Meet the people who played their part in building the Stockton & Darlington Railway from those with money to invest, the engineers, builders, workers and innovators to those who didn’t support its development. This information can also be found on our Facebook page, just search under Albums.

People of the Stockton & Darlington Railway: Timothy Hackworth

Timothy Hackworth was born in Wylam in 1786, five years after his fellow railway pioneer George Stephenson had been born in the same village. Their paths through life diverged but they were brought together by early experience in the coalfields of the NE England, work on the Stockton & Darlington Railway, a mutual respect for each other and a shared genius in engineering. We celebrate his engineering genius with a range of gifts designed and made by artists and craftspeople in the UK. Have a browse here.

Much has been written about Hackworth’s engineering skills, but here is a little about the man himself:

unknown artist; Timothy Hackworth; National Railway Museum;

People of the S&DR: Meet the Hackworths

The story of Timothy Hackworth and his family through the eyes of his great great granddaughter Jane Hackworth-Young and friends.

People of the S&DR: John Dixon

John Dixon

1796 – 1865

John came from a very famous family – the Dixons of Cockfield in County Durham.  A key early (1830) branch line of the S&DR runs below the Fell – the Haggerleases branch line – and the later ‘High line’ linking Bishop Auckland to Barnard Castle runs over the fell itself. 

John’s grandfather George Dixon is credited with trying to promote a canal scheme locally in 1767 – a scheme that never came to fruition.  George’s brother Jeremiah Dixon is famous for a number of reasons – one of which is that he surveyed the famous Mason-Dixon line in America that same year.  Why not visit Cockfield during the festival and find out more about all of these people?

But John himself is important to the story of the S&DR as he is regarded by many as probably second in line to George Stephenson as the world’s first civil engineer – and a brilliant surveyor.  The Dixons and Backhouse families were related by marriage – both Quaker families.  John started out as an S&DR clerk on Jonathan Backhouse’s recommendation, but Stephenson then made him his assistant.  He worked with him on the Liverpool to Manchester project, not returning to the S&DR till 1845, when he was a consulting engineer.

John died in Darlington on 10th October 1865.

Why not join one of the walks run by the Friends and find out about the history of the Fell and the railways?

Trish Pemberton, Chair of the Friends of the S&DR

People of the S&DR: Percival Tully

People of the S&DR: Percival Tully

This article by Brendan Boyle was originally published in The Globe (December 2019).

THIS IS THE STORY of a man who worked on the Stockton and Darlington Railway during its first decade and a half of operation. He was not an investor, an engineer or a bridge-designer, but nor was he one of the labouring masses.

Percival Tully was his name, and his story may shed light on history from a fresh direction: a human tale of the railway, and its impact on people’s lives.

Unusually for those days, Percival – evidently educated, a good administrator and trustworthy – was kept on by the S&DR Company for year after year and his name popped up at some significant times. But, as they say in cheap novels, then something happened and his life completely changed…

The Early Years

Percival Tully came from a country background and like thousands, and ultimately millions, of others in 19th-century Britain was attracted by the opportunities in the rapidly-developing urban-industrial areas. Stockton and Darlington were two of those, their populations each doubling between 1821 and 1841.1

His paternal grandfather owned farmland at Whickham, near Gateshead,2 and by the time of Percival’s birth in 1794 his father, Bartholomew, was himself farming, in the village of Kibblesworth on the lower west slope of the Team valley, near Birtley. In his case on land rented from the executors of Sir Henry George Liddell of nearby Ravensworth Castle.3

Percival was the fourth and youngest child of Bartholomew and his wife Ann (nee Collingwood), a native of Northumberland. Bartholomew was clearly a respected figure in the area as a member of the local farmers’ association.4 In 1803, during the Napoleonic wars when there was a real threat of a French invasion along the east coast of England, he – ‘Bartholomew Tully, Gent.’ – was appointed by the War Office to be a Lieutenant in the voluntary Loyal Usworth Legion.5 Percival’s elder brother – John Collingwood Tully – was later appointed Ensign.6

The family lived in Kibblesworth until at least 18077 so Percival will have spent the first 13 or more years of his childhood there. Although rural in itself, a couple of miles up the hill behind the village, and easily reached by an adventurous youngster, was a network of wooden waggonways that served numerous small collieries around Tanfield and South Moors. Powered by gravity and horses, these precursors of the ‘iron road’ railways had carried coals since the 17th century the eight or nine miles north down to the Tyne. From 1725, the upper parts of the lines had been channelled – some across the purpose-built Causey Arch – into the carefully-engineered Tanfield Waggonway, near Marley Hill. This led in a more direct, efficient and profitable way to the river at Dunston Staiths. Young Percival Tully would certainly have seen this in operation. Part of the Waggonway line remains in active use today as the lovingly-curated Tanfield Railway, albeit now with steam engines running on iron rails.

By the mid-1810s John Collingwood Tully was the owner of a ‘paint, colour, and mustard’ manufacturing company in south Tyneside8 and by 1818 Percival had also gone into business, running a corn mill. Urpeth (or Kibblesworth) Mill was one of a number that utilised the force of the young river Team. It would have employed several men but we know of Tully’s presence and position there because of the sudden death of one of them, on the Gateshead turnpike, who was described in newspaper reports as a servant of his.

The man, a George Milburn, was a waggoner, found “warm, but quite dead, his face bloody, and his neck dislocated” by no less a traveller than “the Earl of Morton, his lady, and suite, in two carriages” who were “proceeding for Durham, on the way to attend her Majesty’s funeral”.9 ‘Her Majesty’ was Queen Charlotte, the wife of ‘mad king’ George III. She had died on 17 November and was buried at Windsor Castle on 2 December. Milburn’s body was found on 23 November. Durham would have been a staging point for the Earl, the Queen’s Chamberlain, on the long journey from his family seat near Edinburgh. A Coroner’s jury recorded a verdict on Milburn of ‘Died by the visitation of God’.

And So to the Railway

The next public mention of Percival Tully was his most famous, in late 1825, when he was working as a clerk for the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company at their Cottage Row, Stockton terminus. In the Company’s much-reproduced poster/handbill for the Experiment passenger coach, dating probably from November of that year (and now invariably dubbed ‘the world’s first railway timetable’), it was announced that:

 “Mr. TULLY at Stockton, will for the present receive any Parcels and Book Passengers“.10

When the operator Richard Pickersgill took over the Stockton coach bookings in April 1826 Percival was removed by the S&DR to “the Weigh house now ready” next to their coal depot at St John’s Crossing on Bridge Road.

The Stockton weigh house, which still stands (often referred to erroneously as a booking or ticket office), was one of three built by the Company, the others being at Darlington and Thickley Spout, near today’s Shildon Locomotion museum.11 Loosely modelled on the toll houses of the turnpike roads of that time, each combined an office supervising a weighing machine (weigh bridge), and a dwelling for the toll collector. That at Darlington also had a ‘Water Cistern’, or reservoir, constructed alongside it.12

Toll income was the lifeblood of the S&DR so the role of the collectors was vital. Tolls were based on the weight and type of material (coal, limestone, etc) being transported, the distance carried and, for coal, whether it was for ‘export’ (‘coastwise’, mainly to London) or for ‘land-sale’ (from the railway’s depots). The weighing machines themselves were not ready for use until July 182613 but the weigh offices seem to have been brought into operation as soon as they were finished – collectors presumably estimating weights based on the capacity of the waggons.

The first entry in the records ledger for the Darlington weigh house was on Saturday 15 April 1826.14 It was for 171/4 tons of coals going from Old Etherley colliery to Stockton, on the account of the ‘OE Depot’. Other coals were carried that day from Witton Park and New Etherley collieries to Darlington, while lime was taken from Middridge to Yarm and Stockton.15

These entries show that, unlike the weigh houses at Stockton and Yarm which could only monitor loads going to those places, the Darlington weigh house supervised all waggon movements down the line from it. To do so it was built not on the Darlington branch but on the main line ‘upstream’ – west – of the Darlington branch junction.16 It was clearly of great importance.

The man who recorded the Darlington movements on 15 April must have been an interim collector until the weighing machine could be installed since on 14 July 1826 the Company appointed a George Jackson “to the Weigh house at Darlington for One Month at 12/- [shillings] Week”. Even then the building of the weigh house complex was not fully finished as the Company agreed he was to be paid an additional “2/- Week for Lodgings until the Dwelling houses [sic] be ready … in case he keeps it longer”.17

Jackson actually didn’t keep the weigh house job much longer – he took a better-paid post (at 16/- a week) at the Darlington depot that November.18 His replacement didn’t stay much more than four months either before Tully took over. Perhaps it was the location: the weigh house was remote from Darlington proper – officially in Cockerton township – so the job may not have been greatly attractive, particularly to family men and at the modest wage offered.

Percival Tully, free of family ties and with no apparent attachment to Stockton, was eventually appointed to the Darlington weigh house from March 1827 at a weekly wage of 21/-, much greater than Jackson’s. To get their money’s worth the Company gave him an additional duty:

“besides attending to the weighing machine … he had also to examine the waggons as they passed the weigh house in order to see that the axles were properly greased by the enginemen and report any cases of neglect”.19

A Tavern Tale

The Darlington weigh house was nearly a mile away from the main facilities of Darlington and in the 1820s had very few neighbours anywhere near it. Places of social interaction, or to eat and drink after a toll collector’s work was done for the day, were scarce. The S&DR had built an inn on Northgate, opposite the depot gates, that was ready for occupation by May 1827 but it was refused a licence by Darlington magistrates in September of that year and the next two.

There was, however, one inn already existing, just south of Northgate Bridge where it crossed Cocker Beck, and it offered Percival a rare opportunity for out-of-work company. Originally the Bridge Inn, it had been opportunistically renamed the Railway Bridge Inn by 1827 by its owner-landlord William Gray.20 William and his wife had two unmarried daughters, Alice and Jane, and four and a half years after being appointed to the weigh house Percival married Jane at St Cuthbert’s church in Darlington on the last day of 1831.21 She was 26 and he 37.

There was much irony in this partnership for such a loyal servant of the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company as Percival, because just two years earlier Jane and her sister had represented their ageing father in contesting an appeal by the Company to licence its own recently-built inn, 60 metres to the north. The Grays had argued at the Durham Michaelmas Sessions hearing that their Railway Bridge Inn “was sufficient to afford all the accommodation … required” by users of the depot.22

In the event it was not Mr Gray’s objection that was the nub of the appeal, although the Company did respond that:

“[his] house was not sufficiently near to the depot, he did not possess those facilities of accommodation, nor present those inducements in point of comfort and convenience in other respects, that were necessary for men of business and respectability”.

Rather, it was the inappropriate behaviour of the Darlington magistrates that turned the case. Two of the three justices for the town had financial interests in the Darlington to Stockton turnpike road which they feared would be undermined by the new railway, and they had persistently tried to frustrate the progress of the Company.23 The Sessions bench voted by “a decided majority” in favour of the S&DR’s appeal and the new inn – promptly named the Railway Tavern – opened soon afterwards.24

Tolls and More

The Darlington weigh house became the first family home of the Tullys – the baptismal record for their first-born, William Collingwood Tully in October 1832, citing the family abode as ‘Cockerton’ and the father’s occupation as ‘Clerk of the Railway weigh house’.

But that accommodation must have proved inadequate for a growing family – or perhaps Percival’s wages and position in the Company encouraged him to progress beyond ‘living over the shop’ – for in April 1833 he bought a “lately erected and built” mid-terraced house in the newly-developed Alliance Street, across the township boundary in Darlington but just 150 metres from the weigh house.25 Alliance Street was also known as Hope Town and the Tullys were among its first residents.26

In August 1833, at the commencement of the Company’s use of locomotive engines to haul merchandise and passenger coaches, “Percival Tully or his assistants” were given an additional duty by the management committee of seeing that “the Trains started from Darlington”.27

The S&DR were clearly happy with Percival’s work and his adaptability as for the year 1834-35 he was awarded a contract at the apparently-generous sum of £130 (equivalent to 50/- a week) for “weighing coals and pumping water”.28 (The Company’s traffic superintendent, John Graham, was paid only slightly more, £150, in 1835.) The reservoir, or ‘water cistern’, for replenishing locomotives at Darlington was alongside the weigh house; it can be seen on a Company-commissioned map of 1839.29

The S&DR were unusual in the railway industry at this time in awarding short-term contracts to staff. The economic historian Maurice W Kirby believes the reason could stem from the Company’s early origins:

“… in the operational management of the undertaking the Stockton and Darlington Company remained distinctive. Whilst the trunk line railway companies began to recruit professional salaried managers from the later 1830s, the [S&DR] management committee remained committed to the practice of subcontracting in major aspects of the company’s business. … The practice [had] its roots in the domestic system of manufactures in the eighteenth century”.30

Whether a ‘manager’ or not, Tully continued as a contractor: the contract awarded to him for 1836-37 was for weighing coals, with no extra duties stated, but at £100 a year was still almost double the rate he had started on. It was renewed for another 12 months, to 31 January 1838.31 And then apparently again, as at the baptism of his and Jane’s fourth child in October 1838 his occupation was still being given as ‘toll collector’.32

The Will of William Gray

The Tullys had been joined at Hope Town (although probably not in the same house) sometime around 1834-36 by Jane’s father, William Gray, who – at about 90 years old – had finally handed over the running of the Railway Bridge Inn to a tenant. His wife had died in late 1833. William (‘gentleman, of Hope Town’) drew up a will in March 1837 that named Percival (‘of Hope Town aforesaid Clerk to the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company’) as one of his two executors. The will shows him to have been a man of property (and not just in Northgate), which he apportioned between his daughters. When he died at the end of 1838 and probate had been granted (August 1839), he had willed the inn and its adjacent properties in trust to Jane:

“… And as to for and concerning all that my said dwellinghouse situate at Northgate Bridge and known by the Sign of the Railway Bridge together with the garden stable outbuildings and appurtenances thereto belonging And also all those my said several dwellinghouses yard stables and premises with the appurtenances adjoining the said last mentioned premises on the North in trust for my said daughter Jane Tully her heirs executors and administrators and assigns forever”.33

One of the first things the Tullys seem to have done after William’s death was to move into his house, a bigger one at the north end of Alliance Street/Hope Town, where they appear to have been at the time of the 1841 Census.34

Whether coincidental or not, William’s death was followed by changes in Percival’s life, most notably his parting from the S&DR, at least from full-time employment. At the baptism of his son Percival John in August 1840 Tully’s stated occupation had nothing to do with the railway: he described himself as a ‘brewer’.35 And this was no error – in the Census ten months later he was recorded as a ‘brewer & agent’. So even if ‘agent’ was for the railway, it was presumably in no more than a part-time – and possibly self-employed – capacity. The fact that the Tullys were able to employ a servant in 1841 suggests that, whatever the circumstances of the change in occupation, the family was not poor. Presumably the benefit of William’s will.

Percival’s career as a brewer (perhaps at the nearby New Inn, which had a brewhouse36) was not a long one, as at the baptism of his daughter Alice on 1 January 1843 he was once again – and for the last time in documentary evidence – associated with the railway, describing himself as a ‘railway agent’.

The family were still living at Hope Town at that point but the tenant at the Railway Bridge Inn left soon after and the Tullys were installed at the pub by mid-1844.37 Two more sons were born, in 1846 and 1847, while Percival was the innkeeper there.

But then another change. The Tullys left Northgate and Darlington altogether, moving ten miles to a place – St Andrew Auckland (‘South Church’) – with which they had no obvious connection. The move could not have been to do with any dislike by Percival of innkeeping because he took over the Crown and Anchor pub. The whole family – now nine strong – was enumerated there in the Census of 1851.38

Perhaps significantly, no servant was recorded with the Tullys at the Crown and Anchor, despite so many children for Jane to have to look after: could that suggest new-found hardship? A firmer indicator of financial stress was a notice in the London Gazette in December 1851 concerning a legal dispute “in a cause Peascod against Tully, the creditors of William Gray, late of Hope Town, in the county of Durham, Gentleman, deceased” which was to be settled by the Court of Chancery in London.39 A Court of Chancery was one that had jurisdiction over all matters of equity, including trusts and land law.

This case is something of a mystery as there do not appear to be any newspaper reports of the court’s findings. But it does not sound encouraging for the Tullys’ fortunes. Worse was soon to follow for Percival with the death of his wife, Jane, at South Church at the age of just 47 in April 1853.40 Percival was now left alone at the age of 58 with seven children, aged from 20 to six.

Another Land, Another Opportunity

Where could Percival turn? To a new life in a new country for his remaining family was his answer.41 Australia was the main destination for English emigrants at the time but Tully opted for the United States of America. A steady stream of ships crossed the Atlantic from Liverpool to the USA but most of their passengers were Irish, with many others from Germany but few from England itself. After the East Coast, New Orleans was one the principal ports sailed for – the gateway to the vast, and fast-developing, mid-West.

A testimony from Percival’s youngest child, Thomas HG Tully on 27 October 1868, when he was old enough to apply for naturalisation as a US citizen, summarised the family’s journey:

“I do solemnly swear that I am of the age of 21 years; that I am a native born citizen of the Queen of Great Britain that I emigrated from Liverpool to the United States of America in the year of our Lord

one thousand eight hundred and fifty-four and landed at New Orleans in the state of Louisiana on or about the Month of January in the year last aforesaid… and that I have from that time up to the present day been a resident within the limits of the United States; and that I am now and have been for the last Eight a resident of the County of Madison in the State of Illinois”.42

Although Thomas was in Edwardsville, Illinois in 1868, that is just 25 miles from the city of St Louis, Missouri, on the opposite side of the Mississipi river. And it was in Missouri, and the St Louis area in particular, 700 miles upriver from New Orleans, that the migrating family, including six- or seven-year old Thomas, appear to have headed on arrival. Presumably on board a paddle-steamer. Missouri was a boom state: “with increasing migration, from the 1830s to the 1860s Missouri’s population almost doubled with every decade”.43

In 1857, a Percival Tully of St Louis County commenced the process to buy – presumably at a knock-down settlers’ price – 320 acres of land in Iron County, Missouri, one of many such plots put up for sale by the US government.44 Iron County, not surprisingly, had an abundance of iron ore within its borders. (To resume a railway theme, the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad was completed in 1857.)

Whether this is ‘our’ Percival we can’t say for certain but a Percival Tully who does match his description – male, white, aged 64, birthplace ‘unknown’ – died in St Louis of an ‘absess in abdomen’ in the week ending 31 May 1858. He was buried at the Wesleyan cemetery.45

As for the Tully children:

– a ‘Tully, Wm. C.; native country, England’ applied for naturalisation in St Louis in 1860;46

– Thomas was recorded back in St Louis, working as a carpenter, regularly from 1870. He called his son (Percival Tully’s grandson) born in 1884, Percival;

– a Bartholomew Tully, ‘widower, born England 1845, parents born England’, was recorded in the 1900 US Census in Jefferson County, Missouri.47

A Percival Postscript

A series of newspaper reports back in England of Percival senior’s son, Percival John Tully, are especially conclusive of the family’s emigration. In an echo of 1851/52, a legal case before the Court of Chancery was involved, and also a seemingly minor issue before the Darlington Borough magistrates. Both tales were in the news in 1882.

In the Chancery case ‘Mr Percival John Tully, of St Lewis, US‘ and a Darlington stockbroker, Joseph Airey, were the plaintiffs, and a John Graham and Nicholas Whorlton, the defendants.48 It involved the (by then re-re-named) Bridge Inn in Northgate, with the plaintiffs asking for judgment for an account and for the redemption of a mortgage.49

The second case, a few months later, again involved ‘Messrs Airey and Tulley [sic], owners of the Bridge Inn‘.50 The pub by then had as its neighbour a theatre, the Theatre Royal.51 Ever since the latter was built the pub had had a back door opening into the theatre yard so that theatre-goers “requiring refreshments could go that way without being a few yards not under cover”. The theatre management now wanted to be able to sell alcoholic drinks themselves so had applied for a licence. But Messrs Airey and Tully had objected, and had an unlikely ally in the Darlington Temperance Society, and “after a long absence” the Bench refused the theatre’s request.

The moral is though, that even after the Tullys had been away from Darlington for nearly 30 years a Percival was keeping a watchful eye on happenings. Railway or not.

Brendan Boyle


1. The population of Stockton parish increased from 5,184 in 1821 to 10,071 in 1841, and that of Darlington township from 5,750 to 11,033. Census, via the directories of Pigot & Co. 1834 and Slater’s 1848.

2. Land Tax returns, Chester Ward West, Whickham parish and township, Joseph Tully. Durham County Record Office (DCRO) Q/D/L.

3. Land Tax returns, Chester Ward Middle, Kibblesworth township, Bartholomew Tully. DCRO Q/D/L.

4. Beamish South Moor Association notices, Newcastle Courant 11 & 18 Jan 1800, 22 & 29 Jan 1803, 26 Jan 1805, 24 Jan 1807.

5. London Gazette, 20 Sept 1803. Usworth is 3 miles east of Kibblesworth.

6. London Gazette, 10 Jan 1804.

7. Newcastle Courant, 24 Jan & 16 May 1807.

8. London Gazette, 4 Nov 1817; ending of a business partnership of JC Tully and Co.

9. Various newpapers in December 1818, including the Tyne Mercury, Durham County Advertiser (DCA), Cumberland Pacquet, Evening Mail, Caledonian Mercury, Morning Advertiser and Morning Chronicle.

10. See The Globe 9, July 2019: Tully, the Timetable and the Ticket Office.

11. A fourth was built at the end of the ‘Yarm’ branch (at Egglescliffe) by the landowner of the new coal depot there, Thomas Meynell. The fact that he was chairman of the Railway Company didn’t stop him from also conducting business in a private capacity.

12. The management committee of the Company heard on 1 July 1825 that “a Dwelling House will be required at each of the 3 Weighing Machines orderd [sic] at a former Meeting” and resolved that “proposals be issued for [their] Erection … without delay”. A plan for “the Weighing Machine, Water Cistern and dwelling house at Darlington” was approved by the committee on 26 August 1825. NA RAIL 667/30.

13. S&DR committee minutes, 14 July 1826. NA RAIL 667/31.

14. Sunday being a strictly-observed day of rest the next entries were on Monday 17 April.

15. Stockton and Darlington Railway Company, Accountant’s Records, April 1826 – March 1827, Darlington Weigh House Records Book. NA RAIL 667/1449.

16. A smaller weighing machine would have been installed at the road entrance/exit of the Darlington depot to weigh merchants’ cartloads. One is shown on an Ordnance Survey map of 1855.

17. S&DR committee minutes, 14 July 1826. NA RAIL 667/31.

18. S&DR committee minutes, 11 Nov 1826. Cited in The North Eastern Railway, Its Rise and Development, 1914, WW Tomlinson, pp134-5.

19. S&DR committee minute, 23 March 1827. Cited in Tomlinson, pp134-5.

20. History, Directory & Gazetteer of Durham & Northumberland, Wm. Parson and Wm. White, vol I, 1827.

21. ‘Married. The 31st ult. at Darlington … Mr Percival Tully, of the Rail-way Weigh-house, to Miss Jane Gray.’ Newcastle Courant, 7 Jan 1832.

22. Newcastle Courant, 31 Oct 1829.

23. After the first licence application the S&DR recorded: “that the Magistrates, pursuing that apparent course of hostility which they have hitherto held towards this Company, have refused to grant the Licences requested for the houses at Northgate Bridge and Aycliffe Lane’. S&DR committee minutes, 28 Sept 1827. NA RAIL 667/31.

24. The Railway Tavern in Northgate is still trading 190 years later under its original name.

25. Conveyance of 16 April 1833, DCRO D/Whes 3/42.

26. See ‘Hope Town – The World’s First Railway Village?’ elsewhere in this journal.

27. S&DR committee minutes, 23 Aug 1833. NA RAIL 667/32.

28. The Origins of Railway Enterprise, MW Kirby, 1993, Table 12, p106.

29. Plan of Part of the Main Line of the Stockton and Darlington Railway Extending from the Junction of the Clarence Railway to the Weigh House near Darlington, Surveyed by T Dixon, Darlington, 1839. NA RAIL 1037/454.

30. Kirby, p102.

31. Kirby, Table 12, p107.

32. Bartholomew Tully, ‘son of Percival and Jane, abode Hopetown, father’s occupation toll collector’, was baptised at St Cuthbert’s, Darlington, 21 October 1838. He followed Mary Anne in 1834 and Jane in 1837. Bartholomew died in infancy, in 1839. (A later son, born 1846, was given the name Bartholomew Butiman Tully, but ‘Butiman’ seems not to have been used subsequently.) England, Durham Diocese Bishop’s Transcripts, 1639-1919, via FamilySearch.

33. North East Inheritance Database,; DPR/I/1/1839/G12/1-5.

34. This is suggested by the layout of the 1841 Census record sheet, on which the Tully household was the first listed in Hope Town rather than one of the middle records, even though Tully had undoubtedly bought a mid-terrace house in 1833.This larger house overlooked the railway and was within sight of the weigh house.

35. Durham Diocese Bishop’s Transcripts.

36. The New Inn was around the corner from Alliance Street in what became Otley Terrace; among its facilities was a brewhouse. Durham Chronicle, 19 Feb 1836.

37. York Herald, 20 July 1844.

38. The children were: William Collingwood, a currier’s apprentice (aged 18); Mary Ann[e] (16); Jane (14), Percival John (10); Alice (8); Bartholomew (5; ie. Bartholomew Butiman) & Thomas H (4; full name Thomas Henry Gray). All born in Darlington.

39. London Gazette, 19 Dec 1851.

40. England Deaths & Burials, 1538-1991, via FamilySearch. And Darlington & Stockton Times (DST), 9 April 1853.

41. After Jane’s death in 1853 there is no UK record, official (in censuses or compulsory birth, marriage or death registrations) or unofficial (newspaper reports of marriages, etc) of any member of the Tully family.

42. County Naturalization Records 1800-1998, Illinois, Madison County, Edwardsville, via FamilySearch.

43. Wikipedia.

44. Iron County, Missouri – Land Patents, US Bureau of Land Management.

45. Missouri Death Records, 1850-1931, via Ancestry.

46. Naturalization Records, 1816-1955, Missouri Digital Heritage, Naturalization cards, county of St. Louis City (reel no. C 25807, vol. 3, p. 366).

47. 1900 US Census, via FamilySearch.

48. For Percival John to be taking the lead for the family his elder brother William Collingwood must have died by 1882.

49. DCA, 28 April, 5 May & 14 July 1882.

50. DST, 9 Sept 1882.

51. The Odeon cinema stands on its site today

The Women of the S&DR

It can be difficult to make the women involved in the early days of the railway visible. They were scarcely mentioned at the time, didn’t attend committee meetings and were rarely employed. Often their role was as an unpaid support for their paid husbands. So, let’s take a quick look at some of the women we do get a little glimpse of in the records in this post published on International Women’s Day in March.

Skinner’s sketch of Skerne Bridge

People of the S&DR: John Carter and the Skerne Bridge

This article by Brendan Boyle was first published in The Globe in July 2017.

The most evocative image of the early railways anywhere in the world is, without doubt, John Dobbin’s Opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825, depicting the packed processional train, hauled by Locomotion 1, crossing Ignatius Bonomi’s glorious Skerne Bridge. It was the source for many subsequent paintings and drawings – including that on the Bank of England £5 note from 1990 to 2002.

John Dobbin ’s view of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825

But is it wrong in a fundamental detail? Was the bridge, as painted, not actually Bonomi’s design? Was it not really like that in 1825 – not that graceful?

Darlington-born Dobbin, brought up a quarter-mile from the painting’s viewpoint, surely witnessed the opening scene but he was only 10 at the time.1 Rather oddly, despite becoming a landscape artist in his twenties he didn’t record the historic event that took place on his doorstep until its 50th anniversary in 1875.

He would have recalled clearly the excitement of the day, but for the details of the bridge and its setting Dobbin must have returned to his old vantage point. After all, the bridge’s appearance was unchanged, wasn’t it?

Well no, it wasn’t actually. Apparently unrealised by railway and architectural historians, the Skerne Bridge showed signs of weakness just three years after being brought into use. Bonomi may have been the Surveyor for Bridges for Durham county as well as an architect but he had never designed a railway bridge before.2 Nor could he have anticipated the volume of use it would get, and so soon.

His client, the Railway Company which had briefed him, certainly hadn’t. It had, for instance, initially expected an export trade of coal from Stockton – all of it passing over the bridge – of around 10,000 tons,3 but in the year to 30 June 1827 that trade reached 18,000 tons, and in the following 12 months exceeded 52,000 tons.4 Meanwhile, passenger traffic, originally forecast to be minimal, was estimated at 30-40,000 people by 1826-1827.5 With usage like that, the bridge – a crucial link in the line – would be under severe pressure. Literally.

By late 1828 or very early 1829 the Company had become concerned at detectable damage to the ‘battery’ or embankment6 of the bridge, to either side of its central portion. For a solution, they turned not to Bonomi, but to their part-time inspector of works and designer of buildings, John Carter.

John Carter

Carter was not a trained architect or bridge surveyor but an experienced stone mason with a good knowledge of the bridge, having acted as inspector of it for the Company during its construction.7

His age was the same as Bonomi’s (both were born in 1787) but their backgrounds were not – Bonomi was the son of an Italian architect, his godfather was the Earl of Aylesford, he designed homes for the aristocracy and achieved a listing in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.8 Carter was a village man, a son of Heighington, born a mile and a half from the spot where in 1825 George Stephenson would place Locomotion 1 on the rails. He designed for the S&D some of the oldest railway buildings still existing anywhere in the world – yet he isn’t mentioned even in the histories of Heighington.9

He seems to have first come to the attention of railway historians in Bill Fawcett’s excellent 2001 book.10 Readers of the last two editions of The Globe may remember me banging on about Carter being the man commissioned to design the S&D’s three railway pubs, at Stockton (1826), Darlington and Aycliffe Lane (now Heighington Station; both 1826-27) – three of the first four railway pubs in the world and all still standing (albeit not all as pubs).

Bill also revealed that “the best-known of early S&D buildings, the so-called booking office at St John’s crossing in Stockton” was another of Carter’s designs.11 The distinctive, canted-fronted building (1825-26) was actually the weigh house and office built to collect tolls at Stockton end of the line. It also still stands, just along from the Company’s former pub.

Mr Fawcett touched on much of John Carter’s work for the S&D (albeit not his work on the Skerne Bridge embankment) but said nothing about him as a person, or why, after being one of the most-named individuals in early Company records he disappeared from them around 1830. I have now found out much more about Carter and believe he is somebody who deserves proper recognition for his work on this pioneering railway.

John Falcus Carter was born in Heighington to parents who had married in Heighington and grandparents (or at least one set of them) who had done likewise.12 His name seems to have been a tribute to a great-uncle, John Falcus, who was clerk of the Kirk Merrington Turnpike Road which ran through the village; a respected position requiring an educated man.13

Everything about Carter’s personal life revolved around Heighington except for one thing: his wife Jean was Scottish – from Perthshire – a rarity in an English village at that time. As there is no record of their marriage in Heighington they presumably married in what some Englishmen then insisted on calling ‘North Britain’.14

The couple had six – or probably seven – children baptised in Heighington between 1812 and 1828. John was described in their baptismal records as a mason, one of two listed in the village in Parson & White’s 1828 directory. On some occasions, he was described as a builder. He must have stood out as someone literate and with good draughting and organisational skills to be taken on by the Railway Company as part-time Inspector of Masonry by 1824. Freemasonry connections with at least one of the founding Pease family may have helped.15

Living so close to the new railway line will have been a considerable advantage as Carter designed and supervised S&D projects along its whole length, from Stockton to the Haggerleases branch beyond Shildon. He was probably the world’s most frequent railway passenger in the 1820s…

Heighington wasn’t a small village, with a population of around 600, but it was compact and John Carter made the acquaintance of its most famous resident, Captain William Pryce Cumby – a hero of the Battle of Trafalgar – after he retired to the village in 1815. Cumby was one of three magistrates for Darlington ward, responsible amongst other things for alcohol licensing, and when he heard that Carter was drawing up plans for public houses for the Railway Company – one of them just down the road at Aycliffe Lane – he must have mentioned that he had concerns.

Carter accordingly cautioned the Company about possible looming difficulties in a progress report on the Aycliffe Lane property, hinting also at a personal connection:

“I submit for your consideration whether it would not be advisable to consult one or two of the leading Magistrates to ascertain whether they would be disposed to license it as an Inn before any decision [about the final design of the building] is come to. If I can be of any service in that way [I] shall be glad to avail myself of the optny. of being useful to the Co.” (Letter from John Carter to the S&DR, 14 Feb 1827.16)

The Company went ahead anyway – and their applications for licences for their newly-built Aycliffe Lane and Darlington premises were duly refused by the magistrates in 1827, 1828 and 1829. Eventually, after a change in the law, the Durham appeal court found against Capt. Cumby and a fellow magistrate in October 1829 and granted licences.

The Heighington connection wasn’t enough to persuade Cumby to commission Carter to design the grand new home he wanted: he turned to Bonomi for what became Trafalgar House. Meanwhile Carter was making sure Bonomi’s bridge over the Skerne didn’t collapse…

John Carter and the Bridge

Bonomi’s design for bridging the Skerne seems to have been a simple one, according to the only known contemporary image: he filled in the valley from slope to slope with masonry except for three arched gaps – a wide central one for the river to pass through and narrow pedestrian passageways on either bank. It was more a viaduct than a bridge.

The image in question is a quick sketch made by a journeying cleric, the Rev. John Skinner, on 26 August 1825, a month before the railway’s opening. Some have scoffed at it as an ‘unlikely likeness’ on the basis that his bridge didn’t look like Dobbin’s. But why would Skinner have sketched something he didn’t see? Yes, the arches are exaggerated vertically and the sketch doesn’t show details such as string coursing, but Skinner was perceptive enough to notice, as Dobbin did later, that the east bank was wider than the west – and he turns out to have been a prodigious sketcher.17

The sketch seems to be confirmed by a map of c.1828 which shows the railway passing across the valley on a straightforward, straight-sided structure.18 Compare that with Joseph Sowerby’s map of 1847 19 which depicts pronounced, concave-curving walls flanking the central portion of the bridge and holding back sturdy earth ramparts – perfectly reflecting the structure that Dobbin painted in 1875.

Sowerby 1847

These flank walls were Carter’s solution to the weakening of the bridge’s ‘battery’: they supported the earthworks which in turn bolstered Bonomi’s now-hidden approach-embankments. The work was due to begin early in 1829 but was delayed by bad weather, as he reported to the Company:

“Geo. Chapman of Aycliffe promised me to commence leading stones for the Flank Walls of the Skerne Bridge last Tuesday. I ordered lime for the same, but should ask if possible not to begin the work for a month, the weather being so precarious at this season, the sinking and piling the Foundations would run the risk of more damage to the Battery than can possibly happen as it is at present (there is no danger of the main body of the Bridge).” (Letter from John Carter to the S&DR, 20 Feb 1829.20)

As it turned out, the delay was a couple of months longer:

“The Flank Walls of the Skerne Bridge we may now properly proceed with and do it as quick as possible.”(Letter from John Carter to the S&DR, 28 May 1829.21)

I believe it was these – Carter’s – essential, concave, flank walls, curving gracefully down to the ground, that turned an elegant but pared-down Georgian viaduct (built with a mind to Quaker disapproval of ornamentation) into a bridge of artistic distinction.

The earliness of the additions, the use of the same ashlar stone – probably laid by the same masons and tying perfectly into the original – and the designer’s skill in not just shoring up the failing embankment but doing so in a way which framed and echoed Bonomi’s arches, all together fooled everyone who came later to retrospectively-depict the opening day into thinking that what they saw was what had existed in 1825. But it wasn’t: this was no longer ‘Bonomi’s bridge’, it was ‘Bonomi and Carter’s.’*

(*I have to confess here that there is just a chance that somebody other than Carter – perhaps Bonomi, perhaps Stephenson – designed the flank walls and simply left the execution to Carter. I doubt it – the S&DR didn’t like spending money if they could avoid it – but I have more research to do at the National Archives before I can be 100% sure. Readers of The Globe will be the first to know!)

Dixon 1840

Unfortunately, the 1829 curves can no longer be seen. They were replaced – presumably in response to ever heavier railway traffic – in the late 19th or early 20th centuries by the chunky, rusticated walls and buttresses of non-matching stone that flank Bonomi’s unaltered central portion of the bridge today.

John Carter – The Epilogue

The last date I have found for John Carter in the S&D files at the National Archives was 26 December 1829. He may have simply fallen out of favour with the Company but illness more likely played a part. He certainly had intimations of his mortality by October 1830 as – at the age of just 43 – he made a will (the S&D’s solicitor Francis Mewburn was one of the witnesses and probably drafted the legalese).22 He died on 23 January 1831 and was buried where he was baptised, at St Michael’s church in Heighington.

Capt. Cumby was one of the executors of the will and Carter left at least three houses in the village to be sold off “with all convenient speed after my decease”. The executors were to invest the proceeds and:

“to pay the interest dividends and annual produce… into the proper hands of my dear wife Jean Carter for…

benefit… and for the maintenance education and bringing up of my children”.

The houses can’t have raised a fortune, however,23 as the Carter family went on to live simply: Jean became a grocer; their eldest daughter Jane married a Darlington blacksmith (she called her first son John Carter Lightfoot); and his youngest child William became a trooper in the Horse Guards. John’s fifth-born, Caroline, did go on to become a member of one of the wealthiest households in England – but only as a housemaid.24 Not a mason, an architect or a saviour of a railway line among them: John himself had been the lot.

1. Dobbin was brought up in Weaver’s Yard, off Northgate; see Wikipedia, John Dobbin.
2. George Stephenson was originally commissioned to build the bridge in iron and stone but had trouble with the foundations and the Company eventually asked Bonomi if a stone arch could be designed; by November 1824 he was giving advice on its construction. It is known that the bridge had to be strengthened at the sides seven years later. See ‘Ignatius Bonomi of Durham, Architect’, JH Crosby, City of Durham Trust, 1987.
3. See ‘A Report Relative to the Opening a Communication by a Canal or a Rail or Tram Way, From Stockton, By Darlington, to the Collieries’ (the ‘Overton Committee’), 1818.
4. Actually 18,588 tons by June 1827, which the S&DR directors said in a report to the Company general meeting of 10 July 1827 “surpassed their most sanguine expectations”. And 52,290 tons by June 1828. From ‘The North Eastern Railway: Its Rise and Development’, WT Tomlinson, 1915, p136.
5. Tomlinson, p131.
6. This use of the word battery is archaic now but was common then; e.g.. in 1822 George Stephenson drew up a ‘Specification of Cuts and Batteries Intended to be made by the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company’ (National Archives (NA) file RAIL 667/276).
7. See ‘A History of North Eastern Railway Architecture, Vol. 1: The Pioneers’, Bill Fawcett, North Eastern Railway Association, 2001; p13, based upon NA RAIL 667/30, 17 Dec 1824.
8. See ‘Bonomi, Ignatius Richard Frederick Nemesius (1787–1870)’, Peter Meadows, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
9. Such as ‘The Parish of Heighington, A Thousand Years of History’, Hilary W Jackson, WEA Darlington Branch, 1990.
10. Fawcett, above.
11. Fawcett, p13.
12. John Falcus Carter was christened in Heighington in 1787; no date is given but the order of the parish record suggests it was probably late May or early June: Durham Diocese Bishop’s Transcripts, Heighington parish 1765-1821 ( His parents were not named in the summary transcript but were almost certainly Thomas Carter and Ann (nee Blakey) who married at Heighington in July 1786. Ann’s parents – Carter’s grandparents – Thomas and Margaret Blakey (nee Falcus) had married in Heighington in 1761. Marriage information: ‘Marriages from the Heighington Registers (1570-1837)’ (
13. A John Falcus of Heighington, clerk, published official notices for the turnpike trust between at least 1767-89: see Newcastle Courant 6 June 1767, 25 Jan 1777, 27 Mar 1779 and 31 Jan 1789, and Newcastle Chronicle 5 Mar 1774. He died in 1790. He seems to have been a gardener at Walworth Castle when younger in 1759 (property sale notices in the Newcastle Courant 23 June to 28 July 1759), which suggest he could have been born in the 1730s. John Carter’s grand-mother Margaret Blakey (nee Falcus) was likely to have also been born in the 1730s or c.1740 in order to have married in 1761. The rarity of the surname in the village and apparent similarity in ages suggest that John and Margaret were closely related – perhaps brother and sister.
14. Jane, ‘first daughter of John Carter, native of this parish, by his wife Jean Stuart (sic), native of Dunning, County of Perth, North Britain’, was born on 12 June 1812 and baptised in Heighington on the 19th: Bishop’s Transcripts, parish records as above. Jean Stewart was the daughter of Alexander Stewart and Jean Marshall of Dunning, born 26 Dec 1788: Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 (
15. John Falcus Carter’s gravestone is one of the most elaborate in St Michael’s churchyard in Heighington, heavily embellished with symbols which appear to a layman to go beyond stone masonry into freemasonry. Although Quaker beliefs – the core religion of the S&DR’s founders – are not normally considered compatible with Freemasonry the website of Darlington Freemasons’ Restoration Lodge says with pride that: “In the early days many men of note have been members… members of the well-known Pease family were in the Lodge, including one who was a founder of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.” (
16. NA RAIL 667/994.
17. The Skinner sketch, entitled ‘No 183 Rail road from Stockton to Darlington’, although rudimentary and to date unheralded, is of huge historical importance as the first and – despite its flaws – most accurate image of the world’s oldest continuously-used railway bridge. Skinner (1772-1839; see Wikipedia) was a vicar from Somerset and an amateur archaeologist and antiquarian who made numerous tours of Britain, keeping journals and sketching furiously as he went. He drew the bridge on a journey by coach from York to Durham – it would have been hugely prominent across open land from the turnpike road. He left his papers (146 volumes of them) to the British Museum (now British Library) and most, including the relevant one here ‘Record of a Journey Through the North of England’, remain unpublished. Somehow, the Darlington historian Norman Sunderland came across the sketch and mentioned it in his ‘History of Darlington’, 1967 (republished 1972), p60 – “this must be the first picture of this historic monument” – but he didn’t reproduce it, instead donating a copy to Darlington library where it remains. The first publication of the sketch seems to have been in the Northern Echo of 31 May 2000 when it featured in Chris Lloyd’s Echo Memories. Chris wasn’t impressed by its likeness then – but we should all be now.
18. Township map of Darlington c.1828 which is from a batch of undated maps used in the ‘Report to the General Board of Health on a Preliminary Inquiry into the sewerage, drainage and supply of water, and the sanitary condition of the inhabitants of the town of Darlington in the County of Durham’ by William Ranger, 1850. The maps were printed by Standidge & Co, Litho., London. The class reference in Crown Street Library is U418q, accession number E810085075.
19. ‘Plan of the Town of Darlington in the County of Durham, By Joseph Sowerby, 1847’; scale 40″ to 1 mile. The concave walls are also shown on Thomas Dixon’s similarly-titled map of 1840. Copies of both are at the Centre for Local Studies at Darlington Crown Street Library.
20 & 21. Both NA RAIL 667/1010.
22. The will is in the North East Inheritance database of Durham University (
23. The estate was valued at probate at £300.
24. The later family details come mainly from Censuses 1841 onwards. In the 1851 Census Caroline Carter was one of thirteen staff in the Westminster household of the banker Henry Hoare and his wife Lady Mary.