“Alice has the sweetest disposition on earth. Two lovely long kisses by the brook under a tree near the waterworks. Swore before I went I wouldn't kiss her as I have a bad cold but so had she and I couldn't resist it.”


SO wrote 25-year-old Vincent Heslop in his diary exactly 100 years ago, as he kissed the object of his affections, 21-year-old Alice Sykes, near the Broken Scar waterworks on the edge of Darlington.

Vincent’s diary from 1921 is currently unfolding week by week on a new website, vincentandalice.co.uk, so people can see in real time how the young accountant was spending his time in Darlington, going to “the Hip”, queuing for the pictures in Northgate, staying up to the early hours to play cards, and, of course, pursuing Alice.

Whereas Vincent lived in the west end of town, and his father, William, became the town’s mayor in 1931, Alice lived in a terrace on Corporation Road and worked in an insurance office. These very different ends of town were united by the Greenbank Methodist Church, where both their families worshipped and where their eyes first met.

The website also features Alice’s diary, so we can see the relationship developing from both sides.

Vincent, who despite his poor eyesight had served in France during the First World War, is the more intense character, studying Alice’s every move and analysing every glance.

One of his entries from September 1920, he writes of the conclusions of his studies into the female form and how there were different types of girls.

1. Moody and gloomy girls

2. Silly, giggling girls

3. Bossy girls (mostly schoolteachers)

4. Fast girls and flirts

5. Conceited girls

6. Shy girls

7. Really shy girls

8. Sporting girls

9. Jolly and sporty girls

10. Sensible girls

11. Alice

“Have put Alice in class by herself as she is unique and combines all the best qualities of each class,” he writes – and this is four months before that first kiss.

Alice, though, is not so introspective. She’s out and about and having fun, well aware that there are other suitors close at hand.

So while Vincent is swooning in his diary about that first kiss beneath the waterworks tree, Alice was writing about just another day.

Her entry says simply: “Met FJ at night with NB. Couldn't supress disappointed feelings. To pictures with Vince and for a walk."

Alice, though, was very literary – she wrote plays and performed with the Greenbank Music and Dramatic Society – and she liked to finish her week’s diary with a rhyming couplet. Directly under the sentenced about the walk, she wrote: "One happy hour this week has brought, remembrance of it will be a treasured thought.”

Was she referring to those minutes beneath the waterworks tree?

That the diary is being uploaded by Vincent and Alice’s grandson, Andy, is a bit of a giveaway of the love story’s happy ending. They married in the Methodist chapel, and lived happily every after, Vincent working for the family firm as an accountant and Alice becoming a “moderate” councillor elected onto Darlington council by the Pierremont ward in the 1950s.

The diaries run hand-in-hand throughout 1921 and Andy is uploading the entries week-by-week, illustrating them with photos and cuttings that Alice collected in boxes throughout her life. The blog allows members of his family to follow their story and it also opens a window onto the past of the town for other people.

“It is so interesting to see what cafes, hotels and shops were open, and how they went to the cinema at the Court or the Alhambra, or walking down Walworth lane,” he says. “It is a dip back into Darlington life.”

Everyone is invited to follow the story of the young lovers as it unfolds precisely 100 years ago.

Visit Vincent and Alice's diary