Westbrook Residents Association Homepage
Art in Westbrook
War Memories WWI
War Memories WWII
An Ancient Mariner
When We Were Very Young - World Events In Our early Days
11 &12 Westbrook Villas
Westbrook Community Street Cleans
Westbrook Community Celebrations
Westbrook's New Victorian Lights
West brook Interior Architectural Features
Heritage Open Day September 2011
Westbrook Heritage Open Day September 2012
Westbrook Villas Homepage
TUCKED away off High Northgate is one of Darlington's most unusual residential streets.
Westbrook Villas is a beautiful tree-lined street of high quality Victorian houses built along the banks of the Cocker Beck on land which belonged to the Stockton & Darlington Railway and the Pease family of railway pioneers. Immediately prior to the starting of building in the street in 1864 it had been Henry Pease's pleasure garden with a temple and hot houses and the Cocker Beck (also called the West Brook because it was west of the river Skerne)running through the middle.
The houses were built mainly in the 1860s on the pleasure gardens of Henry Pease of Pierremont.
From the Leeds Mercury 3 Oct 1846.”Darlington Horticultural Society – the third and last exhibition of the season took place on Friday the 25th ult at Westbrook and drew together a very numerous and fashionable company. The day was fine and the beautiful grounds (which through the kindness of H Pease esq were again placed at the service of the society) were the theme of universal admiration."
The villas' front gardens run down to the "west brook" or Cocker Beck and their back is bounded by a high, sandstone wall which is where the original coal drops of the Stockton and Darlington Railway were.
Each merchant had his own drop, and the wagons laden with east Durham coal would empty their contents into the correct merchant's bay.
All the coal drops have gone, although the coal drop walls survive in the back lane of the street together with a tally man's cabin where he would check on the amount of coal delivered to each merchant. There are also still bits of a buffers still on view at the scrapdealers' yard in John Street.
As their remarkable architecture suggests, Westbrook Villas were built as the homes for people prominent in the railway, industrial and cultural community of the day.This street has some of the best examples of local vernacular middle class houses of this important period in Darlington's history in this part of town. The first inhabitants were people involved in the new technology overtaking Victorian Darlington: colliery agents and railway managers, although one chap is listed as a "sewing machine agent".
There were two schools in the street: girls at No 10, boys at No 18, where a schoolroom remains in the back lane. About 20 pupils dormed in one of the houses.
Westbrook Villas produced three well known local artists: Samuel Elton and his son, Edgar both of whom headed the art school at the Mechanics Institute, and Victor William Hobson, who died of consumption in Tenerife in 1889 aged just 24. All three are represented in the Darlington art Centre collection.
There are varying styles of architecture in the street ranging from terrace to detached but the most notable is probably a semi-detached pair of high Victorian villas designed by the well-known local architect GG Hoskins and built in 1865. GG Hoskins designed many public buildings in Darlington but these were probably his first private domestic commission, built in the year after he set up in Darlington in 1864. Another notable architect was William Bell, FRIBA,Chief Architect of North East Railways who designed nos 5-7.
Darlington was famed as the "Athens of the North" from Victorian days to the 1950s for its excellent provision of education. This was due to the large number of excellent small schools and the philanthropic efforts of the Quakers before the Education Act came into existence (1870). Two of the small schools on which this fame was based were built in this street in 1864 and 1865.
Picture: Darlington at the height of Quaker influence. Backhouse's Bank on High Row (now Barclays).
One such school was on the location of the present No 18. This was a boys school built for the Reverend Christopher Jackson who features in the history of education in Darlington. The other stood on the site of the present No 10 and was built for Miss Jackson, probably his sister, as a girls school. The boys school, then called Westbrook House had a custom built school room in the back lane, which is still there to this day. Amazingly, in the 1870s the girls school advertised preparing girls for university.
The Railway Connection
Railway connections have always been very strong in Westbrook Villas ranging from 1865, when William Hobson, George Stephenson's Head of Passenger Services moved into his new house there to the 1950s when Frank Moody, a signalman at Eryholme Junction lived in No 14.
Picture: George Stephenson
Within the last decade or so we have seen a good range of wildlife especially in connection with the Beck. Besides the usual garden birds it has not been uncommon to see a kingfisher, moorhens, mallards, goldcrests, long tailed tits, goldfinches, bats, frogs, toads, newts, water voles, an owl, and of course those feeder wreckers the dreaded squirrels! In the 1940s an otter was spotted and with Durham Wildlife’s pledge to restore otter occurrence to what it was before the 1940s we live in hopes! Residents are took part in Durham Wildlife Trust's projects on captive breeding of Harvest Mice and propagation of the Black Poplar. The harvest mice produced quads followed by quins and many others. All were released into the wild at a suitable site.
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