Great Britain

Just one step from Utopia

IN 1892, a new road was developed to connect Darlington’s new hospital at Greenbank with Northgate, one of its principal thoroughfares. Members of the council discussed planting any trees along it, but because all trees did was drop their leaves, they decided to leave it bare.

The new road was called Corporation Road and although there were no trees, soon large buildings were sprouting along it: a school, which kept on growing, and two chapels, one of which reached for the sky.

As The Northern Echo reported on Thursday, a time capsule transporting us back to those early days has been rediscovered in the school wall.

The first wing of Corporation Road School was opened on March 30, 1896, by Miss Fry, one of the daughters of the town’s MP, who said: “There is still some distance to go before we reach Utopia, but I hope the schools will be one small step on the way.”

The first wing was built on two acres of land, which had cost £2,610 while the construction cost £3,490. It could take 300 juniors and 148 infants.

But with terraces for railwaymen spreading across the green fields at the northern edge of town, a £3,356 extension to take a further 290 infants was added in 1903.

The extension was designed by Darlington’s finest architect, GG Hoskins, although really he just copied the school he had built a couple of years earlier in Rise Carr.

And it was into this extension that the time capsule was placed on July 15, 1903. It contained copies of The Northern Echo and the Darlington & Stockton Times plus their Conservative rival, the North Star. There were also documents and coins minted in 1903 inside the bottle – some of them perhaps splattered with raindrops.

Because the Echo the following day noted how the weather for such an auspicious occasion was pretty poor, and the D&S Times went further.

“In weather very unfavourable for an outdoor ceremony, the memorial stones of the Corporation Road Infant Schools at Darlington were laid on Wednesday,” began its report, “but notwithstanding the incessant downfall of rain, the proceedings were considered of sufficient interest to attract a large company.

“It was very wisely thought undesirable to prolong the outdoor part of the proceedings and after the Rev FW Mortimer, chairman of the school board, and Mr CH Leach, one of the members, had declared the stones well and truly laid, an adjournment was made to the large schoolroom where the schoolchildren had assembled.”

Opposite the school in 1897, Baptists erected a small corrugated hut which acted as their first church until in 1904, they were able to build their large brick tabernacle.

Perhaps there was a little oneupmanship in the road because opposite the tabernacle, in the same year, the Methodists were building an £8,000 chapel with a towering steeple. Unfortunately, though, the foundations weren’t strong enough to support the steeple which had to be removed in 1941.

The Methodist chapel closed in 1965, was demolished three years later, and in 1972 new housing was built on its site on the Bartlett Street corner.

Bartlett Street is one of many roads in the area named after leading members of the council – or corporation, as it was then known – when Corporation Road was being developed. GW Bartlett was mayor of Darlington in 1893-94. Other councillors commemorated in the Corporation Road area include Marshall, Wilkes and Drury – in fact Cllr Hill-Drury was the one who spoke most persuasively against planting trees along the new street.

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