BRENDA STOKOE has spotted this unusual brick on the front of a pair of semi-detached houses in Bates Avenue, Cockerton, and wonders what it represents. One of the properties was once Alderson’s butchers shop.

The Northern Echo: Bates Avenue, Cockerton

As members of the Darlington As It Looked Facebook group have been exploring, the brick seems to have on it a “fasces” – a bundle of birch rods tied with a red strip and with an axe poking out from inside. This was an Etruscan symbol from the 6th Century BC, adopted by the early Romans, symbolising a ruler’s power, specifically his power to impose judicial punishment on offenders – it became associated with magistrates.

After the Romans, the symbol – usually without the protruding axehead – was picked up by revolutionaries in 18th Century France and 19th Century America who used to represent strength through unity. Many memorials in the US to founding fathers George Washington and Abraham Lincoln have fasces on them.

In the 20th Century, the co-operative movement adopted the symbol and, as Ted Lickrish points out, the early 1930s art deco co-op on the corner of North Road and Askrigg Street has several fasces in its stonework.

The Northern Echo: The former co-op on the corner of North Road and Askrigg StreetThe former co-op on the corner of North Road and Askrigg Street has fasces in its stonework on the roofline


So we’d guess that the property in Bates Avenue was built in the late 1930s as a co-op butchers shop.

Benito Mussolini named his Fascist party after the Roman fasces symbol of power.

Adolf Hitler also adopted an ancient symbol, the swastika, which had previously represented good health and long life – there is an innocent swastika in the lino of a former hairdresser’s shop floor in Skinnergate.

Hitler twisted the swastika through 45 degrees so it still has evil connotations which the lesser-known fasces does not seem to have today.


The Northern Echo: Leanne Carroll's Hinde brothers bottle stopper found at Skerningham

LEANNE CARROLL discovered this little treasure while out walking at Skerningham on the northern edge of Darlington.

“It’s in good nick and feels stone-like,” she says.

It is a lovely bottle-stopper, at least 100 years old, made for Hinde’s brewery which was in Ridsdale Street in the east end of town. The brewery was started by two brothers, Thomas and George Hinde, in 1871. They sold it in 1875 and went wine-making in California for 10 years before returning, buying their brewery back and starting up again.

Thomas’s son, another Thomas, took the brewery on and became mayor in 1921. He sold to John Smith’s Brewery in the late 1920s, and brewing ceased in this corner of Darlington.

The old brewery is now a dance studio and little pieces of the town’s history can be found by the eagle-eyed in unexpected quarters.