A North East railway station dating from the early 19th Century, known as the "world's first" station has been upgraded to a Grade II* listed building. 

Heighington & Aycliffe Railway Station, in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham has been given a special Grade II listed status by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport on the advice of Historic England.

Heighington & Aycliffe Railway Station in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham was originally listed at Grade II in 1980 in recognition of its role within the early development of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.

It was at this station that George Stephenson’s Locomotion No.1 (then known as Active) was put on the rails in 1825 for the inauguration of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

Read more: Research shows no part of Locomotion No 1 dates from 1825

The Northern Echo: Heighington & Aycliffe Railway Station.

Heighington & Aycliffe station was also the site of tragedy three years later in 1828 when the Locomotion’s boiler exploded, killing its driver. 

Now, following extensive research by Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway, in conjunction with Historic England, the building has been upgraded to a Grade II*, elevating it into the top 10% of England’s most important historic buildings.

Originally, the building was believed to date to the mid-1830s, but new research has revealed that it was actually completed in 1827.

Experts believe that this makes it the earliest-ever example of a railway station although it was not officially referred to as one until the late 1830s. 

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The Northern Echo: Heighington & Aycliffe Railway Station in County Durham. Upgraded to Grade II* Heighington & Aycliffe Railway Station in County Durham. Upgraded to Grade II* (Image: Niall Hammond/Friends of the S&DR)

When the building was commissioned, the concept of the railway station had yet to be developed and its original purpose was to function as a tavern to provide shelter and refreshment for workers and customers at the adjacent coal and goods depot.

Sarah Charlesworth, Listing Team Leader for Historic England in the North, said: "It’s amazing to think that this simple building in County Durham helped to inspire a way of travelling that’s used by billions of people across the world. 

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"From the humblest single platform station to the vast terminals of St Pancras and the Gard du Nord, they all owe a debt to Heighington & Aycliffe Railway Station."

Niall Hammond, Chair of the Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway CIO, said: “Nearly 200 years ago, the S&DR was the railway that got the world on track, by creating all the fundamental ideas of the modern railway and inspiring a worldwide revolution in transport and communications.

"It’s fantastic to see this recognised in the new listing upgrade and a just reward for all the in-depth research by Historic England and our own members, especially the late Brendan Boyle."