The Blackwell Neighbourhood Forum has just been formed in one of Darlington's most exclusive suburbs, and to help inform its "neighbourhood development plan", it has created a heritage group to investigate the village's rich past. As a starting point, Chris Lloyd offers a bite-sized guide to the history of Blackwell

1. BLACKWELL MILL: In 1183, it was described as one of the "finest old mills in the north of England". It was owned by the Bishop of Durham, all Blackwell farmers were obliged to grind their corn there until Darlington council bought the Bishop out for £2,500 in 1863. The mill carried on working until 1907, and was demolished in 1938.

2. WALK MILL NOOK: Many early Blackwellians were linen workers – the waters of the Skerne and the Tees were renowned for their bleaching properties. The Nook was beside the Skerne near Snipe House. In a large water-filled trough, a "walker" (hence the surname) trampled on the cloth to stretch and flatten it.

3. BLAND'S CORNER: Named after the chap who had a garage here during the First World War, it was previously known as Angel Corner after its pub. The Angel closed in 1873 and was converted into a Sunday school, which was demolished in 1971. Now it is Evans Halshaw's car dealership, and next to it is a Second World War pill-box, built to defend Darlington from invading Germans. The animal drinking trough, which was placed outside the school in November 1913 by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association has been moved to the opposite side of the road., presumably when the A66 was built from Blackwell to Great Burdon in 1984.

4. THE SKERNE PARK: Ten acres was bought from Blackwell Grange by the council in 1908 to extend South Park. In 1921, 250 unemployed men were put to work, digging out a large boating lake which, when it opened on April 22, 1924, held 12m gallons of water. The lake, with the Skerne running through it, kept clogging up with waste washed out of the south Durham collieries, so it was filled in in 1954.

5. BLACKWELL GRANGE: Yarm saltdealer George Allan started building here in about 1690, probably on the site of an old farmhouse, and his descendants created one of Darlington's foremost mansions. His grand-daughter, Ann, known as "The Good Miss Allan", died in 1785 and is said to haunt the Grange. In 1880, it was inherited by cousin Sir Henry Marsham Havelock of Sunderland on the proviso that he added Allan to his surname. In 1953, Darlington council purchased the mansion and in 1970 it was turned into a hotel. In September 1972, it was in the national spotlight when Home Secretary William Whitelaw hosted a Northern Ireland peace conference here.

6. HAUNTED LANE: Lots of ghosts haunt Blackwell Lane. A headless man bars entry to night-time travellers wishing to go to the old Manor, while another ghost called Old Pinkney, who wears a red nightcap and is connected to the Prescotts, also hangs out here. The ghost of Cicely Kirby, who was killed by an English soldier in the lane on his way to the Battle of Culloden is also here, although she may be the "Tartan Lady" who is said to appear in Blackwell Grange on the eve of the battle. These stories may be connected to an entry in Darlington's parish registers which says that on December 17, 1683, Beatrix Harrison, who had died a violent death, was buried in Blackwell Lane. In September 1935, council workmen discovered a female skeleton and marked the site of their discovery with a stone – today, there is a stone by the wall at the top of Hartford Road.

7. PUNCHBOWL INN: Once stood beside Carmel Road. Like the other pubs in Blackwell parish – the Angel at Bland's Corner and the Nag's Head and Ship Inn which were on the A167 to Hurworth Place – its main trade came from the trains of coal-carrying ponies that skirted round Darlington on their way from the south Durham pits to Yorkshire markets. The advent of the railways ruined their business and the Punchbowl closed in 1899.

8. BLACKWELL COTTAGE: A humble hilltop cottage until Sir Henry Havelock-Allan bought it in 1880 and turned it into a seven-bedroom house which he grandly renamed Blackwell Manor. In 1904, film producer Anthony Havelock-Allan was born here (he married famous actress Valerie Hobson in 1939). It was demolished in 1964 and now Cypress Grove and the Mormon Church are on its site.

9. CASTLE HILL: There probably was never a castle here. Instead, in ancient times, it may have been a meeting place, perhaps even the site of an early court. Much of the hill was washed away by the great flood of 1771.

10. BLACKWELL HALL: Built in the late 18th Century overlooking the Tees, the Hall was bought by John Allan in about 1810, who started enlarging it – the dining room could hold 200 – and beautifying the large gardens which even contained a tulip tree. Auctioneer Stanley Robinson bought the Hall in 1930 and converted it into "a palatial Georgian hotel" – in its heyday, it was regarded as Darlington's most luxurious place to stay. By the 1960s, it was in need of repair. It was bought by Raines builders for £20,100 in 1965 and, despite national misgivings, they knocked it down. Blackwell Grove, Briar Close and Briar Walk are now on its grounds.

11. BLACKWELL HILL: Banker Jonathan Backhouse, of Polam Hall, bought whatever remained of the Manor in the early 19th Century. In about 1870, Eliza Barclay, who had been born a Backhouse and whose life had been dogged by grief, built the Hill – perhaps designed by prolific local architect GG Hoskins. It had seven bedrooms, six dressing rooms and splendid views, Eliza probably built it as a boarding school, or possibly an orphanage, for working-class children to learn to be servants and so escape poverty. After Eliza's death, Edward Backhouse Mounsey converted it into a private house, and in 1944 it became the home of John Neasham, motor dealer and director of Darlington Football Club. In 1972, it was sold for £140,000, demolished and Farrholme was built on its site. Its gateposts, tower gatehouse and the crenellated wall for its fruit garden remain.

12. DOWER HOUSE: Probably built by Eliza for herself. She died there in 1881, and it became the laundry for her school – the bell on its rooftop was said to be rung when there was a clean load for collection. Now a private house. In the garden is an old bridge which Eliza is said to have driven her carriage over, and next door are her coach-house, stables and coachman's house.

13. BLACKWELL MANOR: The ancient seat of the Neville family and then, from the 16th Century, the Prescotts was high above the Tees with the first Blackwell villagers living below on the riverbank. The precise location of the manor is unknown, but after the last of the Prescotts, Richard Arden, left in 1849 it fell down.

14. HIGH LINHAMS: Built in 1926 for Edward Backhouse Mounsey, this 13 bedroom mansion suffered badly on May 1, 1942, when a stray German bomber dropped four high explosive bombs on neighbouring fields. The Mounsey family sold it in 2008 for £1.25m and it is now called Foster Hall.

15. BLACKWELL HILL LODGE: Apparently built by Hoskins in 1869 as a successful trial for the orange and cream bricks with which he was proposing to build Blackwell Hill. Since it was first sold for £11,500 at auction in 1976, it has undergone an incomplete refurbishment.

16. BLACKWELL BRIDGE: It is on the site of an old horse ford. Its foundation stone was laid on "bales of wool and faggots of thorns" on June 5, 1832, as a new toll road from Scotch Corner to Darlington was constructed. Newcastle architect John Green, who also built Penshaw Monument and Whorlton Bridge, was in charge. On December 16, 1833, workman Jeffrey Butterfield was washed off the bridge's scaffolding and, clinging to timber, he was swept to Hurworth where he was rescued beneath the church by the ferryboat. The bridge opened soon afterwards, with tolls, which were abolished on October 31, 1879, being collected in the fascinating house that clings to the Yorkshire parapet. On March 9, 1881, Richard Gargett drowned when the Thorngate footbridge in Barnard Castle collapsed and his body was found at Blackwell Bridge several days later. The single carriageway bridge was widened in 1959-61.

BLOB If you can help with any aspect of Blackwell's history and recent past, please email