He seems to have been more than usually disorganised at this time. His brother's death, the building work and the removals must have absorbed much of his attention; probably papers lost in the move contributed to his failure to make entries in the parish registers. His household may also have been distracted by anxieties for the condition of Ireland, now in the dreadful grip of the Famine.
Possibly he was too preoccupied with these matters to pay sufficient attention to the village school. However the 1845 report of an inspector visiting the village school may reflect something more seriously amiss in the original construction ten years earlier – he found the condition of the building and especially its roof to be "not good" .
In August 1846 Lord Falkland returned from Nova Scotia at the end of his term of office. He and his wife were to spend less than two years in England, and much of this time will have been spent in London where he had been given the post of Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of Yeomen of the Guard. In the spring of 1848, he and his household left for India ,where his term as Governor of Bombay began on 1 May.
John Walker Ord visited Leven Grove while its owner was still in Canada, for the purposes of his History of Cleveland, published in 1846.
This elegant building (he wrote) is surrounded by plantations, and commands from the principal tower splendid views, southward, of the great Cleveland range, the conical heights of Rosebury and Whorlhill, the groves of Ingleby and Busby, with the majestic oak-forest of Arncliffe; westward, the Barnard Castle hills, and the mountains of Cumberland and Westmoreland; and north-east, the hills of the Wear and Tyne.
The gardens and pleasure-grounds are extensive; but the stables, outhouses, and even the interior of the hall, are greatly neglected, owing to the non-residence of the noble owner, now Governor of Nova Scotia.Ord's History is deservedly much admired, but should be treated with caution. One particular sentence in his description of Hutton Rudby has attracted much attention:
From the high end of Hutton, within view of the new court-house and vicarage, we proceeded along a narrow road by the side of a considerable unenclosed space, tenanted with colliers' asses and mules, and, crossing a stream which joins the Leven, ascended the hill, and at length reached the remains of the ancient hall of the Laytons of Sexhowe.He has evidently turned off the Hutton to East Rounton road in Enterpen and followed the lane to Sexhow, crossing the water-splash (as it is still known, although the water now flows under a bridge) at Caul Beck. The vicarage is not visible from the top of Sexhow Lane, and no court house was ever built – he must be referring here to the schoolhouse.
However, there were indeed colliers living in Enterpen, who must have walked to work across the fields to the mines in the hills. Three colliers are to be found in the village in the 1841 census, and two of these are Hannah Best's sons-in-law, the Bowmans. It will be remembered that they had liberated their mules and asses from the pinder and been fined as a result.
George Markham Tweddell annotated his copy of Ord , commenting on errors and adding extra details.
One of his notes suggests that the Stokesley printer William Braithwaite had a quick eye for business. A picturesque engraving of a dilapidated cottage had illustrated Ord's comment on the "small, meagre and inconvenient" dwellings still to be found in some parts of Cleveland. Tweddell noted,
Braithwaite afterwards printed the cut as the Birthplace of Capt Cook and Rock's copied and registered it!Above the engraving he wrote,
This cottage has since been shamelessly paraded as the Birthplace of Capt Cook.The Crathorne estate at this time was also without a resident landowner. Mrs Maria Tasburgh died in 1844 and her husband sold the estate to the Dugdale family of Burnley, whose fortune came from cotton manufacture in Lancashire. The Roman Catholic Crathornes of Crathorne were gone after five hundred years, and the Catholic population of Crathorne declined soon after.
Times were changing and the railway age had begun. Darlington and York had been linked by rail in 1841, and within five years a line would run from Middlesbrough to Redcar. In 1844 the last stagecoach ran through Northallerton – a few years later the great railway viaduct at Yarm would be completed.
The fast-changing social and economic conditions of the time bore heavily upon the established Church. Losing ground to the Nonconformists – themselves much caught up in internal argument – the Church was under pressure from its need to make internal administrative reforms, and from the deep theological divisions between the High Church party, the Evangelicals and the liberals.
There had been changes locally in the church. Some were small, but a sign of things to come – in Great Ayton, for example, church musicians had been replaced by an organ. It was a barrel organ, with a fixed repertoire of tunes; the Revd Ibbetson had objected to the first selection as too lively and had them replaced .
In 1835 Charles Cator had become the Rector of Stokesley, where he was to remain until 1873. One wonders what Mr Barlow's feelings were towards him. Cator was a wealthy gentleman, living in style and comfort in the Stokesley parsonage house, which had been much improved with plantations and gardens by the Revd George Markham, the son of the Archbishop of York. It was said of Cator that "he could ride a horse, handle a gun or preach a sermon with any man in England ". The local press noted his entry in the newly formed Guisborough Horticultural Society's Show in 1844, together with that of the Guisborough vicar:
The Rev C Cator's cactus, and the Rev H Clarke's collection of pansies were also deservedly admired … A much more significant change was the appointment of a new Archbishop of York.
In early October 1847 Archbishop Harcourt was walking across an ornamental pond in the grounds of the Bishopthorpe Palace when the wooden bridge collapsed, and he and his chaplain were plunged into the water up to their necks. Harcourt was then aged ninety-one, and though he showed no immediate signs of injury he died peacefully not many weeks later. His successor was Thomas Musgrave, whose motto in office was Quieta non movere (or, let sleeping dogs lie); Mr Barlow's feelings for him were to be of unalloyed hostility.
Two years later, in the summer of 1850, Robert and his sisters were once again to find themselves taken aback by the behaviour of their former sister-in-law.
Captain Meredith and his family had moved to Torquay, probably for his health – it was a favourite resort for naval and military gentlemen. In June 1849 he made his Will and a year later he died. He left his widow a life interest in his estate; the Will was proved on 29 August. Before the end of November, Marian had married for a third time.
Whilst one may speculate that Marian's first marriage was urged on her by the anxious prudence of her mother and that her second marriage was a refuge with a friend, even Robert Barlow admitted that "she fell in love"  with her third husband.
He was the Catholic writer, John Richard Digby Beste. They may already have known each other as neighbours in Southampton. Beste was born in 1806, the son of the Catholic writer Henry Digby Beste (1768-1836) and Sarah Sealey. He spent his youth abroad with his family in France and Italy, and published his first book Transalpine Memoirs in 1826. He had homes in England at Botleigh Grange, Hampshire, where he was born, and at Abbotsham Court near Bideford. At his marriage to Marian in 1850 he was a widower with ten children.
This was the year that the Pope reinstituted the diocesan system in England, and there was much wild and unnecessary talk of "Papal Aggression". Newman had "gone over to Rome" a few years earlier, and Manning and others would follow.
Yet Robert Barlow hardly mentions Marian's conversion to Catholicism in his novel. There is the occasional derogatory comment ("What capital Jesuits, I have often thought, such women would make"), but he seems to have decided to treat Beste's faith as a pose, describing him as a "religious controversialist". One imagines that he and his sisters would have disapproved strongly; but when he wrote his novel, Marian's religion seems to have paled into insignificance beside the first burning personal hurt of her marriage to his brother and its consequences.
 Parl Papers 1842. XXXIII.HC 442. Minutes of the Committee of the Council for Education 1841-2 pp266-7; quoted in Hastings
 held by Northallerton County Library
 Great Ayton: History of the Village Dan O’Sullivan
 Memories of a Great Ayton Man from The Northern Echo 29 Aug 1934: Tom Tweddell's recollections of Stokesley in the 1860s. Quoted in Stokesley in the 1860s by the Stokesley & District Local History Study Group 1994
 The Cleveland Repertory 1 Jul 1844
 Remarkable but still true, 1872