Darlington is a large market town and the main administrative centre of the Borough of Darlington, in County Durham, North East England. In 2011 the town had a population of 92,363 and the district 105,564. The town lies on the River Skerne, a tributary of the River Tees. The town is administered as part of the Darlington Borough Council, a unitary authority which is administrated independently of Durham County Council.
The creation of the world's first steam locomotive powered, permanent passenger railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, led to substantial development of Darlington in the 19th century. Much of the finance and vision behind the creation of the railway was provided by local Quaker families in the Georgian and Victorian eras.
Darlington started as an Anglo-Saxon settlement. The name Darlington derives from the Anglo-Saxon Dearthington, which seemingly meant 'the settlement of Deornoth's people', but by Norman times the name had changed to Derlinton. During the 17th and 18th centuries the town was usually known by the name of Darnton.
Darlington has a historic market area in the town centre. Built in 1183, the Grade I listed St Cuthbert's Church is one of the most important early English churches in the north of England. The oldest church in Darlington is Andrew the Apostle, built around 1125 in Haughton-le-Skerne.
Visiting during the 18th century, Daniel Defoe noted that the town was eminent for "good bleaching of linen, so that I have known cloth brought from Scotland to be bleached here". However he also disparaged the town, writing that it had "nothing remarkable but dirt" (the roads would typically be unpaved at the time).
The Durham Ox came from Darlington.
During the early 19th century, Darlington remained a small market town.
The Stockton and Darlington Railway was designed for passengers and goods, to a standard gauge on a permanent main line with branches, and was powered by steam locomotives. On 27 September 1825 George Stephenson's engine Locomotion No. 1 ushered in the modern railway age when it travelled between Shildon and Stockton-on-Tees via Darlington.
The town later became an important centre for railway manufacturing. An early railway works was the Hopetown Carriage Works (est. 1853), which supplied carriages and locomotives to the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The engineering firm of William and Alfred Kitching also manufactured locomotives in the 19th century. The town developed to have three significant works; the largest of these was the main line Darlington Works, whose main works, the North Road Shops, opened in 1863 and closed in 1966. Robert Stephenson & Co. (colloquially: "Stivvies"), who moved to Darlington from Newcastle upon Tyne in 1902, became Robert Stephensons & Hawthorns in 1937, were absorbed by English Electric around 1960, and closed by 1964. The third was Faverdale Wagon Works, established in 1923 and closed in 1962, which in the 1950s was a UK pioneer in the application of mass-production techniques to the manufacture of railway goods wagons.
Expansion and industry
As the century progressed, powerful Quaker families such as the Pease and Backhouse families were prominent employers and philanthropists in the area. Darlington's most famous landmark, the clock tower, was a gift to the town by the industrialist Joseph Pease in 1864. The clock's face was produced by T. Cooke & Sons of York, and the tower bells were cast by John Warner & Sons of nearby Norton-on-Tees. These bells were the sister bells to those inside the Elizabeth Tower at the Houses of Parliament in London, the most famous of which is called Big Ben.
The Darlington Mechanics Institute was opened in 1854 by Elizabeth Pease Nichol, who had made the largest donation towards its building costs. The 91-acre South Park was redeveloped into its current form in 1853, with financial backing from the Backhouse family.
Alfred Waterhouse, responsible for London's Natural History Museum and Manchester Town Hall, designed the Grade II listed old Town Hall and Market Hall in 1860, and also the Backhouse's Bank building, now a branch of Barclays, in 1864, the latter taking three years to complete.
George Gordon Hoskins was responsible for much of the town's architecture in this period, such as The King's Head Hotel.
The Darlington Free Library, a Grade II listed building situated in Crown Street, was built with £10,000 funding from Edward Pease, who lived from 1834 to 1880. It opened in on 23 October 1885 by his daughter, Lady Lymington, when the Council accepted the gift of the purpose built library and agreed to run it in perpetuity. The building houses the Central Lending Department, Reference Library and Centre for Local Studies.
In 1870, The Northern Echo newspaper was launched. William Thomas Stead was a notable editor of The Northern Echo who died in 1912 on the Titanic. Opposite The Northern Echo building in Pristgate is The William Stead public house.
World Wars era
In 1939, Darlington had the most cinema seats per head of population in the United Kingdom.
On the night of 13 January 1945 a Lancaster bomber piloted by Pilot Officer William Stuart McMullen from Canada crashed on farmland near Lingfield Lane. One of the engines caught fire while on a training exercise, McMullen stayed at the controls while his crew parachuted to safety and directed the stricken aircraft away from the houses below. Pilot Officer McMullen was killed on impact but his heroism was honoured with the renaming of Lingfield Lane as McMullen Road as well as a memorial.
For 19 years, the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust built a 50th member of the long withdrawn LNER Peppercorn Class A1 engine, called 'Tornado' and numbered 60163, from scratch in the 1853 former Stockton and Darlington Railway Carriage Works at Hopetown. Many of the original fleet had been built at Darlington locomotive works in the late 1940s.
To commemorate the town's contribution to the railways, David Mach's 1997 work Train is located alongside the A66, close to the original Stockton–Darlington railway. It is a life-size brick sculpture of a steaming locomotive emerging from a tunnel, made from 185,000 Accrington Nori bricks. The work had a budget of £760,000.
Darlington was the first town in England to allow same-sex civil ceremonies in 2001. The town hosts an annual Gay Pride Festival which comprises a series of celebrations of local LGBT culture and acceptance held at venues across the town.
The town centre has undergone a full refurbishment entitled The Pedestrian Heart, which has seen the majority of the town centre pedestrianised. Initially, the project received criticism surrounding changes to public transport, and removal of Victorian features along High Row. There is now growing evidence, however, that the now-completed changes are meeting with local approval. Then in 2014, the town saw the revamp of one of its old cinemas, The Majestic, into a soft play centre and theatre.
In August 2008 the King's Head Hotel in the town centre was devastated by fire, severely damaging the roof and 100 bedrooms. Several shops, including Woolworths, were damaged and had to close for weeks afterwards. No one was killed in the blaze. The hotel was carefully restored to its former glory and re-opened in 2012.
On 1 April 1997, the Borough of Darlington became a unitary authority area with the formation of Darlington Borough Council, which separated it from the non-metropolitan county of Durham for administrative purposes only, as the town is still within County Durham for ceremonial purposes. Currently, the MP for this seat is Conservative Peter Gibson. Former members of parliament for the town include Jenny Chapman, the former Shadow Prisons Minister and Shadow Minister for Leaving the European Union, Alan Milburn, the former Secretary of State for Health under the Tony Blair Labour Government and Michael Fallon, who was Secretary of State for Defence under the David Cameron coalition government and Theresa May's Conservative government.
Darlington is located in the south of County Durham close to the River Tees, which acts as the border between Durham and Yorkshire. Both the River Tees and River Skerne pass through the town, the River Skerne later joining the River Tees which then flows through Teesside and into the North Sea. Neighbouring towns include Newton Aycliffe, Stockton and Bishop Auckland.
There are several suburbs of Darlington. In the north are Harrowgate Hill, Harrowgate Village, Coatham Mundeville and Beaumont Hill and to the north-east are Whinfield and Haughton Le Skerne. To the east is the suburb of Eastbourne and Red Hall with Firthmoor and Skerne Park to the south. Situated in the west end are Hummersknott, Mowden and Blackwell. Finally, to the north-west are Branksome, Cockerton, Faverdale, The Denes, West Park, High Grange and Pierremont which is associated with the notable Henry Pease (MP).
The trend of regional gross value added of Darlington at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by the Office for National Statistics, with figures in £ millions.
A major employer in the area is the English division of the Student Loans Company, Student Finance England, who are based at Lingfield Point and employ over 1,000 people. Other large service sector companies with offices in the town include Darlington Building Society. Darlington Borough Council announced the neighbouring site for the DL1 complex, previously a car park for Darlington Town Hall, was also to be redeveloped to house riverside office space for the Department for Education in an effort to safeguard Darlington jobs. This was officially opened on 19 March 2015.
EE are the largest private sector employers in the town, hiring 2,500 people.
The international telecommunications company BT Group recently announced Darlington as one of the economically important locations in England to have BT fibre-optic cables installed underground as part of the company's BT Infinity superfast broadband rollout project. BT Group cites their decision to include Darlington in the national rollour of multi-provider fibre optic (cable) broadband as necessary due to the towns relatively large amount of IT demanding firms and future plans for developments including space for high-tech firms. Darlington Borough Council, residents and local businesses praised the decision by BT Group and it is hoped the investment will attract enterprise to the town, potentially creating employment for residents and boosting the economy.
The Morton Park area of Darlington is currently undergoing a partial redevelopment, with areas of unused waste land being redeveloped into modern industrial and office space. Companies based in Morton Park and the surrounding area are Infoserve Ltd and vehicle rental company Northgate Vehicle Hire. Morrisons at Morton Park opened in August 1995.
Other commercial spaces in Darlington include North Road Industrial Estate, which includes a Morrisons supermarket; Cleveland Trading Estate and Faverdale Industrial Estate. The council depot on Central Park is also to be redeveloped into commercial space.
Darlington has long been a centre for engineering, major firm within the engineering industry based in the town. Bridge building is prevalent in the town, bridges built in Darlington are found as far away as the River Nile and the River Amazon. Engineering firms include:
- Cummins, engine builder firm, has a large scale engine building facility in the Morton Park area of Darlington.
- AMEC‘s industrial arm is headquartered in the town
- Darlington Forge Company originated in the town, circa 1967
- Whessoe originated in Darlington
- Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company, a large engineering firm has its headquarters in the town. The firm built the Tyne Bridge, Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge and the Humber Bridge, as well as the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Retail and Leisure
Being a historic market town, a weekly outdoor market on the market square, which one of the biggest in the country. An indoor market is located underneath the town clock on Prebend Row.
They are a number of shops in the area:
- Prebend Row also hosts the Cornmill Shopping centre
- Grange Road and Skinnergate has a number of independent shops
- Duke Street houses art galleries and restaurants
- Argos, a UK retail company, have their largest warehouse distribution centre in the North of England located in Darlington. This centre is within the Faverdale Industrial Estate, North West of the town. The Argos shop is located in the town centre Sainsbury’s.
- Bannatyne Fitness Ltd is headquartered and runs a gym in Darlington.
- House of Fraser, trading as Binns (department store), is a major retailer in the town.
In November 2012, a deal was signed between Darlington Borough Council and developer Terrace Hill for a £30 million re-development of the site of the former Feethams bus depot. The development includes a new multiplex cinema run by Vue Cinemas to serve Darlington and the wider South Durham area, as the area currently has no multiplex cinema. The development has an 80 bedroom Premier Inn hotel, and various food and drink venues including Prezzo, Bella Italia and Hungry Horse. The proposal had an expected completion date of late 2014, though this did overrun with completion early 2016.
Culture and arts
Museums and heritage
The former Civic Theatre, now The Hippodrome, is a popular arts venue in the town, hosting a mix of musicals, dramas, plays and pantomimes. The smaller but well-used Arts Centre, founded in 1982, featured smaller events, film screenings and more experimental material; however this closed in 2012.
Forum Music Centre
The Forum Music Centre, opened in 2004, hosts regular live music events, from Ska and Punk to Indie and Classic Rock. It also runs a comedy club. As well as live music, the facility houses a state of the art recording studio and several rehearsal rooms. The Carmel Rhythm Club, at Carmel College in the Hummersknott end of town, is another music venue.
The Dolphin Centre, which provides a wide range of sporting facilities, was opened by Roger Bannister in 1982. It received a £5m refurbishment in 2006 and was later officially opened by Redcar athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson.
Darlington Dog Show was a championship event from 1969. It was usually held in September on the showground in South Park; but it has now moved to Ripon.
The Jamia Mosque and Islamic Society of Darlington is located in the North Lodge Terrace area of the town, an area with a relatively high proportion of ethnic minority residents (39.2% of the population in that area, compared to a town average of 6.3%). Constituted as a charity under UK law in 1982, the mosque offers worship facilities, as well as Islamic Education, and has its own telecommunications mast for calls to prayer.
Darlington Memorial Hospital is on Hollyhurst Road, in the corridor between Woodland Road and The Denes.
Teesside International Airport is 5 miles (8 km) east of Darlington town centre and serves County Durham and Teesside. The airport was known as Durham Tees Valley Airport, 2004 until mid-2019. It has flights to a few domestic locations across the UK and international flights to locations across Europe. Many private or General Aviation Flights use the airport. Weston Aviation are there for that purpose. The airport has a Fire Training Centre that trains many airport firefighters from all over the UK.
Local services run from North Road railway station, the town's original station. Darlington railway station lies on the East Coast Main Line. The East Coast Main Line and has regular services to London Kings Cross, Leeds City, Edinburgh Waverley, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Airport and Newcastle.
Darlington railway station also serves as the mainline interchange for Middlesbrough station, which itself has few intercity services. Darlington also has access to the Tees Valley Line connecting all the main settlements along the River Tees, and runs from Bishop Auckland to Saltburn via Darlington, Stockton-on-Tees and Middlesbrough among many other smaller settlements.
Darlington railway station boasts a large Victorian clock tower which, in the relatively low rise town centre, can be seen throughout large areas of the town.
Darlington is well connected to the North East's major trunk route, the A1(M), which bypasses the town to the west. It was completed in 1965, replacing the Great North Road route which is now known as the A167. The town is served by three closely-spaced junctions of the A1(M): Junctions 57 A66(M), 58 A68, and 59 A167. Junction 59 is the access exit for Darlington Motorway Services (Newton Park), with an onsite filling station, hotel and restaurant. Darlington is also close to other major trunk routes, including the A66 trans-Pennine route connecting Darlington to Stockton and the A19.
The £5.9 million five-mile (8 km) A66 Darlington Eastern Bypass opened on 25 November 1985. The Darlington Eastern Transport Corridor, linking the Central Park regeneration zone (Haughton Road) and Darlington town centre to a new roundabout on the A66, was opened in the summer of 2008.
Bus transport in the town is provided by Arriva North East. Darlington lost out on considerable public receipts when the municipal bus operator Darlingon Transport Company was placed into administration during an attempted privatisation, due to continuing financial difficulties and the Darlington Bus War.
Stagecoach used to operate in the town (since the Bus War) until 2007, when they sold their operations to Arriva. Arriva therefore became the main bus operator. Arriva services connect Darlington to neighbouring towns such as Durham, Bishop Auckland, Richmond, Stockton, and Middlesbrough.
There is also two smaller independent operators that run services in the town, which are called Dales & District and Scarlet Band.
Darlington was chosen by the Department for Transport as one of three national Sustainable Travel Demonstration Towns (together with Peterborough and Worcester) in 2004 and delivering a three-year research and marketing programme to promote sustainable travel choices under the brand name 'Local Motion'. It was also chosen as one of six cycling demonstration towns in October 2005, receiving £3 million worth of funding from the government and local council money.
2007 Town Centre Pedestrian Heart Project worth 10 million pounds, saw most of Darlington Town Centre modernised with an emphasis on vehicles less common in the centre and roads pedestrianised completely.
The money has also been spent over the course of three years on other improvements to cycling facilities and routes, and linking the town to the national cycle route network. Darlington is the only place to win both sustainable travel and cycling demonstration town status.
The town has the Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College (former grammar school). There are many other schools including: Carmel College, a Catholic Academy, Wyvern Academy, Haughton Academy, Hummersknott Academy, Hurworth School, Longfield Academy, Polam Hall School and St Aidan's Church of England Academy. Darlington College is the newly built FE College. Teesside University opened a Darlington campus in 2011 offering higher education in the town to students and businesses.
The regional radio station 'Darlo Radio' broadcasts from the town.
In November 2009 the town appointed an official 'Twitterer in residence', the first of its kind in the UK. Mike McTimoney (known on Twitter as TheDarloBard) is a local regular Twitter user who has been officially charged with tweeting for and about Darlington, and to help promote The Darlington Experiment 2.0, the town's social media campaign.
In 1998 the County Durham town of Darlington hit the national headlines after local man David James Harker murdered and beheaded his girlfriend Julie Paterson before eating parts of her body in the Harewood Grove area, close to the large Sainsbury's supermarket; followed by the dumping of her torso which was later discovered in bushes by residents and reported to Durham Police. Harker was later diagnosed by experts as having Antisocial Personality Disorder, and is remembered as the Darlington Cannibal Killer. He was jailed for life in February 1999.
The town is home to the football team Darlington F.C., formerly Darlington 1883 FC and phoenix club to a previous Darlington FC, known as The Quakers because of the contributions made to the town by men such as Edward and Joseph Pease, members of the Religious Society of Friends. The town's football club played at the 25,000 capacity Darlington Arena when it opened on Neasham Road in 2003, after 120 years at Feethams. In 2010 they were relegated from the Football League, 21 years after they suffered a similar fate when they were then promoted back from the Football Conference at the first attempt. In the 2010–11 season Darlington won the FA Trophy but were relegated four divisions to the Northern Football League Division One for the 2012–13 season. Darlington played home games at Heritage Park in Bishop Auckland from the start of the 2012–13 season until moving back to Darlington in late 2016 to commence a new long term groundshare arrangement with Darlington RFC at Blackwell Meadows. Darlington's first home game at Blackwell Meadows (a 3–2 home win against Halifax Town) took place on 26 December 2016.
Darlington's leading athletics club, the Darlington Harriers, was formed in 1891 and has had a number of successful athletes wearing the club colours as well as GB vests. The club celebrated its 125th year in 2016, with anniversary games held at Eastbourne Sports Complex.
Darlington has two Rugby Union clubs Darlington Mowden RFC and Darlington RFC. Mowden Park currently play in League 1, the third tier of English rugby. They own and play at the Darlington Arena. The Darlington Arena also played a role in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, hosting the New Zealand national team known as the "All Blacks".Darlington RFC play at Blackwell Meadows in the seventh tier, North 1 East.
Cricket clubs are Darlington Cricket Club and Darlington Railway Athletic Cricket Club.
The Darlington 10K road run is held every August, and attracts several thousand competitors.
- George Allison – football manager in 1930s
- James Atkinson (1780–1852) – surgeon, artist and Persian scholar
- Duncan Bannatyne – entrepreneur, residence in Darlington and company offices of Bannatyne Fitness Ltd close to Central Park regeneration area
- Garry Williamson Barnes – footballer
- Nick Bilton – columnist for The New York Times and bestselling author
- Julie Bindel – journalist, columnist, political activist, lesbian and gay rights campaigner, born in Darlington
- Zoe Birkett – singer, runner up on television show Pop Idol
- Sandra Bowman – Olympic and Commonwealth Games swimmer in 1980s
- Aidan Chambers – children's author
- Peter Chapman – convicted murderer, born in Darlington in 1977, brought up in nearby Stockton on Tees.
- Tom Craddock – footballer
- James Cudworth – Locomotive Superintendent for the South Eastern Railway (1845–76)
- Alex Cunningham – MP for Stockton North
- Giles Deacon – fashion designer
- J. M. Dent – publisher, produced Everyman's Library series
- Frederick Dickens – Charles Dickens' beloved scapegrace brother, buried in the West Cemetery.
- Harry Dobinson – footballer
- Elizabeth Esteve-Coll (née Kingdon) – Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the first woman to head a national arts institution.
- John W. Ewbank – landscape and marine painter
- Simon Farnaby – actor, writer and comedian
- Ruth Gemmell – actress
- Ian Hamilton – poet and editor
- Ralph Hodgson – poet
- George Gordon Hoskins – architect responsible for many of Darlington's Victorian buildings
- Glenn Hugill – actor and television producer
- Richard Hurndall – actor
- Robert Anderson Jardine - vicar
- John Kenworthy – aeronautical engineer and aircraft designer in World War I
- Alan Kitching – typographic artist and teacher
- Mary Lawson (1910–1940) – stage and film actress of 1920s and 1930s, born in Darlington, killed in air raid on Liverpool
- Michael Lee – hard rock drummer (Little Angels, The Cult, Page and Plant, Thin Lizzy)
- Neil Maddison – footballer
- Jann Mardenborough – racing driver, Le Mans podium finisher
- James Morrison – footballer
- Al Pease – racing driver, only F1 driver disqualified for going too slow (1969 Canadian Grand Prix)
- Edward Pease (1767–1858) – Quaker industrialist and railway pioneer
- Joseph Pease (1799–1872) – Quaker industrialist and railway pioneer, first Quaker M.P.
- Julie Rayne – singer and actress
- Vic Reeves – comedian and author, lived in Darlington as teenager Jim Moir in 1970s
- Katherine Routledge (née Pease) – archaeologist and anthropologist, made first scientific survey of Easter Island
- Paul Smith OBE - former radio executive and technology entrepreneur
- Willie Smith – "possibly the best non-specialised, all round billiard player of all time", twice winner of World Billiards Championship out of two entries
- Sir John Summerson – architectural historian
- Geoffrey Thwaites GB International Swimmer, 200m Backstroke at the 1964 Olympics
- William Thomas Stead – campaigning journalist, editor of The Northern Echo, died in sinking of the RMS Titanic
- David Varey (born 1961) – cricketer
- Paul Walton – motoring journalist
- Giuseppe Wilson – footballer (Lazio and Italy)
Brick Train sculpture
Darlington in 2004
North side of Darlington centre square
Darlington is twinned with: