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Centre for

Local Studies

Current displays & events Current displays & events

To see what's on in Local Studies, please visit the Events Page

Local Studies catalogue Local Studies catalogue

Local Studies books and pamphlets have now been added to the online library catalogue, click onto the Catalogue link above.

Following 3 years of hard work by staff and volunteers the main card catalogue for Local Studies is available online.However if you are looking for photographs, maps, newspaper indexing or family history resources please ask staff to help you use the card catalogues when you visit.

From the collection From the collection

Tea wrapper used by Jane Bryson


A very decorative tea wrapper used by Jane Bryson, grocer and tea dealer, 9 High Row, in the late 19th century.

From the collection From the collection

Edward Pease Public Library, Crown Street, with bust of Edward Pease and Portrait of the first Librarian, Frank Burgoyne,  Entrance of the Town Hall & Coniscliffe Road

by W. Walker Hodgson


This painting by W. Walker Hodgson who resided in Darlington for a while was given to the Library with the complements of Thomas Wood & Sons, November 1909

From the collection From the collection

Thread Mill and Dam, Darlington by S. Fothergill


If you like this painting call in to the Centre for Local Studies to see other framed paintings and images on display around the walls.

From the collection From the collection

Post House Wynd, Darlington by H.S. (attributed to)


We have no information about this artist. If you have further details, please contact us.

If you find this painting interesting why not call in to the Centre for Local Studies and see the other framed items on display around the walls.

From the collection From the collection

Brigham's Bookshop, Coniscliffe Road 

by S. Clark


From the collection From the collection

James Atkinson by an unknown artist

James Atkinson, Oriental Scholar and Artist, born at Darlington, 1780, died in London, 1852. This painting was presented to this Library in 1893 and shows Atkinson in his uniform as surgeon in the army.

From the collection From the collection

North Lodge Park Pond and Boat House, 1899

by P.P. Norman

Discover more of our collection Discover more of our collection

 On this page we will feature some of our most useful and interesting items of stock.

Some items you will be familiar with, others we hope to introduce you to!

Framed picture of the month Framed picture of the month

The Golden Nag, advertisement and 1910 calendar for J. W. Wright, Saddler and Harness Maker, 4, Priestgate, Darlington

Book of the month Book of the month

Muckraker: The Scandalous Life and Times of W.T.Stead, Britain’s First Investigative Journalist

 by W. Sydney Robinson 



January 2020 marks the 150th Anniversary of the first edition of The Northern Echo. W.T.Stead was its chief editor from 1870 to 1880, during which period he was in fact Britain’s youngest ever newspaper editor.

When Robinson wrote ‘Muckraker’ in 2012, he felt that a re-examination of the life of Stead was particularly timely in the wake of the then scandal surrounding the tactics of ‘News of the World’ journalists.

William Stead was born in Embleton, Northumberland in 1849 and died on the 15th April 1912, being one of the 68% of passengers who did not survive the sinking of the Titanic (he was on his way to give a lecture tour in America). He was the son of a Congregationalist Minister and a crusading mother. The non-conformity of both seem to have been a powerful influence. One campaign his mother was involved in and that made a huge impression on the young Stead, was to fight the ‘Contagious Diseases Act’ – this was the enforced medical examination of prostitutes in Garrison towns.  It was a cause he put his weight behind in 1876 while at the ‘Echo’, though it took a full ten years before the act was repealed.

The biography devotes 25 pages to the ‘Northern Echo’ years. In some ways Stead’s position was an apprenticeship; in others, he seems to have taken to the role fully formed, ready, in his own words, ‘to think, write and speak for thousands’. In those days the paper consisted of tiny type on four Broadsheet pages. A day’s work would begin in the late afternoon and go through to the early hours. In pioneering moves, the price of the paper was just one halfpenny, and Darlington’s railway connections were exploited in order to increase circulation. But Stead was not much enamoured of the town and left for London at the end of the decade with the intention not to return to the North, but to increase his fame and fortune in the capital, where he was to take the helm of London’s most influential evening paper, the ‘Pall Mall Gazette’.

It was at this point in his career that he launched his in/famous ‘Maiden Tribute’ campaign. In order to publicise the evils of child prostitution he literally purchased a thirteen-year-old girl - an object lesson in whether means can justify ends. The transaction was enacted and proved a point but at great cost to the child herself, her family and his own reputation, because of the murky tactics used to bring it about. In fact, Stead went to prison for three months for abduction. Not being short on self-belief, he was unashamed and unrepentant. For thirty years he made a point of wearing his prison uniform to work on the anniversary of his conviction. When the age of consent was raised from 13 to 16 in 1885, he hailed it as a consequence of the age of ‘new journalism’.  

In some ways the episode encapsulates the whole conundrum about Stead. No doubt he was passionate about the issues he involved himself in – but the danger is that if you go a-muckraking, to reveal horrific practices to provoke reform, you run the risk of getting your hands dirty. Robinson points out another paradox: Stead was merciless in his attempt to uncover hypocrisy, fearless in the exposure of politicians, even royals, and yet, he calls him a ‘repressed toady’. As soon as the opportunity arose to join the Establishment, Stead seized it with alacrity.

In later life, Stead became generally discredited and even an embarrassment. He overestimated his influence, lost money on mad schemes and became obsessed with spiritualism. Even so, when he died, the obituaries lamented the loss of ‘a man of devastating sincerity and rigid principle’. Robinson sums him up like this: ‘He twisted facts, invented stories, lied, betrayed confidences; but always with a genuine desire to reform the world.’ The cover of the book quotes Ian Hislop’s assessment of him as ‘a radical, a maverick.’ Reading this book might help you to make up your own mind….

It is on display in the Centre for Local Studies during January along with a display about The Northern Echo.

Previous book of the month Previous book of the month

British Bookplates: A Pictorial History

Brian North Lee 1971 

and Bookplates

Frank Brangwyn 1933



In Britain, people have been sticking labels into their books to state their ownership of them since the 16th Century. The earliest one in the Pictorial History dates from 1585.

The helpful Introduction outlines what a niche field the actual collecting of Bookplates was to begin with – a pastime that really only took off three centuries later: the ‘Ex Libris Society’ was founded in 1891, there was a Bookplate Magazine in the 1920s and, just to show that the interest was sustained, in 1971 a new ‘Bookplate Society’ was formed.

What a study of these two books, currently on display in Local Studies,  reveals is that they still have a lot to offer us today.


In short, Bookplates provide a record of what books people collected.

They can yield invaluable evidence for genealogists.

They can offer a wider insight too into the response of a people at a certain time, culturally, to the artistic currents of their period: each is the product, after all, of a commission.

In addition, Bookplates give glimpses into the personality of the owner, the artist, and even more intriguingly, the relationship between the two.

Finally, they give us little snapshots into the artwork of some of our best graphic artists and illustrators.


The History is chiefly illustrations of Plates, with the text on the left hand side of the page given over to substantial paragraphs of information about the illustrator and the person who owned the book.

Possibly a good two thirds of the collected works are based on Heraldic devices. These often incorporate Latin mottoes and embody a certain ‘stiffness and archaism’, ‘austerity and dignity’ to quote the introduction of the second book under consideration here.

You could have a lot of fun looking up famous names, both of the owners and the authors – there’s the Plate for Richard D’Oyly Carte of Gilbert and Sullivan fame for instance, or the artists Kate Greenaway, Arthur Rackham, even the cartoonist Max Beerbohm. Gradually and chronologically the style gives way to something at once simpler and more florid: names and decorative borders. Finally, we see plainly the name itself without explanation or personalisation beyond the choice of font: Lytton Strachey and J.M.Barrie being two notable examples.


But there is also a phase where something much more interesting was going on, and that’s where our second book comes in. From the evidence in the History, it’s around the 1890s that the emphasis on Coats of Arms begins to weaken and there is much more in the way of expressionism, wit and imagination. The lettering becomes a feature all of itself and the intention seems to be more about gaining a tiny piece of a real artist’s work, the more beautiful the better.


‘Bookplates’ by Frank Brangwyn is actually referenced in the History (p108). The illustrator, who worked in Woodcuts, is praised there for his ‘impact’, though the colouring may be ‘sometimes rather violent’ and the graphics themselves ‘not to the taste of all of us’.

You can decide for yourself!

(Darlington Library’s copy is, fittingly, embellished with our very own Bookplate. Below the County Borough Heraldic device it features an engraving of the Library before the extension was added, the Mill chimney visible.)

You might not want to call Brangwyn’s work beautiful exactly, but it is certainly striking. It opens with the timeless message on a large plate in blue, orange and black, ‘Greater is he that ruleth his own Spirit than he that taketh a City.’

Brangwyn (1867 – 1956) had an enormous range, being commissioned as much for public art, for huge murals, as for Bookplates. The Foreword by Eden Phillpotts (memorialised in his own Bookplate, Plate Five) outlines how other countries, other artists, Durer, Holbein had moved on from the ‘tyranny of couchant lions’ etc. Now, however, no book lover could possibly deny himself a work of art to link him with his book. In an introductory ‘Technical Note’ there is a rather poetic tribute to the specific qualities of the art of the Woodcut: ‘The ‘natural voice’ of a graver is a white line on a black ground’; it is ‘a scar that prints white’.

In a nutshell, the Bookplate now asserts that the owner, by way of his discerning choice of illustrator, holds ‘a sort of spiritual right in his volume’.

And in this book you can see both how and why.



A previous book of the month A previous book of the month

November 2019 marked the centenary of the birth of Norman Cornish, the celebrated mining artist who came from Spennymoor.

Darlington Library is stocked with several fully illustrated books by and about Cornish and this month they are on display in Local Studies. We have ‘A Slice of Life’ and ‘Cornish and Spennymoor’, by the artist himself; in addition, there is ‘The Lost World of Norman Cornish’ by Mara-Helen Wood and ‘Norman Cornish, Behind the Scenes’ by Mike Thornton. The latter gives many insights into the background behind the paintings, telling the story of the real-life characters depicted and giving detailed context for the landscapes in which they appear. Whether you are interested in the life, the art, or the landscape from which it sprang, there is plenty to explore.

The Quintessential Cornish, The life and work of Norman Cornish by Robert McManners and Gillian Wales

This book is the authorised biography, with 180 full colour pages and 150 illustrations and it was published five years before the artist’s death in 2014.  The authors were both raised in mining communities in the north-east and had previously written a book about mining art. Here their work is split into two sections, part one about the life, based on conversations, diaries, and interviews; part two about the work, its techniques, themes and influences and how it became itself influential. 

Cornish left school at fourteen to begin work down the mines. The following year he joined the sketching club, the ‘Spennymoor Settlement’. For more than thirty years he continued in both fields simultaneously, earning his living as a miner, but considering himself an artist. He was proud of his work in the colliery, ‘I was a putter – and a very fine one too’, work described here as strenuous, brutal and backbreaking.

The Spennymoor Settlement started in 1931 and was part of a far-thinking social initiative designed to offer the working classes some opportunities for ‘increasing their knowledge, widening their interests and cultivating their creative power in a friendly atmosphere’. The Sketching Club met every Saturday, not an art class as such, but a communal enterprise: ‘Problems of technique have been thrashed out together in argument, and the progress of one is the delight of all’. Norman was encouraged to paint what he wanted, what he knew.

Norman was modest about his art, ‘I hope people enjoy my work for what it is – a look at life through my eyes’; but he thought deeply about it too; ‘I won’t be glib about it. For me, sincerity is everything.’ This book amply illustrates his skill and the warm appeal of his representation of his main subject, human interaction in his hometown. There is something instantly recognisable in the slouched figures, the curving streetways, the confident outlines and cosy bar scenes. The most desperate work environs appear not simply as reportage but as a demand for respect for the men at the heart of them. The portraits breathe lifelikeness. Every page in this book demonstrates the truth of the quote from Cornish himself, posted at the beginning of the introduction:

 ‘Art is a language, a bridge between two minds’.

Find previous books of the month here Find previous books of the month here

You might enjoy exploring previous books of the month. You can do this below. Just select a title you would like to find out more about and click on the link.

Remember you can come in to the Centre for Local Studies anytime to see the original book. Just call in and ask the staff. They will find the book for you.

If you have used a book in Local Studies which you have found useful or interesting and you think should be featured here, do let us know.

Enjoy finding out more!

                                                                        Alan Kitching, A Life in Letterpress by John L Walters Find out more 




Memorial & Record, European War 1914-1918. Pease & Partners, Limited, Darlington  and War Memorials in Britain by Jim Corke    Find out more



The Brewers and Breweries of North-Eastern England, A Historical Guide by Brian Bennison  Find out more

Life and work of the Northern Lead Miner by Arthur Raistrick & Arthur Roberts  Find out more

The Discovery of Teesdale by Michael D.C. Rudd   Find out more


Lost Houses of County Durham    and also Lost Houses of York and the North Riding  both by Peter Meadows and Edward Waterson    Find out more


                                                                                A History of British Birds by Thomas Bewick    Find out more


The Artists of Northumbria by Marshall Hall  Find out more

Men That Are Gone from the Households of Darlington by Henry Spencer Find out more

Dreaming of Babylon, The Life and Times of Ralph Hodgson by John Harding  Find out more


Sleigh Ride to Russia by Griselda Fox Mason

  Find out more

Ghosts of the North by Melanie Warren & Tony Wells

Find out more


Eric's War, Experiences of a Far Eastern Prisoner of War 1941-1945 by Eric Walter Markham Find out more


The Friends in Council by Samuel Tuke Richardson     Find out more


Lady Fry of Darlington by Eliza Orme Explore here


Darlington Half-Holiday Guide by Mr. J.W. Cudworth Explore here

The History of Whessoe Explore here


Up There, The North East Football Boom & Bust by Michael Walker  Explore here


From Thornfield to Thornfield Road by Patricia Dean  Explore here






Annual Reports on the Health of the County Borough of Darlington  Explore here


 The Mystery of Easter Island by Katherine Routledge  Explore here



Inventry of Nonconformist Chapels and Meeting-houses in the North of England by Christopher Stell Explore here






The World War One Memorial of Eastbourne, Darlington by A. Magrys  Explore here


At the House of Edward Pease, Northgate, Darlington

 by Charles McNab Explore here


Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company Ltd Explore here


Charter of Incorporation of the Borough of Darlington & The County Borough of Darlington Official Handbook

Explore here







Darlington Illustrated Year Book for the Municipal Year, 1903 Explore here


Public Catalogue Foundation, Oil Paintings in Public Ownership in County Durham Explore here




A History of The Denes, Darlington by Chris Lloyd and Memories of The Denes Explore here



A rhinoceros bone from Brierton, nr. West Hartlepool & a skeleton of elk (Cervus alces) from Neasham, near Darlington by C.T. Trechmann Explore here


 England's Vast Industries & Mercantile Marine Explore here


Henry Pease - A Short Story of His Life by Mary Pease Explore here


Memories of North Road Locomotive Works   Explore here 



Biographical and historical notes on bygone Darlington by W.J. Mountford  Explore here








The History of the Polam Christmas Tree  Explore here






Durham at the Opening of the Twentieth Century and Durham Contemporary Biographies  Explore here


A North Country Album by George A. Fothergill  Explore here

Kelly's Directories Explore here             

Religion, Business and Society by Anne Orde     Explore here                               

Dodds' Darlington Annual for 1917     Explore here             

From the collection From the collection

Darlington Racing Pigeon Society, Season 1909

From the collection From the collection

William John Cudworth 1815-1906

 Engineer & Quaker teacher

From the collection From the collection

Clapham's Rope Works, Tubwell Row

photographer unknown

before 1894


From the collection From the collection

South East Aspect of Darlington in 1760

by Samuel Wilkinson, Del., J. Bailey, Sculp.,

From the collection From the collection

Fair in Market Place

by Arthur Haward

From the collection From the collection

Covered Market with Market Cross by Arthur Haward

From the collection From the collection

The Market Tower by A. B. Dresser, 1912

From the collection From the collection

Laying of the foundation stone of the Edward Pease Public Library, 4th June 1884, photographer unknown

From the collection From the collection

Darlington Market Place, by F. Lawson

From the collection From the collection

Frederick Milbank 1820-1898

From the collection From the collection

Coach & Horses by Samuel Tuke Richardson

From the collection From the collection

County Borough of Darlington

Darlington Welcome Committee on behalf of their fellow Townsmen & Women in grateful acknowledgement of Loyal & Gallant Services rendered to King & Country in the Greatest of all Struggles for Freedom and the Right.



We have only seen only one other certificate given to a Darlington soldier who surrived WW1 and so far have not found out any other information about when they were presented. We would be interested to know if you have a similar certificate given to your ancestor or if you have more information about the certificates.

From the collection From the collection


Edward Pease (1767-1858), The Father of the Railways

by an unknown artist



From the collection From the collection

St. Cuthbert's Church, 1912 by D. Allston

From the collection From the collection

Arthur Pease 1837-1898

of Hummersknott, colliery owner & iron master


From the collection From the collection

Bishop's Palace, Darlington 1813 by E.A. Elton

From the collection From the collection

St. Cuthbert's Church by B. Bigland

From the collecton From the collecton

Advertisement and 1899 calendar for W. Sedgewick,

family grocer and wine merchant,

97 Bondgate, Darlington

From the collection From the collection

Building Shop, Faverdale, Darlington by W. W. Neasham


From the collection From the collection

The Sisters of Mercy Home, Darlington

 by G. A. Fothergill


From the collection From the collection

Thornfield, Darlington by A. R. Longley


From the collection From the collection

Edward Pease 1834-1880 by an unknown photographer

From the collection From the collection

 Opening of the South Park Teahouse, Darlington June 4, 1908

photographed by Alfred H. Harrow

From the collection From the collection

The Old Mill Race, Darlington by Samuel Fothergill, 1884

From the collection From the collection

Cockerton by an unknown artist

From the collection From the collection

Hannah Maria Whitwell (1778-1866) by an unknown artist