AFTER its £35m overhaul, Darlington railway heritage zone is going to be reborn next year with a new name: Hopetown Darlington.

How ever did they come up with that?


The story of Hopetown begins in 1832 when the Pease family bought some farmland to the west of where their Stockton & Darlington Railway crossed over the Great North Road.

The Northern Echo: Hopetown logoThe new logo for the Hopetown Darlington quarter

The Northern Echo: Hopetown Darlington. Picture: Sarah CaldecottThe railway museum at Hopetown under wraps this week. Picture: Sarah Caldecott

Although this area in the north of Darlington was still countryside, it was becoming of increasing interest to the railway. A branchline spurred off the S&DR and ran down to the coal drops at Westbrook and, very near the newly-bought field, the railway had a weigh-house collecting tolls from the people using the tracks.

Two foundries were being built beside the line to serve the railway. One was run by William Lister, whose father had been a whitesmith in Tubwell Row, and the other was started by the Kitching brothers, William and Alfred, whose father had an ironmonger’s shop at the top of the same street.

The Northern Echo: Alfred KitchingAlfred Kitching. Picture courtesy of Darlington Centre for Local Studies

Both businesses could see the potential of the railway. In 1824, the Kitchings had received their first order from the S&DR for 15 guineas-worth of nails to fix the rails to the sleepers, and in 1830, Mr Lister had been asked to rebuild the S&DR’s locomotive No 3, Black Diamond.

These growing industries encouraged the Peases to build on their new field a couple of terraces which together made Alliance Street. There were 12 houses in the west terrace and eight in the east, and by the 1841 census, there were 198 residents – mostly railway workers but still some farm labourers – crammed into these small properties.

By 1836, at the rear of Alliance Street and facing onto the railway tracks, a pub called The New Inn was trading, and this area was being called “Hope Town”. In fact, Mr Lister was calling his business “Hopetown Foundry”.

Why Hope? Well, there was obviously great optimism that this new railway enterprise would be a success. Indeed, the S&DR’s No 2 engine, after Locomotion No 1, was called Hope. It was an unreliable engine, running away on Stockton quayside in 1827 and being so badly damaged in a collision with some wagons in November 1835 that it was taken into the Kitching brothers’ foundry at “Hope Town” to be substantially rebuilt.

But there also seems to have been a political dimension to the name “Hope Town”. In 1832, when the Peases bought the land, the Great Reform Act was being passed so the great hope was that the country was entering a new age of greater democracy. The Alliance Street houses were humble but they were large enough for people to gain a vote by owning one, and in 1833, 13 people in the street were on the voters’ list.

The foundries of Hope Town continued to grow. In 1835, the Kitchings built their first engine, called Enterprise and, not to be out-done, in 1839, Mr Lister built his first engine, which was called Middlesbrough. Both were designed by Timothy Hackworth.

The Northern Echo: Derwent, the oldest Darlington-built loco in existence, in the railway museum. Picture: Head of SteamDerwent, the oldest Darlington-built loco in existence, in the railway museum

The Kitchings continued to build locos into the 1840s, most famously Derwent, of 1845, which is today the oldest Darlington-built loco still in existence. For many years, it stood alongside Locomotion No 1 on Bank Top station and now it is one of the star exhibits in the Darlington museum, just yards from where it was built.

Over time, Alfred became the dominant brother and bought out Mr Lister’s neighbouring works so that the Kitchings’ business became known as Hopetown Foundry. In the 1850s, the S&DR took all engine construction in-house and so the foundry was forced to diversify: it took on a new name, Whessoe, and over the next century built specialist storage tanks the world over.

The Northern Echo: Whessoe archiveThe entrance to Whessoe on Alliance Street beside the Hopetown Cut

Back in Darlington, as the railway end of town became busier, the name “Hope Town” was applied to more parts of it, over time becoming one word. In 1842, North Road station opened for passengers, but opposite it was a goods station that was referred to as “Hopetown”.

The Northern Echo: The Hopetown Carriageworks are being restoredThe Hopetown Carriageworks are being restored. Picture: Sarah Caldecott

Then, on Hopetown Lane, in 1853, the Hopetown Carriageworks was opened, where railway carriages were built until 1884.

And when the Barnard Castle line opened in 1861, it branched off the S&DR at the Hopetown junction which was controlled by the Hopetown signalbox.

The Northern Echo: Hopetown signal box, photographed by Ray Goad in 1971 as it was closing. Picture courtesy of the JW Armsrong TrustHopetown signal box, photographed by Ray Goad in 1971 as it was closing. Picture courtesy of the JW Armsrong Trust

And at the top of Hopetown Lane, where the road ducks under the railway line, was the Hopetown Cut, initially just a modest underpass but widened at the start of the 20th Century so that two vehicles could squeeze through it.

At 6.05pm on November 2, 1951, a train of 30 laden wagons, including an oil tanker, ran out of control on its journey from Aycliffe. When signalman Joseph Moffat, in the Hopetown box, got word of the 500-ton breakaway heading his way, he feared it would smash through North Road station and then out onto the East Coast Main Line, so he dashed 150 yards to a set of points which he turned forcing the runaway into a siding which terminated above the Hopetown Cut.

The Northern Echo: LIFE GOES ON: The Hopetown Cut accident, November 2, 1951The 1951 accident at the Hopetown Cut with wagons bursting through the walls. Picture courtesy of Darlington Centre for Local Studies

The wagons burst through the Cut wall and plummeted onto the roadway beneath, with oil pouring from the tanker as well.

By a miracle, the Cut, usually crowded with people going from their Hopetown homes to the industries, no one was injured, and Mr Moffat was hailed a quick-thinking hero – if the wagons had crashed down on car full of children, he might have received a different welcome.

The Northern Echo: SCENE OF DESTRUCTION: The gaping hole on the Hopetown Cut in November 1951 after the runaway train had smashed into the brickwork. Picture courtesy of Richard Barber and The Armstrong TrustThe gaping hole on the Hopetown Cut in November 1951 after the runaway train had smashed into the brickwork. Picture courtesy of Richard Barber and The Armstrong Trust

Today, the cutting, the carriageworks and the lane still bear the Hopetown name. All of the Peases’ earliest terraces in Alliance Street have gone. Perhaps the closest to a survivor from those days is the New Inn, which was renamed the Railway Hotel and was completely rebuilt in 1909, although the curious gyratory system through which cars approach the Hopetown Cut means that the traffic still flows as if the original terraces were still there.

The Northern Echo: The Railway Hotel in Otley Terrace is on the site of the New Inn. Alliance Street is on the right

  • Much information from Brendan Boyle’s research into Hopetown, which appeared in edition 10 of The Globe, the magazine of the Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway

The Northern Echo: The old nameboard on the Hopetown signalbox. PIcture: Richard BarberThe nameboard from the Hopetown signalbox. Picture: Richard Barber

NO one knows why the Pease family chose to call the first terrace Alliance Street – what alliance were they celebrating?

The Railway Hotel, which is now housing, is in Otley Street which was named after Richard Otley, who was the S&DR’s surveyor in the 1830s.

The street which completes Hopetown’s three-sided gyratory system is Ann’s Terrace – but we don’t know who Ann was.

Hopetown didn’t expand much beyond these early terraces until the 1880s where Farrer and Surtees streets were built. James Farrer and Charles Surtees, of Redworth Hall, were Conservative MPs for South Durham in the decades after the Great Reform Act.

Then we have Harcourt Street which, when planned in the 1890s, was to be called Gabb Street after Charles Gabb from whom the Peases bought the Hopetown field around 1830. When complete, though, we think it was given the name of Sir William Harcourt, who was the Liberal Home Secretary and Chancellor in the 1880s and 1890s – unless you can tell us any differently?



The Northern Echo: Hopetown scrapyard, courtesy of John Askwith and the Darlington Railway Preservation SocietyLooking across Foundry Field beside the museum to the Hopetown Carriageworks and with the terraces of Hopetown in the distance. This picture was taken in 1895 when the field had become a temporary station for exhibits arriving for the Royal Agricultural Society Show which was being held at Hummersknott. Picture courtesy of John Askwith and the North Eastern Railway Association