SADLY, you don’t hear anything of Crumley Corner these days, but 50 or more years ago it would have featured on every traffic bulletin.

“There are long delays on the Great North Road at Crumley Corner, to the north of Darlington and Coatham Mundeville caused by yet another fatal accident,” the broadcaster would have said.

Fifty years ago this week, Crumley Corner was finally ironed out, when the Aycliffe to Bradbury section of the A1(M) was opened.

Crumley Corner was a couple of 90 degree bends which ensured that the old Great North Road – now the A167 – avoided the River Skerne to the south of Aycliffe Village. Today’s Junction 59 of the A1(M) is just about on top of the notorious corner, which came to national prominence in 1963 when the MP for Sedgefield, Joseph Slater, asked a Crumley question in the House of Commons.

He demanded to know from Transport Minister Thomas Galbraith what plans the Government had “to mitigate the danger at Crumley Corner”.

Hansard records that Mr Slater said: “Will the honourable Gentleman take it that I have in my hand a Press cutting, under the heading “Appointment with Death”, which reveals that within the last six years no fewer than ten fatal accidents have taken place at this particular spot. Another fatal accident occurred there only last week. Moreover, 65 other accidents occurred there within the last four years. What has the hon. Gentleman’s Department been doing during the past few years about this danger spot which has involved so many fatal accidents?”

In fairness, the Department of Transport was in the process of building the Darlington bypass, which ran from Scotch Corner to Crumley Corner and which opened on May 15, 1967. After that it built the five-mile stretch from the dreaded Corner to Bradbury.

It was a tricky construction project because the road went over the bed of a prehistoric lake, the Skerne Lake. To a depth of 50ft, the bed was made up of “soft, silty clays with the consistency of toothpaste” which was dug out and dumped on 45 acres of nearby farmland where it took three years to dry out.

The channel was then backfilled with slag from a reclamation scheme at Spennymoor and then the road was laid on top of it.

Opening day was October 12, 1967 – 50 years ago this week.

“The Aycliffe to Bradbury stretch of the Durham motorway opened yesterday – and first to use the new road was a cattle truck,” said the Echo. “Behind the truck came a luxurious Princess car and following that were hesitant motorists.”

They were hesitant because the road surface hadn’t been cleaned and was coated with a layer of mud from the construction vehicles’ tyres. A drying wind sprung up and so the first motorists were greeted by a dense dust cloud.

But they must have been relieved that the new road meant they could speed on without ever again worrying that they were going to be killed at Crumley Corner.

Can you tell us why it was called Crumley Corner?