Family built their home in a cliff

The Rigg family
The Rigg family

AN ANCESTOR who created a tourist landmark is something to be proud of.

Hartlepool man Kenneth Rigg can boast just such a person in his past.

Ken Rigg working on his family tree

Ken Rigg working on his family tree

Thomas Hill is one of those people who seemed destined to make it into the history books.

After all, it was pretty much inevitable after he spent 16 years carving a house into the Yorkshire hillside.

Kenneth, now 65 and a retired taxi driver, regaled Thomas’s tale to the Hartlepool Mail.

Research has shown Thomas was an 18th Century linen weaver, whose claim to fame lay in Knaresborough, Yorkshire.

“He had some weird ideas,” said Kenneth, who is married to Chris, 65, a former school dinner lady and childminder.

In the 1770s, Thomas, and his elder son of the same name, decided to create a house in the magnesian limestone cliffs of Knaresborough.

His 16-year labour of love led to a hollowed-out building springing up – which eventually became known as The House in the Rock.

Thomas’s curious behaviour was not to end there, said Kenneth, a father of two to Jason Rigg, 40, and Dawn Rigg, 37, and a grandfather to Aaron West, 11.

Thomas and his eldest son decided to place cannons on the roof of the House in the Rock and history says that two people, including a member of the Hill family, fired it without permission.

The cannon ball landed in a nearby village, but luckily no-one was hurt.

But they were not the only examples of Kenneth’s ancestors’ curious way.

The same Thomas Hill, said his descendant, once had a bank note made denoting a tuppence halfpenny.

Kenneth said: “He is a relative on my maternal family side.”

Kenneth also highlighted the activities of a great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather called William Rigg who, in the 1780’s was part of the local military.

“There was a man who would control the villages and he would have a number of men who would fight his battles for him,” said Kenneth.

“William was one of those men,” he revealed.

Kenneth, of Croxton Avenue in Hartlepool, said: “I thoroughly enjoy researching my family tree.

“Goodness knows how long I have done this. It must be 20 years or so.”

“I have always done bits and pieces on history to do with Hartlepool. I have a lot more time, now that I have retired, to look things up on the computer.”

Kenneth is a man of many hobbies. They also include looking after his splendid Triumph Spitfire car, playing the guitar and researching the history of Hartlepool.

But genealogy is right up there with them all.

And just like Kenneth, you could be sharing your tale of times gone by with the Mail.

Anyone else researching their own family trees can contact Chris Cordner by writing to him at New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX, via email to or by calling (01429) 239377.