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Get on board - Heritage Campus

Darlington heritage campus logo

We’re working on a vision to create a visitor experience based on Darlington’s railway history. It builds on Darlington’s unique legacy as the birthplace of the passenger railway.

We need to make sure the town is on the map at three different levels - local, national and global. It will not only pulls in visitors, but it also offers training and educational opportunities, boosting the local economy and ensuring it is a place that local residents can be proud of. 

2025 will see the 200th anniversary of the world’s first steam locomotive hauled passenger railway. We need to ensure that the town is ready to celebrate this milestone and capture hearts and audiences across the world.

Help us make the most of Darlington’s rich railway heritage and ensure that the town is recognized as the birthplace of the passenger railway. 

Get involved and share our vision! Follow us on Twitter [external link]. Like us on Facebook [external link] to find out more about the project.

Get on board and have your say!

Let us know what you would like to see in this vision. Your ideas will help us to take the next steps and put Darlington on the national and world rail heritage map.

If you give us your feedback you will enter a free prize draw to win a share of £200 of vouchers! 

  • Follow us on Twitter [external link] and like us on Facebook [external link]
  • Email [email protected]
  • Fill in our online survey [external link]
  • Fill in our Get on Board form [pdf document] and tell us what you think. There is also a paper version of the leaflet, with post boxes available. These can be found at the Town Hall customer service centre, Dolphin Centre, Crown Street and Cockerton Library and the Head of Steam Museum. 

What do you want this Heritage Campus to include? Ideas so far:

  • Workshops
  • Technology showcases
  • Cycle hire and walking trails
  • Events and festivals 
  • Shops
  • Cafés and restaurants
  • Themed play areas
  • Links with other rail sites

Did you know?

  • Stephenson’s Locomotion 1 was the steam locomotive to haul the first passengers on a public railway. It still exists and is displayed at Head of Steam - Darlington Railway Museum [external link].
  • Darlington hosts the oldest working railway bridge in the world. It is called the Skerne Bridge. For most of the 1990s it featured on the back of the £5 note.
  • Edward Pease (1767-1858) was a woollen manufacturer from Darlington. He was the main promoter of the Darlington and Stockton Railway. He is often referred to as the ‘Father of the Railways’. Furthermore, he brokered the deal with George Stephenson on the first passenger railway in the world.

Heritage Campus - frequently asked questions

What and where is the Heritage Campus?

The Heritage Campus is an overarching concept that seeks to link and make the most of Darlington’s Railway and Industrial Heritage. This is in the North Road area of Darlington and beyond, extending to the former Stockton and Darlington Railway Track bed. It has related assets which will be identified through the engagement process.

Why do we need a vision?

  • Guide development in the area. It allows the most appropriate response to enquiries. This includes the best use of the assets.
  • Form the basis of a revised business model and governance for the Head of Steam Museum site.
  • Identify the necessary actions to facilitate the upcoming 2025 celebrations. This includes the required framework and legacy arrangements.
  • Provide a suite of actions that will stimulate engagement and attendance. It will help economic activity, increased visitor spend and community involvement.
  • Identify funding streams and grants.
  • Draw on national and global best practice.
  • Articulate the key messages and vision that has been developed with partners, stakeholders and the public. This will reinforce the message, stimulate investment and show the advantages of joint working.
  • Develop and deepen the relationship with key stakeholders. For example the NRM, neighbouring authorities and national heritage rail clubs.
  • No decisions have been made yet - we want to hear people's ideas.

Who is developing the vision?

Darlington Borough Council is developing the vision. They are in partnership with key stakeholders. These include local businesses, community and voluntary groups, local residents and schools and colleges.

Why are we doing this?

  • The need to make the most of the heritage assets and story of passenger railways in Darlington.
  • Protection of the existing assets and records. This will benefit the future generations.
  • Promotion and marketing of the heritage. 
  • Engagement with schools and colleges. It will develop the next generation of visitors and custodians.
  • The need to make the most of railway heritage as a catalyst for economic growth. This will boost the visitor economy and spend in the town.
  • The development of the necessary infrastructure and legacy. It will support the upcoming celebrations in 2025 of the birth of passenger railways.
  • Development of a sustainable business model to secure the future of the Head of Steam Railway Museum site.

What will we do with the feedback we get?

All views will be collected and analysed. The conclusions will be fed back as part of the consultation process later in 2014. We are happy to keep you in the loop with the process and let you know how the engagement process is going. 

What would World Heritage Site status bring to Darlington?

  • Increased protection and recognition for the sites and assets.
  • The care of the assets would fall to the national government. They are in partnership with the Council and stakeholders.
  • The need to consider World Heritage Sites as a material idea in planning applications.
  • The need to secure a sustainable future for the assets.
  • The creation of a management plan that would be drawn up in line with the best global practice. They are in partnership with The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) members.
  • An increased ability to gain funding either from UNESCO or from other sources. Such as the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

What are the next steps?

  • Engagement phase: September and October 2014
  • Vision and action plan development: September to December 2014
  • Formal consultation: January to March 2015
  • Consideration by Cabinet: Summer 2015

How much is this costing and who is paying?

We don't know how much this will cost yet. It will depend on the decision in the vision and the action plan.

We will be exploring a range of funding schemes. Including sponsorship, grant aid and private investment.

On site stakeholder re-configuration

Along with other groups on site, we acknowledge that there is still uncertainty on the future of the area. We will work with all of these groups to ensure that their views are kept and are fully informed of any developments or proposals. As yet, there are no plans to alter the current site structure, tenancies and use of buildings.


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