IT is great news that in Darlington's new Local Plan, passed last week, that the Georgian pleasure grounds surrounding Blackwell Grange gain protection as an urban parkland and wildlife site. This weekend, the new parkland is to host its first official event when the Cleveland Orienteering Club

The grounds were laid out by the Allan family from 1710, based on designs by famed landscape artist Capability Brown. George Allan, originally from Yarm, made a fortune out of salt dealing and through speculation in the South Sea Bubble, cannily withdrawing his money before the bubble burst in 1720.

The Northern Echo: Blackwell Grange in the 1850s

Blackwell Grange in the 1850s

For much of the 18th Century, the Grange was Darlington's pre-eminent mansion, and the lavish pleasure grounds featured strategically planted trees to create views across the countryside, plus fishponds, ha-has, an orchard and an icehouse, all of which still remain to some degree.

They, in turn, are on top of medieval ridge and furrow farmland that takes the story back several centuries further.

In the 18th Century, a lane, known as Mill Lane as it led to Blackwell Mill where the rugby club is today, ran across the site west to east providing a natural boundary of the parkland. Land to the south of the lane, which now forms a triangle down to the Blands Corner roundabout, was outside the parkland and used for farming. Today, as part of the Local Plan, this triangle is earmarked for housing.

There is, though, a curious building in this triangle which is connected to Blackwell Grange.

It stands beside Blackwell Lane and is known locally as "the Victorian carriage shed".

The Northern Echo: Blackwell Grange

"The Victorian carriage shed" at Blackwell Grange is more of an agricultural building

Whether it ever was used for carriages is debatable as it looks more like a Victorian agricultural building, but over its main entrance is a strange, weathered carved stone (below) which is older than the rest of the building. Some people can see a dove of peace carved in the stone. It has an olive branch in its beak.

The Northern Echo: Blackwell Grange.

One of the Allans, George (1736-1800) was known as "the Antiquary" as he loved collecting old items, including stones – from 1792 to 1794, he opened his collection for display and it was Darlington's first museum.

Could the stone be something ancient that the Antiquary collected from somewhere?

Alternatively, the ever-present Pease family adopted a dove of peace carrying a peapod of peace in its beak as their emblem during Victorian times – could the stone have some connection to them?

Does anyone have any theories or information about this building that might help to inform discussion about its future?