The Industrial Revolution in Darlington

These pages give a short overview of the Industrial Revolution in Darlington. They deal with a few important aspects of this historical development. Because they originated from a questionnaire, the texts are written as questions and answers.



Town Development

Local Industries


1. Which means of transport were there in Darlington in the 19th century?

Darlington was the first town in the North East of England to have a tram system. The Darlington Street Railroad Company started operation on 1 January 1862. It stopped running in 1865 due to: forgery (of the tokens needed to use the trams); cows and farmers standing on the rails for most of the day; and a compensation claim when a prize greyhound was run over, which the company could not pay. An omnibus pulled by horses took over from 1865 to 1880. In October 1880 there was another attempt at street cars by the Stockton and Darlington Steam Tramways Company. Despite its name, the cars were pulled on rails by horses. The last horse-drawn tram was in August 1903. Unlike the rest of the country, the North East of England was not suitable for a viable canal system.

Locomotion Stephenson's engine for the
Stockton and Darlington Railway

2. Which means of transport that had a leading role were then supplanted by others?

Darlington is famous for its contribution to railway history. The world's first public railway was opened on 27 September 1825 and ran from Stockton to Darlington. A booking office and waiting room was opened in 1833. The railway could carry goods and people cheaper, safer and quicker than other forms of transport.

3. Did the development of transport have a clear influence on the development of the local economy?

In the 19th century railway and general engineering grew and thrived. Improved railway links enabled new industry to set up in Darlington and banking and insurance flourished.

4. What explains the leading role of the railway in the 19th century?

Darlington is internationally known as the birthplace of the railways. In 1825 the Stockton and Darlington Railway opened the first public railway for goods and passengers. The engineer was George Stephenson, a former mineworker. Edward Pease, a Darlington mill-owner, helped to establish the SDR and his son, Joseph, became the first treasurer. Joseph's son, Joseph Whitwell Pease, was a director of the SDR. Edward's other son, Henry, was an active promoter of railways.