IF only Memories had £3.25m! Then we could put in a bid for the 108-bedroom Blackwell Grange Hotel on the southern edge of Darlington.

Its going up for sale has prompted us to delve into its picture packet in The Northern Echo's photo-library. This revealed lots of pictures of the paper's most famous recent date: on September 25, 1972, William Whitelaw, then the Northern Ireland Secretary, convened an Irish peace conference there, which attracted national interest and required a security cordon of 150 police officers.

The two major parties, the Nationalists and the Unionists led by the Reverend Ian Paisley, boycotted the talks and so only moderate Unionists attended. It was the seen at the time as a waste of time and yet it was at Darlington that the concept of power-sharing emerged for the first time.

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The hotel's history, of course, goes back much further than that. At its core, it may even have some of the "handsome mansion house" that Yarm saltdealer George Allan bought in 1690. He set about creating an even more handsome mansion, which was complete by 1710, but then when his eldest son, George, married local heiress Thomasine Prescott, a south wing was required. George Senior built it while they were away on honeymoon, and today you can still see the dated rainwater heads with their initials on: "TG1722A".

After nine generations of Allans living in the Grange, in which it acquired at least one ghost, it was sold to Darlington council in 1953 for £37,000 and converted into a hotel which is now worth £3.25m.

The Northern Echo: CURIOUS STONE: Built into the archway of a late Victorian carriage shed at Blackwell Grange is this weathered stone. It appears to be much older and it also appears to be on its side. If turned around, it could be a dove with a peapod in its beak – a sy

ABOVE AND BELOW: Built into the archway of a late Victorian carriage shed at Blackwell Grange, pictured below, is this weathered stone. It appears to be much older and it also appears to be on its side. If turned around, it could be a dove with a peapod in its beak – a symbol of peace which the Pease family adopted. But the Pease family had no connection to the Grange. Why is it there, and where does it come from? Any theories?

The Northern Echo: OLD OUTBUILDING: On Carmel Road South, near the Blands Corner roundabout, there is a very boring looking outbuilding which dates from 1860 to 1890 – but it has a very curious stone built in above its big door