exterior is plain and rather homely, but the interior is much admired for its neatness and good order; it is, however, chiefly remarkable for a window of painted glass, beautifully executed, by Pecket, in which is exhibited a full length figure of Moses, delivering the law on Mount Sinai. This living formerly was a rectory, but it is now only a perpetual curacy, of which the Archbishop of York is the patron. The Methodists, the Independents, the Catholics, and the Primitive Methodists, have each a chapel here, and the Society of Friends have their Meeting-house.
There is here an ancient Free Grammar School, founded and endowed in the time of Queen Elizabeth, by Thomas Conyers, of Egglescliffe, in the county of Durham, and the benefits of which have been very essentially extended by the liberality of the late William Chaloner, Esq. A National school, capable of containing 160 boys and girls, was built in 1816, by subscription, and is supported by voluntary contributions.
It appears, from Tanner's Notitia, that there was, "here an ancient hospital, dedicated to St. Nicholas, founded by some of the family of Brus, before the year 1185," which continued till the dissolution, but not a vestige of it now remains, and even the site of it is unknown. There was also a house of Blackfriars, said to have been founded by Peter de Brus the second, who died in 1240, but it has disappeared, and a commodious mansion has been erected upon the spot, called the Friarage, now the seat of Thomas Meynell, Esq. the grounds of which are delightful, and extend about a mile along the banks of the Tees. The population of the town has made a trifling advance during the last 10 years, in 1811 it amounted to 1431, and it now amounts to 1504, as appears from the parliamentary returns just published.