Darlington started life 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 generally known by the name of Darnton.
Darlington has a historic market area in the town centre. Built in 1183, the Grade I listed St Cuthbert's Church is one of the most important early English churches in the north of England. However the oldest church in the town happens to be that of St Andrew's Church built around 1125 and presides in the Haughton area of Darlington.
Visiting during the 18th century, Daniel Defoe noted that the town 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" (the roads would typically be unpaved at the time).
The Durham Ox came from Darlington.
During the early 19th century, Darlington remained a small market town. As the century progressed, powerful Quaker families such as the Pease and Backhouse families were prominent employers and philanthropists in the area. Darlington's most famous landmark, the clock tower, was a gift to the town by the industrialist Joseph Pease in 1864. The clock's face was produced by T. Cooke & Sons of York, and the tower bells were cast by John Warner & Sons of nearby Norton-on-Tees. These bells were in fact the sister bells to those which are inside the Elizabeth Tower at the Houses of Parliament in London, the most famous of which is called Big Ben. The Darlington Mechanics Institute was opened in 1854 by Elizabeth Pease Nichol, who had made the largest donation towards its building costs. The 91-acre South Park was redeveloped into its current form in 1853, with financial backing from the Backhouse family. Alfred Waterhouse, responsible for London's Natural History Museum and Manchester Town Hall, designed the Grade II listed Victorian Market Hall in 1860, and also the Backhouse's Bank building, now a branch of Barclays, in 1864, the latter taking three years to complete. George Gordon Hoskins was responsible for much of the town's architecture in this period, such as The King's Hotel. The Darlington Free Library was built with funding from Edward Pease, and opened in 1885 when the Council accepted the gift of the purpose built, fully stocked library and agreed to run it in perpetuity.
Darlington is known for its associations with the birth of the modern railway. This is celebrated in the town at Darlington Railway Centre and Museum. On 27 September 1825 George Stephenson's engine Locomotion No.1 ushered in the modern railway age when it is travelled between Shildon and Stockton-on-Tees via Darlington, on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which from its outset was designed for passengers and goods, to a standard gauge on a permanent main line with branches and powered by steam locomotives.
The town later 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 in the 19th century. The town developed to have three significant works; the largest of these was the main line Darlington Works, whose main works were known as the North Road Shops which opened in 1863 and closed in 1966. Another was Robert Stephenson & Co. (colloquially: "Stivvies"), who moved to Darlington from Newcastle upon Tyne in 1902, became Robert Stephensons & Hawthorns in 1937, were absorbed by English Electric around 1960, and closed by 1964. The third was Faverdale Wagon Works, established in 1923 and closed in 1962, which in the 1950s was a UK pioneer in the application of mass-production techniques to the manufacture of railway goods wagons.
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.
For 19 years, the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust built a 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.
Darlington has long been a centre for engineering, particularly bridge building. Bridges built in Darlington are found as far away as the River Nile and the River Amazon. The large engineering firm Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company still has its headquarters in the town. The firm built the Tyne Bridge, Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge and the Humber Bridge, as well as the Sydney Harbour Bridge. One of the leading engine building firms, Cummins, has major premises in Darlington, and it houses the industrial headquarters of AMEC. The engineering companies Darlington Forge Company (cl.1967) and Whessoe also originated in Darlington.
In 1870, The Northern Echo newspaper was launched. It is based in Priestgate and is a long-standing part of life in the North East. Although a regional paper, it is a full-bodied newspaper in its own right and includes national and international news in its scope, as well as having a well-maintained website and active social media presence. William Thomas Stead was a notable editor of The Northern Echo who died in 1912 on the Titanic. Opposite The Northern Echo building is The William Stead public house, restaurant and beer garden.
In 1939, Darlington had the most cinema seats per head of population in the United Kingdom. The town centre has undergone a full refurbishment entitled The Pedestrian Heart, which has seen the majority of the town centre pedestrianised. Initially, the project received criticism surrounding changes to public transport, and removal of Victorian features along High Row. There is now growing evidence, however, that the now-completed changes are meeting with local approval. 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 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.
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. Currently a Labour seat, the current MP is Labour's Jenny Chapman. Former members of parliament for the town include Alan Milburn, the former Secretary of State for Health under the Tony Blair Labour Government and Michael Fallon, the current Secretary of State for Defence under the David Cameron Coalition Government.
Darlington is located in south 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 town, the River Skerne later joining the River Tees which then flows through Teesside and into the North Sea.
Darlington railway station lies on the East Coast Main Line. There are also local services from the historic North Road railway station and associated Darlington Railway Centre and Museum.
Neighbouring towns include Newton Aycliffe, Stockton and Bishop Auckland.
There are several suburbs of Darlington. In the north are Harrowgate Hill, Harrowgate Village, 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).
Darlington is twinned with: Mülheim an der Ruhr in Germany.
Amiens in France.
EE are the largest private sector employers in the town, hiring 2,500 people. Another major employer in the area is the English division of the Student Loans Company, Student Finance England, who are based at Lingfield Point and employ over 1,000 people. Nevertheless, there are major engineering sites, with both Cleveland Bridge and the industrial arm of AMEC headquartered in the town. Another major firm within the engineering industry based in the town is Cummins which has a large scale engine building facility in the Morton Park area of Darlington. UK retail company Argos have their largest warehouse distribution centre in the North of England located in Darlington, within Faverdale Industrial Estate to the North West of the town. Other large service sector companies with offices in the town include Darlington Building Society, Bannatyne Fitness Ltd and the national vehicle rental company Northgate, which is headquartered in the town; also within the Morton Park area.
As well as the large engineering sites based in the town, Darlington is also home to many businesses within the modern and developing industries including Information Technology. With large firms such as Infoserve Ltd having offices within the Morton Park area to the east of Darlington, located next to the A66 Darlington Eastern Bypass.
Close to the Darlington A66 Bypass is also the Link66 redevelopment scheme, which is a large plot of land close to the Morton Park site. It is hoped developers will see potential in the site due to its excellent transport links with fast access to the town centre and central park regeneration zone via the new Darlington Eastern Transport Corridor constructed in 2008. While also being in close proximity to the A1(M) Motorway which heads south to London and north to Edinburgh.
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. Residents currently have to travel to Teesside for the nearest multiplex cinema. The development will also house a new 80 bedroom Premier Inn hotel, and various food and drink venues including Prezzo, Bella Pasta and Hungry Horse. The proposal had an expected completion date of late 2014, though this did overrun with completion early 2016.
Darlington Borough Council also announced the neighbouring site, previously a car park for the town hall, was also to be redeveloped to house riverside office space for the Department for Education in an effort to safeguard Darlington jobs. This was officially opened on 19 March 2015.
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 their 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. Darlington Borough Council, residents and local businesses praised the decision by BT Group and it is hoped the investment will attract enterprise to the town, potentially creating employment for residents and boosting the economy.
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, the developments add to the plans for redevelopment of the current Council depot on Central Park which is also to be redeveloped into commercial space and the Link66 scheme also close to Morton Park. Other commercial spaces in Darlington include North Road Industrial Estate, which includes a Morrisons superstore supermarket; Cleveland Trading Estate and Faverdale Industrial Estate.
This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Darlington at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.
Darlington is historically a market town with a well established weekly outdoor market and an indoor market located underneath the town clock on Prebend Row. Also located on Prebend Row is the Cornmill Shopping centre which is the main retail area of Darlington. The market square is one of the biggest in the country.
Darlington attracts people from a wide area. House of Fraser trading as Binns (department store) and Marks & Spencer both have stores in the town centre.
Darlington has been subject to increasing amounts of inward investment in recent years with the completion of large scale local council sponsored schemes such as the 2007 Town Centre Pedestrian Heart Project worth 10 million pounds, which saw most of Darlington Town Centre modernised with an emphasis on fewer vehicles in the centre and roads pedestrianised completely. The town has also received further investment worth 170 million pounds with the creation of Central Park, a new industrial, residential, cultural and education park which includes hundreds of new affordable homes, Darlington College Campus, Teesside University Darlington Campus, luxury office space, retail units and a new local centre. The Central Park construction site stretches from the current Darlington College campus on Haughton road to the Darlington Railway station entrance at Yarm Road.
Furthermore, the local council, regional development agency and government departments are consulting about investing in an upgrade of Darlington's A66 Eastern Bypass to dual carriageway to improve congestion and journey times, as well as to prevent the tees valley region from suffering due to the road currently being single track passing Darlington which is essentially the gateway to the tees valley region.
All of the investment in recent years and planned investment with large scale public sector support makes Darlington the most invested in Borough in the Tees Valley region, with Stockton a close second. The Civic Theatre is a popular arts venue in the town, hosting a mix of musicals, dramas, plays and pantomimes. The smaller but well-used Arts Centre, founded in 1982, featured smaller events, film screenings and more experimental material; however this closed in 2012.
Darlington is well known within the North of England as being tolerant of diverse lifestyles as it was the first town in England to allow same-sex civil ceremonies in 2001. The town thus has a small gay scene developed over a number of years by the local LGBT community, hosting a weekly Gay Night held every Monday night supported by over 7 venues in Darlington town centre. The scene has grown to become a beacon of LGBT entertainment in the region, and particularly the Tees Valley with the support of the local LGBT support charity Gay Advice Darlington/Durham (GADD), Darlington Gay Scene Collective (DGSC) as well as a large selection of local bars and clubs. 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 Rhythm'n'Brews festival is a music and real ale festival normally held in early autumn, with many rock, blues and jazz acts playing at various venues around Darlington.
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 popular 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, is another music venue. A charitable organisation for the Carmel PTA (Parents and Teachers Association) attracts many large bands in the genre of rhythm and blues.
Darlington town centre has built a strong focus on independent shopping, and offers a more varied shopping experience than in many other UK towns and cities which have a higher concentration of national and international chains. Grange Road has a number of "designer" stores, Duke Street houses art galleries and restaurants and between the two is Skinnergate, which holds the greatest variety of original stores.
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.
Football teams in the town are Darlington, a team in the Football Conference, and Darlington Railway Athletic, a team in the Northern League. The rugby teams are Darlington Mowden Park R.F.C., who were promoted as champions from National League Three in 2011-12 and played in National League 2 in 2012-13, and Darlington RFC. Cricket clubs are Darlington Cricket Club and Darlington Railway Athletic Cricket Club. 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 £5m refurbishment in 2006 and was later officially opened by Redcar athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson.
Darlington Library, an impressive Grade II listed building situated in Crown Street, was a gift to the town from Edward Pease (1834–1880), a leading Darlington Quaker. He left £10,000 in his will to build a free library in Darlington or for other educational purposes. The people of Darlington voted to adopt the Free Libraries Act, and the town's first free library was officially opened on 23 October 1885 by his daughter, Lady Lymington. The building now houses the Central Lending Department, Reference Library and Centre for Local Studies.
The Jamia Mosque and Islamic Society of Darlington is located in the North Lodge Terrace area of the town, an area with a high proportion of ethnic minority residents.
Darlington Memorial Hospital is on Hollyhurst Road, in the corridor between Woodland Road and The Denes.
Darlington has excellent road transport links with 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 3 close junctions of the A1(M): Junction 57 A66(M), Junction 58 A68, Junction 59 A167. Junction 59 is the access exit for Darlington Motorway Services (Newton Park), with an onsite filling station, Hotel and a 24-hour restaurant with a drive through. Darlington is also close to other major trunk routes, including the A66 transpennine route connecting Darlington to Stockton and the A19. The £5.9 million five-mile (8 km) 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.
Darlington railway station is an important interchange stop on the East Coast Main Line and has regular services to London Kings Cross, Leeds City station, Edinburgh Waverley, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Airport and Newcastle. Darlington railway station also serves as the mainline interchange for Middlesbrough railway station, which itself has few intercity services. Darlington railway station boasts a large Victorian clock tower which, in the relatively low rise town centre, can be seen throughout large areas of the town. Darlington also has access to the Tees Valley Line connecting all the main settlements of the Tees Valley and runs from Bishop Auckland to Saltburn via Darlington, Stockton-on-Tees and Middlesbrough among many other smaller settlements.
Bus transport in the town is provided by Arriva North East. Darlington lost out on considerable public receipts when the municipal bus operator Darlingon Transport Company was placed into administration during an attempted privatisation, due to continuing financial difficulties and the Darlington Bus War.
Arriva run most of the bus services in the town.
Stagecoach used to operate in the town (since the Bus War) until 2007, when they sold their operations to Arriva. Arriva therefore became the main bus operator.
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 has successfully delivered 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. The money has been spent over the course of three years on improving 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.
Durham Tees Valley Airport is 5 miles (8 km) east of Darlington town centre and serves County Durham and Teesside. The airport was known as Teesside Airport until 2004. It has flights to a few domestic locations across the UK and international flights to locations across Europe. Many private or General Aviation Flights use the airport. Weston Aviation are there for that purpose. The airport has a Fire Training Centre that trains many airport firefighters from all over the UK. The nearest larger airports are Newcastle Airport (42.3 miles (68.1 km)) and Leeds Bradford International Airport (62 miles (100 km)).
The town has the Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College (former grammar school). There are many other schools including: Carmel RC Technology College, Darlington School of Maths and Science, Haughton Academy, Hummersknott Academy, Hurworth School, Longfield Academy, Polam Hall School and St Aidan's Church of England Academy. Darlington College is the newly built FE College. Teesside University opened a Darlington campus in 2011 offering higher education in the town to students and businesses.
Darlington is home to the regional daily newspaper The Northern Echo and its sister weekly newspaper Darlington & Stockton Times. Local County Durham radio station Star Radio North East broadcasts from the town.
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, and to help promote The Darlington Experiment 2.0, the town's social media campaign.
In 1998 the County Durham town of Darlington hit the national headlines after local man David James Harker murdered and beheaded his girlfriend Julie Paterson before eating parts of her body in the Harewood Grove area, close to the large Sainsbury's supermarket; followed by the dumping of her torso which was later discovered in bushes by residents and reported to Durham Police. Harker was later diagnosed by experts as having Antisocial Personality Disorder, and is remembered as the Darlington Cannibal Killer. He was jailed for life in February 1999.
The town is home to the football team Darlington 1883, successor club to Darlington F.C., 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. The town's football club played at the 25,000 capacity Darlington Arena when it opened on Neasham Road in 2003, after 120 years at Feethams. In 2010 they were relegated from the Football League, 21 years after they suffered a similar fate when they were then promoted back from the Football Conference at the first attempt. In the 2010–11 season Darlington won the FA Trophy but were relegated four divisions to the Northern Football League Division One for season 2012–13. Darlington played home games at Heritage Park in Bishop Auckland from the start of the 2012-13 season until moving back to Darlington in late 2016 to commence a new long term groundshare arrangement with Darlington Rugby Football Club 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.
Darlingtons 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 in style with anniversary games held at Eastbourne Sports Complex.
Darlington's leading Rugby Union club is Darlington Mowden RFC. Mowden were promoted as champions from National League 3 North in 2011–12 and now own and play at the Darlington Arena, in the fourth tier of the English league system, the National League 2 North. Darlington RFC play at Blackwell Meadows in the seventh tier, North 1 East. The Northern Echo arena will also have a role to play in the 2015 Rugby World cup hosting the New Zealand national team known as the "All Blacks".George Allison – Football manager in the 1930s
James Atkinson – (1780–1852) surgeon, artist and Persian scholar
Duncan Bannatyne – owns a house in Darlington and his company Bannatyne Fitness Ltd has offices located close to the Central Park regeneration area of the town
Garry Williamson Barnes – Footballer
Nick Bilton – Columnist, The New York Times and best selling author
Julie Bindel – born in Darlington - is a British Newspaper Journalist, Columnist, Political Activist, lesbian and gay rights campaigner
Zoe Birkett – Singer and runner up on television show 'Pop Idol'
Sandra Bowman – Olympic and Commonwealth Games Swimmer in the 1980s
George Butterfield - Olympian
Aidan Chambers – Prize-winning children's author
Peter Chapman – Convicted murderer. Born in Darlington in 1977, brought up in nearby Stockton on Tees.
Tom Craddock – Footballer
James Cudworth – Locomotive Superintendent for the South Eastern Railway (1845–76)
Alex Cunningham – MP for Stockton North
Giles Deacon – British Fashion Designer
J. M. Dent – Publisher who produced the Everyman's Library series.
Frederick Dickens – Charles Dickens' beloved scapegrace brother. He is buried in the West Cemetery.
Elizabeth Esteve-Coll (née Kingdon) – Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London – the first woman to head a national arts institution.
Ruth Gemmell – Actress
Ian Hamilton – Poet and editor
Joy Grieveson - athlete, olympian
Ralph Hodgson – Poet
George Gordon Hoskins – Architect responsible for many of Darlington's Victorian buildings
Glenn Hugill – Actor and TV producer
Richard Hurndall – Actor
Robert Anderson Jardine - Vicar
Rachael Jay – Former chairwoman of Aldi
John Kenworthy – Aeronautical Engineer & Aircraft Designer, 1883-1940.
George Kenworthy – Civil Engineer & Bridge Builder, apprenticed to the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company 1886-1951.
Alan Kitching Typographic artist and teacher.
Mary Lawson – Stage and film actress of 1920s and 1930s
Michael Lee – Drummer (Little Angels, The Cult, Page and Plant, Thin Lizzy)
Neil Maddison – Footballer
Jann Mardenborough – Racing driver and Le Mans podium finisher.
James Morrison – Footballer
Vincent McKie – (Athlete) British & Ireland Schools Cross Country Champion
Kevin Nicholson – Darlington Borough Councillor, became one of the youngest people in the country to be awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen's New Years Honours List 2014
Al Pease – Only F1 driver disqualified for going too slow (1969 Canadian Grand Prix)
Edward Pease (1767–1858) – Quaker industrialist and railway pioneer
Joseph Pease (1799–1872) – Industrialist; the first Quaker M.P.
Vic Reeves – Comedian and author
Julie Rayne – singer and actress
Katherine Routledge (née Pease) – Archaeologist who undertook first scientific survey of Easter Island archaeology.
Willie Smith – Twice world billiards champion (from two entries).
Sir John Summerson – Architectural writer
William Thomas Stead – Editor of The Northern Echo; Victorian social commentator who died on the Titanic
David Varey (born 1961) – Former cricketer
Paul Walton – Motoring Journalist
Michael Weadock – Award-winning television and local radio presenter, currently working for Darlington's own station, Star Radio North East
Giuseppe Wilson – Footballer, former Lazio and Italian international player
Darrien Wright – Strictly Dance Fever winner