LAST week, we mentioned the Bishop School, a secretarial college that was founded in Coniscliffe Road, Darlington, during the Second World War by Helen Bishop – the great-aunt of regular correspondent Wendy Acres.

Helen’s younger brother, Walter, and his wife, Eleanor, were also active in the school right into the 1970s.

In 1951, the Bishop School moved into Upperthorpe, a Victorian villa near the Memorial Hospital in Woodland Road, and many secretaries and book-keepers will have fond memories of their time there until it closed in 1991.

Today, Upperthorpe is a children’s nursery.

The property began life in 1868 as the home of Quaker engineer, William Cudworth – in fact, it was “designed and built by himself to his complete satisfaction”.

William was the son of a grocer and was born on High Row in 1815. Aged 10, he was present at the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR).

He became an apprentice shipbuilder at Sunderland, and immersed himself so deeply in his trade that he worked as a sailor to really understand how ships operated.

He built ships in Middlesbrough but, in 1840 aged 25, he threw his lot in with the S&DR. He did much of the engineering work on the Middlesbrough & Guisborough, which opened in 1854, including designing the terminus at Guisborough.

In 1857, he was put in charge of the engineering of the Hownes Gill (or Hownsgill) Viaduct near Consett on the Stanley & Tyne Railway. This stunning piece of railway infrastructure – 730ft long, 160ft high, with 12 60ft arches marching across a dry ravine – was designed by Thomas Bouch with input from Robert Stephenson, but Cudworth was crucial in completing the job by June 1858. The viaduct cost £15,756 and contains between 2.5m and three million creamy firebricks so characteristic of Pease-related constructions.

Cudworth also designed the world’s largest marshalling yard at Shildon, and enlarged Middlesbrough Dock in 1869 – the year that Upperthorpe was faced in white bricks very similar to those used in the construction of the viaduct. Perhaps he had enough for a house left over.

No one now knows why he called his villa Upperthorpe – Upperthorpe is a part of Sheffield, with which he has no obvious connection, although his father hailed from Painthorpe which is beside the M1 near Wakefield. Names were important to William, though, as in 1869 he suggested that Cockerton Lane should be renamed Woodland Road to suit its leafy suburban status.

He spent his retirement in Upperthorpe, teaching at the Friends Adult School in Skinnergate, and translating various classics from Greek and Latin for the fun of it. Aged 80, he taught himself Italian so he could read the works of Dante in the language they were meant to be read in.

He died on June 4, 1906, in Saltburn and is buried in the Quaker graveyard in Skinnergate.

HOWNES GILL closed to passenger traffic in February 1955, although goods trains continued to use it until the early 1980s. The track was lifted in 1985.

It is said that in high winds, passengers were asked to open all the windows in the carriages as they went across the viaduct to prevent the train from being blown off. Can this really be true?