Funding bid on track for Rail Heritage Quarter
Ambitious plans for the creation of a Rail Heritage Quarter centred around the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR) have taken another important step forward.
A bid for more than £2.8million of funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund has successfully passed the first stage, with initial support of £52,000 granted thanks to National Lottery players. The award will allow partners to move on to the development phase of the project in preparation for a round two application.
A collaboration bringing together public and voluntary sector partners across Darlington, Durham and Stockton, the Heritage Fund project will focus on the 26-miles of the original route, a designated Heritage Action Zone.
It forms a key part of £30million plans to create an internationally renowned visitor attraction ready for the celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the S&DR in 2025, with £20million of funding from the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority.
The project will include the restoration of the Head of Steam museum, the 1861 shed, the goods shed, carriage works and lime cells as well as the creation of a new car park, access route and , in partnership with Network Rail, restoration and improved access to Skerne Bridge, the world’s oldest operating railway bridge.
It aims to restore and interpret three listed buildings, as part of the visitor attraction with exhibitions and activities to bring heritage to life and develop an awe-inspiring ‘sense of place’ to help visitors understand the historic importance of the area.
Dedicated staff will deliver activities and work with communities along the route, building on the work already carried out by Friends of the S&DR and supporting the group’s aim of becoming the line’s custodians.
Councillor Andy Keir, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for local services, said:
“This is an ambitious and exciting project for the town, the borough and the whole of the Tees Valley. Alongside celebrating our fantastic and unique place in the history of rail travel, the quarter will breathe fresh life into an area that was once at the forefront of world rail engineering. It will be a celebration of our heritage and another key attraction in the Tees Valley, bringing people in to experience the area.
“The National Lottery Heritage Fund project forms an important part of our plans and is very much a collaboration that will enable us to work with communities and others along the whole 26 miles stretch of the S&DR route. We’re delighted that our bid has secured initial support and we are now looking to develop it further for the next stage of the process.”
Niall Hamond, chair of Friends of the S&DR, said:
“Building on several years’ work, this marks a real step change in not only providing a fantastic rail attraction in Darlington, but bringing together and supporting the work of communities, and volunteers old and new along the 26 miles of the S&DR to care for and celebrate our internationally significant railway heritage for 2025. It will provide lasting legacy of continued innovation and ingenuity from the railway that got the world on track.”
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said:
“Our region is rightfully proud of the fact that the world’s first passenger railway ran from Stockton to Darlington and it is only right that we celebrate this landmark anniversary. For hundreds of years our region has shaped the globe, whether through the steel we made building the world or revolutionising transport with the Stockton & Darlington Railway – a legacy that is still shaping global transport today.
“We’ve supported this project from the get-go, with £20million of funding to ensure that we create a first-class attraction that tells our story right on our doorstep, attracting more visitors and helping our brilliant local businesses bounce back.”
Councillor Jim Beall, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s cabinet member for health, leisure and culture, added:
“The success of this bid and the strength of proposals for the celebration of the Stockton & Darlington Railway is a testament to the benefits of collaboration, we are pleased to have the initial National Lottery Heritage Fund support for this important project that help attract visitors and connect communities along the 26-mile route, just as the railway did in 1825.”
Cllr Richard Bell, deputy leader of Durham County Council and the local authority’s representative on the Stockton & Darlington Railway Heritage Board, said:
“As the 200th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway approaches, we are working with partners across the region to ensure the celebrations are truly unforgettable and a worthy tribute to the generations of residents who worked on the railways.
“We are delighted plans for Darlington’s Rail Heritage Quarter are gathering pace. The project complements our vision to enhance Locomotion museum in Shildon and to revitalise historic sites along the Stockton & Darlington Railway Line. This is being delivered in partnership with The Science Museum Group and is one of the projects to be supported by our successful £20million Levelling Up Fund bid.
“The anniversary of the railway is also a key part of County Durham’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2025. Securing this title would bring transformational benefits to the entire North East, attracting millions of visitors and showing the world that the innovative spirit of 1825 is still very much alive today.”
Photo: Stockton & Darlington Railway heritage map (supplied by Friends of the S&DR)