ONE of the most striking pictures to emerge as we researched last weekend’s special supplement celebrating The Northern Echo’s 150th anniversary can be seen on today’s front cover.

It was taken in about 1894 apparently from an upstairs window in the Echo’s press hall on Darlington’s Crown Street. We are looking south towards St Cuthbert’s Church – its spire is beneath the Barker and Stonehouse advert. The edge of Stead’s pub can be seen beneath the church on the right hand side.

The main part of the picture is the wreckage of Peases Mill – the Sports Direct multi-storey car park occupies its site now.

The woollen mill catastrophically caught fire at 11.45am on Monday, February 26, 1894. Amazingly, no one was killed as firemen fought until the evening to get the blaze under control, but scores of mill girls had to be lowered from the rooftop by mill foreman, William Langhorne, who tied a rope around their waists.

Many of the girls fainted when they were caught on the ground by policemen.

“The place has a melancholy spectacle with its roofless and windowless walls, smoke blackened and tottering,” said the Echo the following morning, and that is what our picture captures.

Although work commenced at 6am the next day in undamaged parts of the mill, at least 300 girls were thrown out of work immediately – a terrible blow in the days before any state help.

The Peases’ insurers coughed up £80,000 – about £10m in today’s values – to repair the mill.

On the left hand side of the picture is a fascinating advertising hoarding. Top right is an advert the Echo, a Liberal newspaper. Immediately below it is an advert for the North Star, its Conservative rival that was printed 100 yards away near Wilko’s.

There’s half a fierce bull advertising Bovril, and a poster promoting Firth’s Whiskies. Best of all is the simple message: “Kompo for Colds”.

Kompo appears to have been a firewater, made by JF White of Harrogate, which would have blasted any nasty bugs out of your system. It contained “over 6% alcohol, with small quantities of cloves, cinnamon, caustic soda, eucalyptus gum and salicylic acid”.

In the foreground is JR Johnson & Sons’ monumental masons’ yard which occupied spare land on the corner of Crown Street and Priestgate next to the Echo’s first offices. As the 150th anniversary supplement showed, the Echo built its current headquarters on the whole corner site between 1914 and 1917.