AS CARS whizz out of Darlington in their mad dash along the A66 towards Middlesbrough, they pass a handful of brick bungalows low down on the left-hand side.

The semi-detached bungalows probably are not worth a second thought to most drivers as the battle begins to outwit the solitary speed camera which is always posted somewhere along the A66, but their beginnings are curious.

They stand in Beacon Hill, which is a small satellite of the village of Sadberge, and their story begins in 1934 when Arthur Shepherd, a retired farmer, received planning permission for "four blocks of semi-detached temporary dwellings".

Somehow, he managed to build five blocks at a cost of £80 each; somehow the temporary became practically permanent.

Mr Shepherd let the two-bedroomed wooden homes for 11s 6d a week, and after the death of his widow in 1962, the new owners began to make the buildings permanently permanent. The first one to be bricked around was No 1; the last one was done only ten or so years ago.

MR Shepherd may well have built his huts out of wood because they were cheap. But one of the many people who have contacted Echo Memories on the subject of Beacon Hill reckons it was because the huts were left-overs from the Royal Agricultural Show of 1920. The Royal Agricultural Show was peripatetic: it first appeared in Darlington in 1895 and last appeared in 1920.

As the second Echo Memories book explains, the 1920 showground was at Hundens Farm, midway between Haughton Road and Yarm Road. Hundens was chosen because of its proximity to the East Coast Mainline. The North Eastern Railway Company built three sidings and a station for its passengers, and the council built Hundens Lane for foot passengers. In all, 182,000 visited the show during its five-day run.

The showground took 80 men a year to assemble. They used ten tons of nails, 70 tons of canvas and 1,700 tons of wood. At the centre was the royal pavilion: a grand, five-roomed affair, with an oak-panelled dining room decorated with carvings and rich hangings. The private retiring room had walls of golden brown leather and a panelled wooden frieze. All the furniture was Jacobean oak; watercolours adorned the walls; outside was a private "old court garden".

The guest of honour who occupied the pavilion was the Duke of York, later to become King George VI.

But this was England in summertime, so it rained. It poured as well - "a pitiless downpour" soaked the third day. All of the thousands of exhibits became bogged down in a quagmire - today's footballers on the Hundens' pitches will testify to the poor drainage qualities of the area.

The Duke of York was no stick in the mud: he left the day before the "pitiless downpour".

At the end of the show, it took the workmen six weeks to extricate the Royal Pavilion from Hundens and send it on its way to Derby, where the 1921 show was held. Usually this job took just three weeks.

So could it be that having dragged the pavilion, the stands and the exhibits out of the mud, the workmen were running so far behind schedule that they had to leave behind the temporary wooden huts in which they had made their homes? And it could it be these temporary huts that Mr Shepherd moved to Sadberge and which still stand in a brick-built form to this day? Any information, as ever, is gratefully received.

THERE are a number of reasons why Echo Memories has found itself side-tracked in Sadberge, one of them being the Women's Land Army Hostel at Beacon Hill.

It was on the opposite side of the A66 - which, of course, was once a single track road - to the bungalows and behind what was once a filling station.

Mary Woodthorpe of the village has information on this and many other subjects.

Her records show that Beacon Hill Cottage was built for market gardener Thomas Todd, of Haughton, in 1897. The Blair family took it over after the First World War and then, in the late 1920s, the Bill family of poultry farmers owned it.

It was they who converted it into a petrol station in the early 1930s - a business that was taken over by father and son Frederick and Thomas Lister. They kept it going until 1967, when it was demolished so that the A66 could be widened.

Behind the Beacon Hill filling station was the Women's Land Army Hostel. It is now used as a transport depot, but Mary's records show that 29 women lived there in 1947. Five Land Army girls are believed to have married Sadberge men. They worked on farms in the district.

Don Whitfield, from Darlington, recalls: "At the end of the war, I started to cycle to work at around 7am from Salutation Road down Coniscliffe Road to Robert Stephenson's locomotive works in Thompson Street. I would meet about eight Land Army girls in Coniscliffe Road as they cycled to work in the West End of Darlington."

Echo Memories, The Northern Echo, Priestgate, Darlington DL1 1NF, e-mail or telephone (01325) 505062.