A redevelopment project to preserve an historic building linked to the region’s railway heritage faces a race against time to be completed before bicentenary celebrations next year. 

Edward Pease House, in Darlington, was earmarked for a £3.5m investment boost as part of the government’s Towns Fund programme and is due to be converted into a multi-use space. 

The Northgate building is currently in a poor state of repair, with numerous changes made to the facade over the years and is now almost unrecognisable as the Georgian building it is. A barber shop, takeaway pizza and kebab shops are currently operating in the units below. 

Darlington Borough Council had hoped to acquire the four properties which make up the building in time for the bicentenary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 2025. However, a meeting heard the local authority has only been able to acquire one of the properties which make up the historic site. 

The Northern Echo: Edward Pease House as seen today Edward Pease House as seen today (Image: The Northern Echo)

Around £3m of the initial outlined funding has now been diverted to the redevelopment of the former Northern Echo building, in Priestgate. The site will include an adult skills hub alongside commercial office space.

Speaking to councillors at an economy and resources scrutiny meeting on Thursday, the council’s Towns Fund Programme Manager Chris Mains revealed the scaled-back scheme is “almost ready” to go through the planning process. 

A feasibility report considering options for the whole of Edward Pease House is in development. The local authority previously said the railway heritage of Darlington is “incomplete without recognition and the intervention of sympathetic property refurbishment”. 

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The Northern Echo: An emblem commemorating Pease's connection to the building can still be seen today An emblem commemorating Pease's connection to the building can still be seen today (Image: The Northern Echo)

“Celebrating our rich heritage is a key part of our long-term Town Centre Plan and Edward Pease House in Northgate is part of the Darlington Towns Fund programme,” said a council spokeswoman. “The historic house is currently subdivided into a number of separate properties. The council has acquired one property and, whilst it remains a long-held ambition to progress the full scheme, we have been unable at this stage to acquire the remaining ones.  

“The Towns Fund Board, with Government approval, intends to develop the one property the council owns within the overall house to showcase part of this heritage asset utilising the allocated budget.”

The property is of significant historic value as a well-documented meeting took place between Edward Pease and George Stephenson in the kitchen of Pease’s Northgate home on April 19, 1821. This meeting led to the construction of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the first public passenger railway in the world.