THIS month, the Darlington Centre for Local Studies, in the town's main library, has held a Whessoe exhibition.

Whessoe, of course, is one of the world's great engineering firms. It began in Tubwell Row, Darlington, in 1790 when William Kitching opened an ironmonger's shop. Six years later, he began a foundry at the rear of his premises to making castings for chimneys and agricultural implements. His son, also William, became involved in the Stockton & Darlington Railway, winning a contract in 1824 to provide 15 guineas-worth of nails to fix the rails to the sleepers.

By 1831, William and his brother, Alfred, had so much railway work that they moved to a bigger site at Hopetown, near North Road station.

Towards the end of the 19th Century, Whessoe began moving into tanks: tanks to hold oil and tanks to hold gas. By the 1920s, Whessoe had given up on railways, and had become was one of the biggest tank-manufacturing businesses in the world, employing 3,000 people at Brinkburn Road.

However, as engineering struggled in the UK post-war, so Whessoe struggled, and it gradually downsized, stopped making things and specialised in design. Brinkburn Road was cleared in 1992 for housing, but the Whessoe name still lives on, now based at Morton Palms and owned by a South Korean company, Samsung C&T, and still specialising in gas technology.