North Cemetery, which lies between North Road and Thompson Street West in Darlington, is at the heart of the industrial heritage of the town. It is the final resting place of many of the iron and railway workers who put Darlington on the industrial map in the nineteenth century.
The layout, chapels and lodges of the cemetery were designed by GG Hoskins, one of the leading architects of the town, whose grave is in West Cemetery. It was built by Robert Borrowdale in 1874, funded initially by the Quaker Pease family, to whom there is an ornate gothic memorial in the centre of the cemetery.
This guide will help visitors to locate the more notable graves and provides a brief background to their occupants. The site also includes a guide to the symbolism to be found in this and other cemeteries.
If you are visiting the cemetery to follow this guide, you will need to download and print the North Cemetery Map which indicates the locations of the graves mentioned in the guide.
The guide and accompanying map can also be followed on an iPad, iPhone or other smartphone, which will allow you to view the links to relevant documents and images during your walk.
North Cemetery Guide
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1. Michael Murphy V.C., (Died 1893)
Plot number C-P-163
Murphy received the Victoria Cross in the Indian Mutiny in 1858. He charged into a square of rebel’s to rescue the injured Lieutenant Hamilton of 3rd Sikh Cavalry, whose horse had been shot. Murphy’s horse was also shot but he stood over Hamilton and defended him until assistance arrived. He received five severe wounds and killed five of the enemy.
In 1872 he was found guilty of the theft of oats and hay from army supplies in Aldershot, where he was stationed. He was sentenced to nine months’ hard labour and ordered to forfeit his VC. Despite having worn it every day during his trial, the medal could not be found. After serving his sentence he returned to his regiment. His medal re-appeared 26 years later.
Later in life he lived for three years in a cottage at Blackwell which belonged to Sir Henry Havelock-Allan, with whom he had served in India. Sir Havelock-Allan and other comrades paid for his memorial.
Three of Murphy’s four sons who were killed in action while serving in a variety of theatres of war.
2. Thomas Brown (Died 1916)
Plot number B-S-134
Owner and editor of the ‘Redcar and Saltburn Gazette’, a printer and stationer as well as a councillor on Redcar Urban District Council. His funeral took place on Boxing Day 1916.
3. Charles Edward Handy (Died 1918)
Plot number A-FF-122
Principle of the Darlington Technical College. Died while playing golf at Harrowgate Hill.
4. John Robinson, Francis Hind & Thomas Wailes (Died 1881)
Plot number A-2E-xx
Three railway men from Darlington, killed on 26 December 1881 together with two others from Shildon, when a railway engine boiler exploded at Stockton. Robinson and Hind were the driver and fireman of the goods train which exploded. Wailes was the guard in the rear van of a mineral train which stood ahead of it at a set of signals. The Northern Echo reported that the arms of two of the unfortunate victims were blown off.
Councillor ED Walker organised an appeal to raise funds for the bereaved families through his railway bookstalls. Their funeral was attended by more than 4,000 people.
The accident was found to have been caused by insufficient vertical stays within the boiler, which allowed the fire-box front plate of the engine to bulge and rupture under pressure.
5. William Waldon Davison (Died 1879)
Plot number B-DD-71
A former turner at North Road Engine Works, the Northern Echo wrote that William was “a man of exemplary character and a kindly disposition, he gained the esteem of all with whom he had to do. As proof of the appreciation in which he was held, 600 workmen of the various departments of the shops followed him to his last resting place.”
6. James Ogden (Died 1893)
Plot number A-EE-84
Former missionary. Lived a St Paul’s vicarage.
7. Thomas Howe (Died 1894) and James Haw (Died 1889)
Plot number A-HH-53
One of the most tragic graves in the cemetery, where the remains of two boys lie. They are thought to have been from the same family as they both died in Grass Street, following separate accidents.
James Haw, aged 15, was killed in 1889 when a fire at the North of England School Furniture Company, known as the School Furny, caused the building to collapse onto a crowd of onlookers. The disaster killed four others, including Robert Barker Hall and George Wilson, whose graves are included in the Guide to West Cemetery. James is not mentioned on the headstone, but his plot was soon to be used for a second burial.
Thomas Howe was a 14 year old apprentice at Smythe’s gunpowder shop in Blackwellgate in 1894 when an ill-judged child’s experiment, or possibly a spark from his hobnail boot and a nail in a floorboard, is believed to have been the cause of a massive explosion which destroyed the building and others around it. Thomas was “discovered with a heavy bench vice jammed hard against his disfigured face and with his arms crushed under him” wrote the Darlington & Stockton Times. His mangled body was carried to Russell Street Hospital where he was chloroformed and his left arm was amputated by Dr Eastwood, whose grave, coincidently, lies close by. Thomas died the following day.
In another tragedy for the family, James’ father William had been killed in 1893 in an accident while working as an engine driver. He fell backwards from his engine into the pit of a turntable at the North-Eastern engine sheds and died after suffering serious injuries to his back. He is buried elsewhere in the cemetery, though his grave is unmarked.
8. WT Barningham (Died 18??)
Plot number A-xx-xx
William Barningham was the son of a grocer from Arkengarthdale and lived in poverty as a boy. Desperate to find work, in 1839 he and his mother walked to Middlesbrough where he became a blacksmith. By 1843 his reputation for ingenuity led him to work in an iron foundry in France, where he earned enough money to return to set up his own business in Pendleton, Manchester, where he began to produce railway lines. In 1858 he set up another ironworks on Albert Hill in Darlington and won a contract to supply rails to the Eastern Bengal Railway Company. By 1872 he was supplying rails to India, Russia and America. He employed 2,000 men and boys in Darlington, at the largest ironworks in the north of England.
He was a prodigious drinker, enjoying two-day sessions at the Kings Head hotel, before returning home and beating his wife Margaret, who is buried beside him. He also treated his workers with contempt and was so hated that a plot was hatched, during a meeting of the Iron and Steel Dressers Union in the Dolphin Hotel, to shoot him. However the assassination attempt was not carried out.
In 1872 he sold shares in his foundry for £275,000 (around £23m today), just before a recession hit and the business collapsed. Barningham however had amassed a fortune and still had an ironstone mine near Guisborough, a steamship and his works and home in Pendleton, as well as property near Masham, Tamworth and Paris.
However his past of heavy drinking caught up with him. He spent the final years of his life travelling alone around spas in France and in Britain, trying to find relief from a liver complaint. He died in Pendleton in 1882, estranged from his wife and daughter Mary, having rewritten his will three times in his final days. Margaret and Mary would go on to contest this in the Great Darlington Will Case – see below.
9. Margaret Barningham (Died 1883) and Mary Barningham (Died 1915)
Plot number A-xx-xx
In his will the fabulously wealthy William Baringham (see above) left nothing to Margret, his estranged. She had long suffered his violence and drunken behaviour. When he moved away Margaret continued to live at their Springfield farmhouse, close to the Five Arch Bridge in Darlington. She died almost exactly a year after William’s death.
Because his daughter Mary had sided with her mother, he reduced her share in the will to £20,000, while the remainder of his £400,000 fortune (worth around £37m today), went to his nephews, William and Thomas. Her father had hoped that she would marry Thomas but she refused, and instead successfully contested the will through the High Court in London. She was awarded £150,000 (around £14m today). She purchased Gatherley Castle near Catterick Village with part of her settlement, where she remained, a spinster, until her death in 1915.
10. Francis Stear, D.C.M., M.S.M. (Died 1925)
Plot number B-K-7
Awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal (second only to the Victoria Cross) for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty while serving as a Battery Sergeant Major in the Royal Field Artillery during the First World War. His citation, from 17 July 1917, said that he showed great courage and initiative when commanding the waggon line, which came under heavy fire. Francis had previously served during the Anglo-Boer War where he had been wounded at Fredrikstad in October 1900.
11 Henry Warwick (Died 1900)
Plot number A-CCC-49
Brewer, wine & spirit merchant of Honeypot House, Darlington. He was the propriator of the Victoria Brewery in Darlington. He died while staying at the Bishop Blaize hotel in Richmond.
12 Ralph Cummin and Samuel Wight (Died 1888)
Plot number A-3B-xx
“Frightful affair at Darlington – two boys roasted alive” read the Northern Echo headline on 7 March 1888. The previous morning Ralph Cummin and Samuel Wight had been among a group of boys playing on the cinder heap of the Darlington Steel & Iron company – a constantly burning fire with a thin crust of ash, used to dispose of the refuse from the works beside the river Skerne. The boys were running across the surface when it gave way and a large hole opened up. When the smoke and dust cleared Cummin and Wight were not to be seen. As it was almost time for school the other boys assumed that they had already set off towards St Paul’s School, which they attended with Wight, but he did not arrive. The alarm was eventually raised when the two boys failed to return home in the evening. Eventually their remains and possessions, comprising two jaw bones, vertebrae and smaller bones, buttons and the wire from a catapult that Wight had been carrying, were pulled from the fiery heap.
At their inquest the coroner made much of the long running failed attempts to keep children from playing on the heap, suggesting that the police and watchmen take a stick to them or that the company should summon some of them to court for trespass. This, he thought, would be supported by their parents. The police sergeant replied, “unfortunately, that spirit does not exist in the North End of Darlington”.