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MARKET TOWNS OF DURHAM (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Darlington in 1837

Darlington, in Durham county, is in a rich fertile country on the banks of the river Skerne, 241 miles from London, and about 18 from Durham. The parish contains 7,630 acres : it had, in 1831, 1347 inhabited houses and a population of 9,417. The parish is subdivided into four townships of which that of Darlington with Oxenhall, or Oxneyfield (3,470 acres, 1192 inhabited houses and 8,574 inhabitants) contains the town. Darlington is situated on the eastern slope of a hill, at the foot of which the river flows, and consists of a square market-place of which the church forms the eastern side, and several streets, or as they are designated 'gates,' branching from it. A bridge of three arches over the Skerne, near the church, communicates with the Yarm and Stockton roads. The church, dedicated to St. Cuthbert, is a cross church with a central tower, surmounted by a light spire. It is very ancient, except the east end of the chancel and the spire, which are modern : the interior also is so blocked up with modern screens and galleries that the shape of the church is very imperfectly seen. The general character of the architecture is early English, some portions so early as to appear almost of Norman character : the west end, where is the principal entrance, and the ends of the north and south transepts are fine compositions ; the doors are plain but good. In the chancel are three stone stalls of a date considerably later than the walls of the chancel. The church was formerly collegiate ; the principal clergyman was called dean. The college was dissolved in 1550, and the whole of the revenues vested in the crown, except a small stipend reserved for the officiating minister : the church lands, subject to some crown rents, are now vested in the duke of Cleveland, who is patron of the benefice, a perpetual curacy worth £274 per annum. A former manor-house of the bishop of Durham is yet standing : after having been much neglected during the last century it was purchased of the see and converted into a parish work-house. The old toll-booth was removed and the present town-hall erected a few years ago. There are places of worship for Catholics, Methodists, and Protestant Dissenters.

The trade of Darlington is considerable : for a long period the principal manufactures were of camblets and other woollens : fifty years ago moreens and other like stuffs were made : the woollen manufacture was superseded in a great degree by that of linens, as huckabacks, diapers, sheetings and checks ; but this branch of industry has also experienced a declension, and the chief occupation of the inhabitants now is combing wool and making woollen yarn (which is applicable for imitation India shawls, Brussels carpet &c.), spinning flax, grinding optical glasses, and founding iron. The market is on Monday for corn and provisions of all kinds ; there is a great market for cattle every fortnight. The population of the town has increased considerably within the present century : in 1801 there were only 4,670 inhabitants.

The Darlington and Stockton railway has been already noticed. Darlington is a municipal borough by prescription : its privileges are at least as old as the 12th century : it is governed by a bailiff, who is appointed by the bishop ; the limits of the borough comprehend only a part of the town.

The township of Darlington had, in 1833, one infant-school with 50 or 60 children; a well-endowed grammar-school, founded by Queen Elizabeth, containing 53 boys and 12 girls; a Lancasterian school of 148 boys with a lending library attached ; two national schools with 266 boys and 240 girls, and a lending library attached ; three day-schools, partly or wholly supported by charitable contributions, with 100 girls and 7 boys ; eighteen other day-schools with 257 boys and 317 girls ; five boarding and day-schools with 160 to 190 of both sexes ; a boarding-school for the sons of Catholic parents, with 43 scholars ; and three Sunday-schools, one supported by Independents, with 70 boys and 50 girls, and two supported by Wesleyan Methodists for 282 boys and 306 girls. There are two sets of almshouses.

Between Darlington and the Tees are four round pools, popularly called ‘Hell-kettles,' the three largest, which are near together are nearly120 feet in diameter and in depth 19½, 17 and 14 feet respectively : the fourth, which is some way from the others, is only 28 feet in diameter and 5 or 6 deep. In all of them the water stands to the brim and is quite cold, but impregnated with sulphur, curdling with milk, and refusing to mix with soap. Leland mentions these pits, and says that it was conjectured that there was a subterraneous communication between them and the river Tees, but as they are not affected by the floods and other variations of that river, the conjecture is now discredited.