Darlo town centre.JPG

Darlington town centre
Darlington is located in County Durham
Location within County Durham
Area19.73 km2 (7.62 sq mi)
• Density4,680.81/km2 (12,123.25/sq mi) (Town)
OS grid referenceNZ289147
• London219 mi (352 km) south
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Areas of the town
Postcode districtDL1, DL2, DL3
Dialling code01325
FireCounty Durham and Darlington
AmbulanceNorth East
UK Parliament
List of places
County Durham
54°31′37″N 1°33′09″W / 54.5270°N 1.5526°W / 54.5270; -1.5526Coordinates: 54°31′37″N 1°33′09″W / 54.5270°N 1.5526°W / 54.5270; -1.5526

Darlington is a market town in the Borough of Darlington, County Durham, England. The River Skerne flows through the town; it is a tributary of the River Tees. The Tees itself flows south of the town.

In the 19th century, Darlington underwent substantial industrial development, spurred by the establishment there of the world's first permanent steam-locomotive-powered passenger railway: the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Much of the vision (and financing) behind the railway's creation was provided by local Quaker families in the Georgian and Victorian eras.[1]

In the 2011 Census, the town had a population of 92,363 (the county's largest settlement by population) which had increased by the 2020 estimate population to 93,417.[2] The borough's population was 105,564 in the census,[3] It is a unitary authority and is a constituent member of the Tees Valley Combined Authority therefore part of the Tees Valley mayoralty.[4]



St Cuthbert's Church
St Cuthbert's Church

Darlington started as an Anglo-Saxon settlement. The name Darlington derives from the Anglo-Saxon Dearthington, which seemingly meant 'the settlement of Deornoth's people', but by Norman times the name had changed to Derlinton. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the town was usually known by the name of Darnton.[5]

Darlington has a historic market area in the town centre. St Cuthbert's Church, built in 1183, is one of the most important early English churches in the north of England and is Grade I listed.[6] The oldest church in Darlington is St Andrew's Church, built around 1100 in Haughton-le-Skerne.

When the author Daniel Defoe visited the town during the 18th century, he noted that it was eminent for "good bleaching of linen, so that I have known cloth brought from Scotland to be bleached here". However he also disparaged the town, writing that it had "nothing remarkable but dirt." (roads would have typically been unpaved in the 18th century.)[7]

The so-called "Durham Ox" came from Darlington (born in the early 19th century, this steer became renowned for its excellent proportions, which came to inform the standard for Shorthorn cattle.)[5]

Victorian era


Stooperdale Offices (built for the North Eastern Railway Company)
Stooperdale Offices (built for the North Eastern Railway Company)

During the early 19th century, Darlington remained a small market town.[8]

The Stockton and Darlington Railway ran steam locomotives designed for passengers and goods, built to a standard gauge, on a permanent main line with branches. On 27 September 1825, George Stephenson's engine, "Locomotion No. 1", travelled between Shildon and Stockton-on-Tees via Darlington, an event that was seen as ushering in the modern railway age.

Later in the 19th century, the town became an important centre for railway manufacturing. An early railway works was the Hopetown Carriage Works (est. 1853), which supplied carriages and locomotives to the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The engineering firm of William and Alfred Kitching also manufactured locomotives there around this time. The town eventually developed three significant railway works. The largest of these was the main-line Darlington Works, whose main factory, the North Road Shops, opened in 1863 and remained in operation until 1966. A second works, Robert Stephenson & Co. (colloquially: "Stivvies"), moved to Darlington from Newcastle upon Tyne in 1902. It was renamed "Robert Stephensons & Hawthorns" in 1937, was absorbed by English Electric around 1960, and had closed by 1964. The third was Faverdale Wagon Works, which was established in 1923 and closed in 1962. In the 1950s, it was a UK pioneer in applying mass-production techniques to the manufacture of railway goods wagons.

Quakers and the Echo

As the 19th century progressed, Quaker families in the Darlington area, such as the Peases and Backhouses, became prominent employers and philanthropists. Darlington's most famous landmark, the clock tower, was given to the town by the industrialist Joseph Pease in 1864.[9] The clock's face was crafted by T. Cooke & Sons of York, and the tower bells were cast by John Warner & Sons of nearby Norton-on-Tees.[6] These bells were the sister bells to those inside the Elizabeth Tower at the Houses of Parliament in London, the most famous of which is Big Ben.

The Darlington Mechanics Institute was opened in 1854 by Elizabeth Pease Nichol, who had made the largest donation towards its building costs.[10] The 91-acre South Park was redeveloped into its current form in 1853, with financial support from the Backhouse family.[11]

Alfred Waterhouse, who designed London's Natural History Museum and Manchester Town Hall, also designed Darlington’s Grade II-listed old Town Hall and Market Hall (in 1860), and its Backhouse's Bank building (in 1864). The latter, which took three years to build, is today now a branch of Barclays bank.[6]

During this period, the architect George Gordon Hoskins was responsible for much of the town's architecture, designing buildings such as The King's Head Hotel.

The Darlington Free Library, a Grade II listed building situated in Crown Street, was built with £10,000 funding from Edward Pease, who lived from 1834 to 1880. It was opened on 23 October 1885 by his daughter, Lady Lymington, after the town council accepted the gift of the purpose-built library and agreed to run it in perpetuity.

(The library building today houses a central lending department, a reference library and a "centre for local studies".)[12][13]

In 1870, The Northern Echo newspaper was launched.[14] William Thomas Stead, a notable editor of The Northern Echo, died in the Titanic disaster in 1912. Opposite the Northern Echo building in Priestgate is the William Stead public house.


Russian Crimean War Cannon from Sevastopol in South Park
Russian Crimean War Cannon from Sevastopol in South Park

In 1939, Darlington had the most cinema seats per capita in the United Kingdom.[6]

On the night of 13 January 1945, a Lancaster bomber piloted by Pilot Officer William Stuart McMullen of Canada was on a training exercise when one of its engines caught fire and it crashed on farmland near Lingfield Lane. McMullen heroically stayed at the controls while his crew parachuted to safety and directed the stricken aircraft away from the houses below. He was killed on impact. His heroism was honoured by renaming Lingfield Lane "McMullen Road" and erecting a memorial monument.[15][16]

Tornado and the brick train

Starting in 1993, the rail enthusiast group A1 Steam Locomotive Trust[17] worked on building an all-new steam locomotive, the first to be constructed since the 1960s. It was intended to be the 50th member of the long withdrawn LNER Peppercorn Class A1 engine, called Tornado and numbered 60163, from scratch in the 1853 former Stockton and Darlington Railway Carriage Works at Hopetown. Many of the original fleet had been built at Darlington locomotive works in the late 1940s. Tornado was completed in January 2008.

To commemorate the town's contribution to the railways, David Mach's 1997 work Train is located alongside the A66, close to the original Stockton–Darlington railway. It is a life-size brick sculpture of a steaming locomotive emerging from a tunnel, made from 185,000 Accrington Nori bricks. The work had a budget of £760,000.[18][19][20]

21st century

Darlington was the first town in England to allow same-sex civil ceremonies in 2001.[21] The town hosts an annual Gay Pride Festival which comprises a series of celebrations of local LGBT culture and acceptance held at venues across the town.

The town centre has undergone a full refurbishment entitled The Pedestrian Heart, which has seen the majority of the town centre pedestrianised.[22] Initially, the project received criticism surrounding changes to public transport, and removal of Victorian features along High Row.[23][24] There is now growing evidence, however, that the now-completed changes are meeting with local approval.[25] Then in 2014, the town saw the revamp of one of its old cinemas, The Majestic, into a soft play centre and theatre.

In August 2008 the King's Head Hotel in the town centre was devastated by fire, severely damaging the roof and 100 bedrooms. Several shops, including Woolworths, were damaged and had to close for weeks afterwards. No one was killed in the blaze. The hotel was carefully restored to its former glory and re-opened in 2012.[26][27]


See also: Darlington (UK Parliament constituency)

Darlington Town Hall

On 1 April 1997, the Borough of Darlington became a unitary authority area with the formation of Darlington Borough Council, which separated it from the non-metropolitan county of Durham for administrative purposes only, as the town is still within County Durham for ceremonial purposes. Although the former districts and boroughs of Durham now form the unitary authority of County Durham. This means that County Durham now has four unitary authorities. As of 2021, the Member of Parliament (MP) for this seat is Conservative Peter Gibson. Former members of parliament for the town include Jenny Chapman, Alan Milburn, the former Secretary of State for Health under the Tony Blair Labour government and Michael Fallon, who was Secretary of State for Defence under the David Cameron coalition government and Theresa May's Conservative government.


The River Skerne just east of the town centre
The River Skerne just east of the town centre

Darlington is located in the south of County Durham close to the River Tees, which acts as the border between Durham and Yorkshire. Both the River Tees and River Skerne pass through the borough, the Skerne later joining the Tees which then flows east and into the North Sea.

Areas within the Borough

In the north are Harrowgate, Coatham Mundeville and Beaumont Hill and to the north-east are Whinfield and Haughton Le Skerne. To the east is the suburb of Eastbourne and Red Hall with Firthmoor and Skerne Park to the south. Situated in the west end are Hummersknott, Mowden and Blackwell. Finally, to the north-west are Branksome, Cockerton, Faverdale, The Denes, West Park, High Grange and Pierremont which is associated with the notable Henry Pease (MP).[28][29]

Distance to other places

Place Distance Direction Relation
London 217 miles (349 km)[30] South Capital city of the UK
Hartlepool 18 miles (29 km)[31] North East Combined Authority area
Durham 17 miles (27 km)[32] North Historic county town and closest city
Middlesbrough 13 miles (21 km)[33] East Combined Authority area
Stockton 10 miles (16 km)[34] East Combined Authority area


The trend of regional gross value added of Darlington at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by the Office for National Statistics, with figures in £ millions.

Year Regional Gross Value Added[a] Agricu­lture[b] Indust­ry[c] Servi­ces[d]
1995 1,115 8 377 729
2000 1,192 6 417 768
2003 1,538 6 561 971

Darlington was un-industrial throughout the 20th century, with finance and manufacturing as the main elements of its economy.

Service Sector

A major employer in the area is the English division of the Student Loans Company, Student Finance England, which is based at Lingfield Point and employs over 1,000 people.[35] Other large service sector companies with offices in the town include Darlington Building Society. Darlington Borough Council announced that the site for the DL1 complex, previously a car park for Darlington Town Hall, was also to be redeveloped to house riverside office space for the Department for Education to replace its previous office on the edge of the town in Mowden, in an effort to safeguard Darlington jobs. This was officially opened on 19 March 2015.[36] The Disclosure and Barring Service has a national office in the town. Amazon UK operates a warehouse facility, which opened in early 2020, employing 1,300 full-time staff, one of the town’s biggest employers.


EE is the largest private sector employer in the town, with 2,500 staff. The company took over its operations from one of its predecessors, Orange Mobile. The international telecommunications company BT Group recently announced Darlington as one of the economically important locations in England to have BT fibre-optic cables installed underground as part of the company's BT Infinity superfast broadband rollout project. BT Group cites its decision to include Darlington in the national rollour of multi-provider fibre optic (cable) broadband as necessary due to the towns relatively large amount of IT demanding firms and future plans for developments including space for high-tech firms.

Morton Park

The Morton Park area of Darlington is currently undergoing a partial redevelopment, with areas of unused waste land being redeveloped into modern industrial and office space. Companies based in Morton Park and the surrounding area are Infoserve Ltd and vehicle rental company Northgate Vehicle Hire. Morrisons supermarket at Morton Park[37] opened in August 1995.

Other commercial spaces in Darlington include North Road Industrial Estate, which includes a Morrisons supermarket;[38] Cleveland Trading Estate and Faverdale Industrial Estate. The council depot on Central Park is also to be redeveloped into commercial space.


Darlington has a rich engineering heritage and several notable engineering firms established locally. Bridge building was particularly important in the town. Bridges built in Darlington span the River Nile and Amazon.[5]

Local engineering firms include:

Retail and leisure

Darlington market hall
The Cornmill Centre
The Cornmill Centre

As an historic market town, a weekly outdoor market was held on the market square, which is one of the biggest in the country. An indoor market is located underneath the town clock on Prebend Row.

They are a number of shops in the area:

In November 2012, a deal was signed between Darlington Borough Council and developer Terrace Hill for a £30 million re-development of the site of the former Feethams bus depot. The development includes a new multiplex cinema run by Vue Cinemas to serve Darlington and the wider South Durham area, as the area currently has no multiplex cinema. The development has an 80 bedroom Premier Inn hotel, and various food and drink venues including Prezzo, Bella Italia and Hungry Horse. The proposal had an expected completion date of late 2014, though this did overrun with completion early 2016.[42]


Darlington memorial hospital
Darlington memorial hospital

Darlington Memorial Hospital is on Hollyhurst Road,[43] in the corridor between Woodland Road and The Denes.

Culture and landmarks

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Buildings of Darlington
Landmarks from top left to bottom right:
Mowden Hall, Sockburn Hall, the Majestic Theatre (left of the photo) and the Hippodrome theatre


The former Civic Theatre, now The Hippodrome, is a popular arts venue in the town, hosting a mix of musicals, dramas, plays and pantomimes. In 2016, Darlington Civic Theatre closed to mark the start of a £12.3 million renovation project that included a £4.5 million lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and revamped as 'The Hippodrome' and connects to the children's theatre 'Hullabaloo'.[44]

Forum Music Centre

The Forum Music Centre, opened in 2004, hosts regular live music events, from Ska and Punk to Indie and Classic Rock. It also runs a comedy club. As well as live music, the facility houses a state of the art recording studio and several rehearsal rooms. The Carmel Rhythm Club, at Carmel College in the Hummersknott end of town, was another music venue.

Dog Show

Darlington Dog Show was a championship event from 1969. It was usually held in September on the showground in South Park; but it has now moved to Ripon.


The Jamia Mosque and Islamic Society of Darlington is located in the North Lodge Terrace area of the town,[45][46] an area with a relatively high proportion of ethnic minority residents (39.2% of the population in that area, compared to a town average of 6.3%).[47] Constituted as a charity under UK law in 1982,[48] the mosque offers worship facilities, as well as Islamic education, and has its own telecommunications mast for calls to prayer.[49]



Teesside International Airport is five miles (eight kilometres) east of Darlington town centre and serves County Durham and North Yorkshire. The airport was known as Durham Tees Valley Airport from 2004 until mid-2019. It has flights to a few domestic locations across the UK and international flights to some locations in Europe. Many private or general aviation Flights use the airport. The airport has a Fire Training Centre which trains many airport firefighters.

The nearest large airports are Newcastle (42 miles (68 kilometres)) and Leeds Bradford (62 miles (100 kilometres)).


Darlington Station, Top Bank
Darlington Station, Top Bank

Local services run from North Road railway station, the town's original station. Darlington railway station lies on the East Coast Main Line and has regular services to London Kings Cross, Leeds City, Edinburgh Waverley, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Airport and Newcastle.

Darlington railway station also serves as the mainline interchange for Middlesbrough station, which itself has few intercity services. Darlington also has access to the Tees Valley Line connecting all the main settlements along the River Tees, running from Bishop Auckland to Saltburn via Darlington, Stockton-on-Tees and Middlesbrough.

Darlington railway station has a large Victorian clock tower which can be seen throughout large areas of the town.


Darlington is well connected to the North East's major trunk route, the A1(M), which bypasses the town to the west. It was completed in 1965, replacing the Great North Road route which is now known as the A167. The town is served by three closely-spaced junctions of the A1(M): Junctions 57 A66(M), 58 A68, and 59 A167. Junction 59 is the access exit for Darlington motorway services (Newton Park), with an onsite filling station, hotel and restaurant. Darlington is also close to other major trunk routes, including the A66 trans-Pennine route connecting Darlington to Stockton-on-Tees and the A19.

The £5.9 million five miles (eight kilometres) A66 Darlington eastern bypass opened on 25 November 1985. The Darlington Eastern Transport Corridor, linking the Central Park regeneration zone (Haughton Road) and Darlington town centre to a new roundabout on the A66, was opened in the summer of 2008.


Arriva buses in Darlington
Arriva buses in Darlington

Bus transport in the town is provided by Arriva North East.

Stagecoach used to operate in the town until 2007, when it sold its operations to Arriva. Arriva services connect Darlington to neighbouring towns such as Durham, Bishop Auckland, Richmond, Stockton, and Middlesbrough.

There are also two smaller independent operators running services in the town, called Dales & District and Scarlet Band.


Darlington was chosen by the Department for Transport as one of three national Sustainable Travel Demonstration Towns (together with Peterborough and Worcester) in 2004 and delivering a three-year research and marketing programme to promote sustainable travel choices under the brand name 'Local Motion'. It was also chosen as one of six cycling demonstration towns in October 2005, receiving £3 million worth of funding from the government and local council money.[50]

2007 Town Centre Pedestrian Heart Project worth 10 million pounds, saw some of Darlington Town Centre modernised, with an emphasis on vehicles becoming less common in the centre and some roads pedestrianised completely. Other improvements were to cycling facilities and routes, and linking the town to the national cycle route network. Darlington is the only place to win both sustainable travel and cycling demonstration town status.[51]


Museums and heritage

Head of Steam railway museum
Head of Steam railway museum

The town's main museum is Head of Steam, sited near North Road railway station – it and Piercebridge Roman Fort near the town are run by the Darlington Museum Service.[52]


See also: List of schools in Darlington

Teesside University opened a Darlington campus in 2011. It offers higher education in the town to students and businesses.

The town has one further education college, Darlington. It has two sixth forms, the Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College and Carmel College, Darlington sixth form.

There are multiple secondary schools including: Carmel College, Wyvern, Haughton, Hummersknott, Hurworth School, Longfield and St Aidan's. Polam Hall is a former independent school and is now a free school.

There are also multiple primary schools including: Federation of Abbey Schools, Mowden School, West Park School, Skerne Park primary school


Darlington is home to the regional daily newspaper The Northern Echo and its sister weekly newspaper Darlington & Stockton Times.

The regional radio station 'Darlo Radio' broadcasts from the town.[53]

In November 2009 the town appointed an official 'Twitterer in residence', the first of its kind in the UK. Mike McTimoney (known on Twitter as TheDarloBard) is a local regular Twitter user who has been officially charged with tweeting for and about Darlington,[54] and to help promote The Darlington Experiment 2.0, the town's social media campaign.

In August 2022, Darlington Borough Council confirmed that it would be placing a bid for Darlington to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest.[55] However, the town was not part of the shortlist of potential host cities released on 12 August.[56]


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Football codes

The town is home to Darlington Football Club which play at Blackwell Meadows and play in National League North. Darlington Railway Athletic F.C., plays in the Wearside League Division One and play at Brinkburn Road.

Darlington FC is known as The Quakers because of the contributions made to the town by men such as Edward and Joseph Pease, members of the Religious Society of Friends. Before the 2012 administration, played at the 25,000 capacity Darlington Arena (after 120 years at the Feethams ground) when it opened on Neasham Road in 2003. In the 2010–11 season Darlington won the FA Trophy however they were relegated from the Football League, into the then Football Conference. Administration caused Darlington to play home games at Heritage Park in Bishop Auckland and relegation by four divisions to Division One of the Northern Football League, of which the club was one of the founders of in 1889, for the 2012–13 season. It moved back to Darlington from the 2016/17 season with a long term groundshare arrangement with Darlington RFC at Blackwell Meadows. Darlington's first home game at Blackwell Meadows (a 3–2 home win against Halifax Town) took place on 26 December 2016. In the subsequent season, the club was allowed to change back to its current name.[57]

The Northern Echo Arena, home of Darlington Mowden Park R.F.C.

Darlington has two Rugby Union clubs Darlington Mowden RFC and Darlington RFC. Darlington Mowden Park play in National League 1, the third tier of English rugby union. The club own and play at the Darlington Arena, which played a role in the 2015 Rugby World Cup as hosts to the New Zealand national team. Darlington RFC play at Blackwell Meadows in Durham/Northumberland 2.


Cricket clubs are Darlington Cricket Club and Darlington Railway Athletic Cricket Club. Both play in the North Yorkshire and South Durham Cricket League, Darlington CC won the league twenty times during the 20th century.[58]

Eastbourne Leisure Centre's athletics track
Eastbourne Leisure Centre's athletics track

Darlington's leading athletics club, the Darlington Harriers, was formed in 1891 and has had a number of successful athletes wearing the club colours as well as GB vests. The club celebrated its 125th year in 2016, with anniversary games held at Eastbourne Sports Complex. The Darlington 10K road run is held every August, and attracts several thousand competitors.

The Dolphin Centre, which provides a wide range of sporting facilities, was opened by Roger Bannister in 1982. It received a £5 million refurbishment in 2006 and was later officially opened by Redcar athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Notable people

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Twin towns

Darlington is twinned with:

See also

References and notes

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  7. ^ Defoe, Daniel (1927). "Letter 9: Eastern Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland". A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain, divided into circuits or journies. London: J. M. Dent & Co. – via Vision of Britain.
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  1. ^ Components may not sum to totals due to rounding.
  2. ^ Includes hunting and forestry
  3. ^ Includes energy and construction
  4. ^ Includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured