Four people stood next to the banner, which has the title 'Darlington's Engineering Past'

Darlington's Engineering Past

This course aimed to look into Darlington's history and to work out how and why it changed from a market town with a textile industry to become a centre of engineering. The group soon found how Darlington's development as an engineering town was intertwined with railway development, with the expansion of railway networks creating new opportunities.

Darlington's history took on a new direction in 1821, at a meeting between Edward Pease, George Stephenson and Nicholas Wood to discuss the possibility of using locomotives on the proposed Stockton and Darlington Railway. The Our Places group found that Nicholas Wood's presence at this meeting was crucial - by using the facts and figures about the efficiency of locomotive technology, he was able to convince Edward Pease to invest in locomotive power.

Painting of gentleman wearing a brown suit, sitting in a wooden chair and holding a paper

Sacriston - Colonel Blackett

The course at Sacriston investigated Colonel William Cuthbert Blackett, manager of the Charlaw and Sacriston Collieries, and a past President of the North East Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers (NEIMME). The group started by looking at his obituary, printed in the Transactions of NEIMME, then followed up on the aspects of his life mentioned in the obituary.

They looked into his family background, education and his involvement in examining the causes of explosions in mines. They also found out about his bravery - he entered a flooded mine to save a trapped miner, risking his own life. He also made significant contribution to the creation of mines rescue teams.

What have you enjoyed most about the project?

Learning a new aspect of local history & as I'm new to the area, discovering just how important this town has been.

Participant from Darlington course

The book list (references), meeting of minds, the balanced approach of the lecturer in encouraging group members.

Participant from Darlington course

The enthusiasm of the project leader and members when reporting back their findings.... I have learnt a lot about how local history projects can work.

Participant from Darlington course

The encouragement/incentive to undertake research into Darlington's complex engineering history. The ability to meet as a group and exchange views/ideas/research information.

Participant from Darlington course

The discussions about coal dust and explosions in mines at the Institute of Mining Engineers.

Participant from Sacriston course

I have enjoyed the whole course, but mostly our visit to Clayport Library looking through his personal diary, and then on to South Bailey, his retirement home.

Participant from Sacriston course

Upcoming Course

Hartley Colliery drawing by T.H.Hair

Northumberland’s Coal Mining History

A new virtual course is planned for Northumberland, giving people the chance to join a group and find out more about Northumberland’s fascinating coal mining history.

Join this course from the comfort of your own home (priority given to those in/near Northumberland). Course material will be sent by email, and there will be things to look at on this website. The group will also have discussions using conference call technology; all participants will need is access to a telephone. If you don’t have access to, or don’t use the internet, just let us know and we will find a way to enable you to participate.


This adult education group is planned for Thursday afternoons, between 1.30 pm and 4.00 pm, from 26th Nov 2020 until Feb 2021 (excluding Christmas holidays). The group will be led by Dr Dorothy Hamilton, who teaches local history courses for adults. There is no course fee to pay.

Interested in this course?

Places are limited so please get in touch as soon as you can. If you are interested, please email Emily and Susan or leave a voicemail on Dorothy's phone.