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Darlington: Of policemen, motorways and town centre street names
PEOPLE have clearly been studying the 1965 aerial view of the Covered Market in Darlington which was in last Wednesday's Memories (Echo, Oct 7), because a couple have pointed out the policeman waving his hands in the middle of High Row.
(Actually, properly I think the Covered Market is in West Row. The section between Tubwell Row and Priestgate is Prebend Row. I have a feeling that the King's Head is in Low Row or Low Flags, but that may be wrong. And then the HSBC bank is in Prospect Place. High Row is only the high row of houses along the top of High Row.) The picture was taken on November 1, 1965 - just five months after High Row had ceased to be on the Great North Road, the principal road between London and Edinburgh. The Darlington by-pass, the A1(M) and the connecting spur road, the A66 (M), were opened in May 1965 by the Minister for Transport, Tom Fraser.
I know this because one of the books on my desk awaiting an opening in the column is The Motorway Achievement: Building the Network in the North-East of England by FA Sims (Phillimore & Co, £25).
He says the first attempt to by-pass Darlington was made in 1929 when they were going to widen Carmel Road - the ancient coal road which was designed, I reckon, to by-pass Darlington so the carters didn't have to pay the town centre tolls. Locals objected to the 1929 plans, so they were moved west a bit, but the depression of the 1930s curtailed any development.
In 1949, the by-pass idea was re-thought, and this time it coincided with the closure of the Merrybent Railway and so - eventually - the A1(M) was built along its trackbed.
The first sod was cut in May 1963 by the then Transport Minister Ernest marples.
The £6.5 million scheme involved building 10.5 miles of motorway and reconstructing 9.5 miles of side roads, and the building of 34 bridges.
And still a policeman was needed to wave his arms in the middle of town!
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