BANK Holiday Monday was the 25th anniversary of the opening of Darlington’s Cornmill Shopping Centre.

The project was eight years in the making, and in a special commemorative supplement published by The Northern Echo to mark the occasion, we reflected on how there was so much interest in the project that peep holes had to be bored into the hoardings during construction so the public could watch the progress.

The mall was one of the most complicated engineering projects ever to be undertaken in the town centre. Buildings had to be demolished, underground rivers negotiated and 300 support columns buried under the development.

Work was carried out in two stages starting in September 1988 with the demolition of the large Co-operative store, several shops and offices and the Pied Piper pub, formerly known as the Raby Hotel.

Several rooms of the King’s Head hotel had to be removed, as well as parts of Woolworths.

Construction started the following January. A fact-file contained in our supplement recorded that the total construction involved 876,000 bricks, which if stacked on top of each other would be 36 miles high.

The centre occupies 140,000 cubic metres between Tubwell Row, High Row and Northgate, and the design was meant to reflect the Edwardian and Victorian themes of the town.

Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons carried out the work, and staff on the site apparently became familiar with a ghostly apparition who was resident there.

On the day of its opening people queued outside, such was the anticipation, and a four-day celebratory event was held over the Bank Holiday weekend in August 1992.

The centre’s name had been chosen five years earlier by then 12-year-old Richard Blair, from Witton-le-Wear, who won a competition with his choice of The Cornmill after researching the mills on the River Skerne in the 18th and 19 Centuries.

Richard’s prize was a BBC computer, monitor, printer and disk drive for his school, and a personal stereo for himself.

He was invited to a VIP day for The Cornmill’s opening – which happened to be his 17th birthday.