I PROMISED in Saturday's Memories to post my version of William Peachey's rise and fall on here and, belatedly, here it is. I wrote it in 2008 when I was asked to help reopen Peachey's Baptist church in Darlington - I gave a little talk from the pulpit, which is not my natural territory.


WILLIAM PEACHEY had it all. He had arrived in the Tees Valley with nothing, yet within 20 years he had made his name as one of the area's most distinctive architects.

He had designed the most luxurious hotel and the grandest railway station in the North of England. He had developed a unique style, at home building extravagant showpieces and smaller projects that are still, 150 years later, lived in and worshipped in. He had a large department of draughtsmen and clerks working beneath him, and he had friends in the highest places.

But he wanted more.

And that proved his downfall.

He was born in Cheltenham in 1824 and he followed a Baptist minister to Darlington in 1854. Like his father, he was a carpenter, but in his new life he reinvented himself as an architect.

Within five years, he became the Stockton and Darlington Railway's architect.

The big idea of the railway chairman, Henry Pease, was to create an up-market seaside resort on the Cleveland coast where the tall cliffs provided glorious views over miles of sandy beaches and where a small beck had carved a picturesque ravine down to the sea.

In early 1861, Peachey set to work, building the first houses in Alpha Street in the new town of Saltburn for railway workers to live in.

Those complete, Peachey started on the railway station, which he built with three grand entrance arches in the Peases' buff brick.

Already Peachey's style was showing. He followed the Gothic fashion of the day, but without the dark, Dracula feel of GG Hoskins, the architect of Darlington's King's Head Hotel and Middlesbrough's Town Hall, who featured here recently.

Peachey's were lighter and had a Continental feel.

The central feature of Saltburn was to be the Zetland Hotel. "It is placed on a bluff overhanging the sea so that, while it commands a beautiful expanse of the German Ocean and the grand rocks which resist its force, at the same time it overlooks the most charming glens and undulating slopes, " said the Darlington and Stockton Times (D&ST) in 1863.

"Invalids unable to bear the strong breath of the sea breezes can find without fatigue a climate entirely different, and at a short distance enjoy the delicate softness of moor air. " Peachey, aided by Pease, designed the hotel, and then oversaw its construction, living in it so he could manage its fitting out.

It bloomed fantastically over budget: in 1861, £6,000 had been set aside for it, but by the time all the bills were paid in 1865, it had cost more than £39,000. One director dismissed such overspend as lunacy, but he must have been eating his words when it was opened on July 27, 1863, by Lord Zetland, after whom it was named.

Peachey and all the big industrial names of the Tees Valley attended an elaborate banquet, "the sumptuousness and elegance of which, together with the bill of fare, appeared of so novel a description to many of the guests, that the most diverting ignorance was displayed".

A magnificent menu was "served a la Russe, and the fruits and flowers were supplied from Convent (sic) Garden and the chairman's gardens (Henry Pease) at Stanhope Castle".

Of the hotel, the D&ST concluded: "No accommodation so perfect, or any approach to it, is to be found in the North of England, to that offered in this new place, for wedding breakfasts, bachelors' parties, or any refined reunion in which consummate taste, regardless of expense, is the thing looked for, in combination with luxurious comfort. " Peachey had triumphed with his first major contract.

The Zetland - which has been apartments since the Eighties - is a splendid building, with dramatic windows, splendid balconies and a sumptuous central tower. At the top of the cliff, it has a grand sweeping stone staircase; into its rear swept the railway. A holidaymaker could travel from London direct into the hotel without setting foot outside his carriage.

Yet all was not quite right.

Henry Fell Pease went through the accounts of the Zetland and wrote to Henry Pease, his father: "There seems some mystery about the discounts and we suspect Peachey is not quite straightforward. " Perhaps this is why, having built such a landmark, Peachey spent the next decade shunted into the architectural sidings, working on smaller projects like lineside stations.

His next crack at the big time came in 1873:

Middlesbrough station. This was to be more than just a mere station. It was to be a cathedral dedicated to steam railways and, as historian William Tomlinson said, "an architectural tribute to the greatness of Middlesbrough".

To this day, it is a splendid mish-mash of slate rooflines and Gothic details, a marvellous assemblage of frontages, archways, subways and bridges.

In its day, it was even better, with a lofty arched trainshed 60ft high in cast iron and glass, into which trains entered at first storey level.

In contrast to the Zetland Hotel, though, Middlesbrough station did not have a sumptuous banquet nor grand opening.

It simply came into operation on December 1, 1877.

"The station was crowded in every part by person desirous of seeing the first train enter, " reported The Northern Echo. "It was timed to arrive at 6.06pm, but it did not arrive until nearly a quarter past. A number of fog signals were placed on the rail, and went off as the train entered the station. " Perhaps this lack of ceremony was because by late 1877, its creator had disappeared in disgrace.

On January 5 that year, Peachey had appeared before the board of the North Eastern Railway and had resigned with immediate effect. Although he was on six months notice, he received no payment. His draughtsmen, who had followed him up from Cheltenham, were told to "leave forthwith", and his five clerks were dismissed as "their services no longer being required".

This spectacular fall from grace was hushed up, but it would appear that Peachey had been taking backhanders.

In April 1876, he wrote to the Adamson brothers of Gainford. They had provided the granite for Middlesbrough station, and had just won their largest railway contract: a new goods station for Stockton.

Peachey wrote: "Gentlemen, I put a considerable sum of added money into the Stockton warehouse contract to pay some extras on several small works for which I did not want to ask for more money.

I have put £500 in this pay, as one or two want their money - do please let me have the cash when you get it. " In other words, if a builder wanted to win a contract to work on a railway building, he had to pay the architect for the privilege. In three early summer months in 1876, while building the £22,000 station, the Adamsons paid Peachey £1,100 in response to his demands.

Somehow, he was rumbled by the railway and, aged 51, he was summarily removed.

He never again got the opportunity to design on such a grand scale. He quietly tried to revive his career in Saltburn before retiring to Bromley-by-Bow, London, in 1904, where he died in 1912.

He left the North-East a grand clifftop hotel, a fine Baptist chapel, a number of interesting homes, and two and a half operational railway stations: one at Saltburn, the other at Beamish Museum, and the half at Middlesbrough following a direct hit by a German air raid in August 1942 which destroyed the trainshed, Peachey's crowning glory.

|The full story of Peachey's fall is told in A History of North Eastern Railway Architecture Vo lume 2 by Bill Fawcett (North Eastern Railway Association, 2003), to which we are indebted.

The works of architect William Peachey

REDCAR 1860: Designed the trainshed and a pair of level crossing houses.

MARSKE 1860: Peachey's first contract was for the station and he built the stationmaster's house. Both demolished.

SALTBURN 1861-63: Designed and built the Zetland Hotel, the station and several terraces. After his fall, he lived in Saltburn and built the post office (1901).

DARLINGTON 1861-76: Most of his private contracts for villas and shops were in Darlington: Pierremont Crescent (1866), Grange Road Baptist Church (1871), police superintendent's house (1872) and garden cottage, Carmel Road (1875). He also built Whessoe Street (1872) and probably the North Road Shops (where Morrison's is today).

Note: To this list should now be added the Whessoe Road engine shed of 1862 (see Saturday's Memories, Feb 2, 2013)

FORCETT 1860s: Built the Parsonage, which still stands.

HUTTON GATE (NEAR GUISBOROUGH) 1867: Built a station for a Pease mansion.

WEAR VALLEY JUNCTION AND ETHERLEY 1867: Designed and built two stations on the Wear Valley Railway.

ST HELEN AUCKLAND 1871: Designed the station house.

GUISBOROUGH 1871: Designed and built six railway workers' cottages.

TOW LAW 1871-72: Designed the station which closed in 1956 and has been demolished.

WITTON-LE-WEAR 1872: Designed Witton-le-Wear stationmaster's house.

BROTTON AND LOFTUS 1872: Identical stations which Peachey designed with seven brick arches. Also designed stations at Pinchingthorpe (1875) and Boosbeck (1876), now houses.

ROWLEY 1873: Peachey was asked for "a very small station" which he based on his designs for Brotton and Loftus, only with three arches. It closed in 1939 and in 1974 was dismantled and re-built at Beamish Museum.

EVENWOOD 1875: Designed and built the station which is now a house.