Most residents of Darlington will be aware of the more prominent historical sites such as the Head of Steam railway museum and the grand Victorian West Cemetery but there are many features around the town which are easily missed. This guide aims to help locals and visitors alike to find them.

Pharaoh’s Daughter by Giovanni Battista Lombardi

Pharaohs Daughter Sculpture by Giovanni Battista LombardiTake the lift up to the 6th floor of the Memorial Hospital and you will be welcomed by one of Darlington’s most elegant treasures. Carved in Rome from white marble the statue shows Thermuthis, the Pharaoh’s daughter, as she discovered Moses. She went on to adopt as her own son. Appropriately it stands at the entrance to the maternity and baby care units of the hospital.

It is a beatutiful statue, produced by an Italian master known for his sculptures of religious female figures. It was owned by Alfred Backhouse who built Pilmore Hall, now the Rockcliffe Hall hotel. Alfred and his wife Rachel donated a substantial amount of time and money to the hospital. As they had no children to inherit their estate, on their death Elizabeth Barclay Backhouse presented the sculpture to Darlington Hospital in their memory.

For many years the sculpture stood in the entrance to Greenbank Hospital which was built on the site of Alfred and Rachel’s former home and became the town’s maternity hospital. It still continues its long connection with child care in Darlington.

The Black Poplars (Populus Nigra Betulifolia)

Black poplar treeOnce a common sight, the black poplar is a native British timber tree which enjoys wet habitat of stream sides and floodplains of lowland rivers. Following the introduction of other types of hybrid poplars for timber production, the native form went into swift decline, made more catastrophic by the introduction of better land drainage and more intense river management which destroyed much of the tree’s natural habitat. Added to this, the black poplar is very particular about the conditions it needs to reproduce and even worse, most of the surviving trees are male.

A true hidden gem, today Darlington is one of the few places in England where black poplars survive. Until recently only a handful remained, with a single tree in a hedgerow at Whessoe, an avenue of trees in Middleton St. George, a couple of trees beside the Baydale Beck (shown on the right) and also some near Whessoe Holme.

However a campaign began in 2002 to raise awareness of the plight of what had become the UK’s most endangered native timber tree. Hundreds of saplings were planted in the Tees Forest Community woodlands at Skerningham and near South Burdon. Local folk singer Vin Garbutt also recorded a song dedicated to the plight of the black poplar to publicise the campaign.

While the young trees will take many years to mature it is hoped that Darlington will become a focal point for the resurgence of these magnificent trees.

Ketton Packhorse Bridge, Barmpton

Ketton Packhorse Bridge BarmptonThe River Skerne originally flowed under the Ketton Packhorse Bridge, providing a crossing point on the ancient Salters Lane. Today the bridge stands high and dry, well away from the river, in open agricultural land.

It is a Grade II listed structure, dating from the late 17th or early 18th century, made from sandstone. The bridge is located close to Ketton Hall and can be reached on a walk from Beaumont Hill or Brafferton.

Decorative Metalwork

Wrough iron stagAround Darlington we are fortunate to have a number of pieces of stunning decorative and sculptural metalwork in public locations, which have been created by Brian Russell and his team at Little Newsham Forge near Winston.

Examples include the entrance to Leconfield on Cleveland Terrace (shown here) with a stag stepping out through a beach hedge. The entrance gates to the Blacketts Medical Practice in Bondgate were also produced by the blacksmiths at Little Newsham. Their design incorporates stethoscopes and a heart symbol. Many of the pieces have been commissioned by the developers Bussey and Armstrong including a gate into The Woodlands development from Woodland Road and the Hill Garth development off Cockerton Green.

Further afield the Rockcliffe development in Hurworth incorporates high quality ironwork railings and fabulous sculptural metalwork pieces can also be seen in a private garden on the green in Aldbrough St John.

Stockton & Darlington Railway Skerne Bridge

Skerne Bridge DarlingtonDarlington’s famous £5 note bridge can be accessed from John Street. The bridge was designed by Ignatius Bonomi to carry the new Stockton & Darlington railway across the Skerne. Although the industrial decay in the area surrounding the bridge belies its importance as an engineering achievement, there are long term ambitions to improve access to it, possibly with the creation of a cycle path into the town centre.

George Stephenson’s Tunnel, Arnold Road

George Stephenson's Tunnel in Arnold Road DarlingtonGeorge Stephenson’s Tunnel in Arnold Road, off Haughton Road, must be one of Darlington’s least appreciated engineering assets. Built in 1824 by George Stephenson this tiny tunnel originally allowed cows to pass beneath the Stockton & Darlington Railway.

The tunnel was later widened to accommodate the expanded railway. This can be seen in the changes in the pattern of the stonework inside the tunnel.

Almost 200 years later it is still a working structure, today supporting the new cross town link road and providing a tunnel for pedestrians.

The Joseph Pease Drinking Fountains

Drinking fountainOrnate drinking fountains are located on three of Darlington’s main roads. They were donated by Joseph Pease to promote temperance to travellers and residents of the town. One can be found on Grange Road, set into what was the boundary wall of Joseph’s Southend estate. His Southend mansion is now the Bannatyne Hotel. Another is on Coniscliffe Road, also in the boundary wall of the Southend estate, while the third is on the corner of Milbank Road and Woodland Road.

Although they are unfortunately no longer in working order, the fountains remain an attractive part of Darlington’s townscape and a legacy of the town’s Quaker heritage.

Westbrook Villas

Information to follow

Hells Kettles

Information to follow

Glacial Erratics

Information to follow

Monument to W.T. Stead, Crown Street

Information to follow

Edward Pease’s House, Northgate

Information to follow

If you have any suggestions that you consider to be among Darlington’s hidden gems, please email history@aboutdarlington.co.uk.


Comments

Hidden Gems of Darlington — 1 Comment

  1. The history of Darlington is very interesting as a place of beautiful buildings and hidden Jems you don’t know about. I like reading and seeing what buildings originally looked like before they are spoilt.

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