VICTORIA ROAD was once a well-to-do sort of a place, with terraces of large late Victorian townhouses and even the odd villa.

Now, the dual carriageways blast through, taking traffic around Darlington town centre, and its south side has been torn down and replaced by a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

The supermarket is on the site of an 1825 mansion, Beechwood, which had splendid gardens and was lived in by various members of the leading Quaker families. Parcels of land on its fringes were sold off towards the end of the 19th Century, and the comfortable properties of Victoria Road began to take shape.

In the middle of one of those terraces was a building with curious turret. What was it, asked Memories 509, and, of course, everybody knew: it was St Cuthbert’s Church Hall.

It was opened by Lord Barnard shortly before Christmas 1897, having been designed by churchwarden and architect William Moscrop. Mr Moscrop also designed the first phase of Darlington Memorial Hospital in the late 1920s, which was built as a memorial to the men who had been killed during the First World War.

Those men included his only son, Captain William Noel Moscrop, who was killed fighting with the 5th Durham Light Infantry on May 27, 1918, on the first day of the Third Battle of Aisne, in northern France. He was 26.

When Mr Moscrop died in the early 1930s, he left £25,000 to the Memorial Hospital – that’d be worth £1.75m in today’s values – and a ward was named after him.

With such a poignant story attached to the hall’s designer, it is little wonder that the hall itself played a major part in both of the major conflicts of the 20th Century.

Bank Top station was the closest mainline station to Catterick Camp, and thousands upon thousands of men dashing back from leave found themselves stranded overnight on its platforms, awaiting the 6.40am local train to the camp. The Women’s Royal Voluntary Service had a 24-hour soup kitchen at the station to keep them sustained, although many of the soldiers were directed down to the church hall where parishioners ran a canteen and had installed rows of mattresses for them to sleep on.

A plaque installed in the hall records that during the First World War, 57,000 soldiers slept a night in the hall, and during the Second World War, 119,000 nights were slept there – an impressive record.

Many people, though, have memories of more peaceable activities in the hall attended by hundreds of children at a time: Sunday schools, cubs, Brownies etc…

All that came to an end when in April 1972 a Compulsory Purchase Order was placed on the south side of Victoria Road, and the properties were demolished in 1974.

A new church hall was built quite discreetly in a corner of St Cuthbert’s churchyard – you would hardly notice its existence, but it is large enough for 4,000 people to have received their flu vaccinations there recently.

LOADS of people have memories of the church hall.

Kirstie Walls said: “At a church concert in the early 1970s, when Sandy Shaw topped the charts with Puppet on a String, I was dressed up in a pink and white dress crocheted by my dad, my cheeks coloured red with lipstick and string tied around my wrists so that an older girl to operate me as a puppet up on the stage.

“I also presented a bouquet of flowers to Lady Starmer who had attended the concert.”

Martin Smith said: “I was a member of St Cuthbert’s cub and scout troop in the 1950s and our meeting hall was down in the lower part of the hall.”

Eveline Wilson said: “I use to live in the house that was joined onto the hall, and I remember going to Brownies and barn dances that were held there. My mam went to a weekly ladies group there.”

DAVID PICKUP says that one of the buildings at the top of the south side of Victoria Road which was demolished at the same time as the church hall was the clubhouse of the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School Old Boys Association. The association moved to the Mowden Park Rugby Club after demolition.

ALSO demolished in 1974 was a doctors’ surgery which had been in a bungalow behind the south side Victoria Road terrace. It was the surgery of Drs Elphick (a husband and wife duo) and Dr Meagher.

“I well remember as a youngster sitting in that waiting room for ages and ages before being seen,” says Ken Bowman. “No matter when you went in, all the adults got seen before you, and you daren't say anything.”

When demolition came, this practice moved to the new Carmel Surgery in Nunnery Lane, which had been built in a Second World War bomb crater.

MANY thanks to everyone who has helped with this article, especially Christine Port, Katherine Williamson, Colin Bainbridge and Les Earnshaw. Have you got anything to add about this area of town? Please email