LAST week, we were in Blackwellgate, Darlington, looking at Bainbridge Barker’s department store which greeted travellers as they entered the town centre on the Great North Road down Grange Road.

John Hill has kindly sent in these pictures of Victoria Road, the neighbouring street to Blackwellgate. They were taken shortly before 1976 when the south side of Victoria Road was completely cleared to make way for the dual carriageway of the inner ring road. Today, a block of flats and the Sainsbury’s petrol filling station is on this site.

The most notable casualty of the demolition was Orwell House, a big villa on the corner with Grange Road. In 1867, perhaps when it was newly built, it became the home of Dr Stephen Piper, Darlington’s first Medical Officer, who cleaned up the town and helped to create the first hospital, public park and swimming baths.

Dr Piper was born in Ipswich through which the River Orwell runs.

In 1924, Orwell House was converted into the Grange Hotel. When demolition came along, the business was transferred to Joseph Pease’s former mansion of Southend which now, of course, is the Bannatyne Hotel Darlington, one of the businesses of Duncan Bannatyne, the Dragons' Den star.

It is said that the brass plaque bearing the name of the “Grange” was also transferred to the doorway of the new hotel, but the only plaque we’ve ever seen there has the date “1828” on it, referring to Southend’s beginnings.

If you have any information about this, or any memories of this area of town, please email