H – Head of Steam & Heighington

The Head of Steam Museum in Darlington is a fantastic museum that tells the story of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.
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Let’s start with the Head of Steam Museum in Darlington, if you haven’t been before….. then go! It’s a fantastic museum that tells not just the story of the Stockton and Darlington Railway but also holds collections about the history of Darlington.

The museum is housed in a collection of former railway buildings on the original 1825 route of the Stockton and Darlington railway and is right next door to North Road station. If you are up for a full-on railway day out, after visiting the museum you can catch the train from North Road to Shildon and pop into the Locomotion National Railway Museum– more about Locomotion under L (coming soon)

The Head of Steam also looks after Piercebridge Roman Fort which is just outside of the Brightwater area but still worth a visit, you can still see the foundations of the Roman bridge that used to cross the Tees. I can’t do the museum justice in a few words so have a look here to find out more. They’ve got a brilliant museum at home section available at the moment with plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained from behind your screen.

H - Head of Steam & HeighingtonThen on to Heighington we’ll start with a brief mention of Heighington station in Newton Aycliffe, it opened in 1825 when the Stockton and Darlington Railway opened. It was originally called Aycliffe Lane Station, which later changed to Aycliffe then Heighington and then back to Aycliffe and finally back to Heighington, maybe they just wanted to cause confusion?

It is at this site where Locomotion number one was put on to the track before the first journey on the railway, it’s also the place that in 1828 where the boiler of Locomotion number one exploded tragically killing the driver.  The pub Locomotion Number 1 was built later as a waiting room for the station and outside of it, you can still see the stones from the original platform.

Now Heighington Village, another example of a Medieval Village with an amazing village Green, two pubs; The George and Dragon and The Bay Horse as well as the Village Hall around it. Heighington has Anglo-Saxon routes in its name and it’s been suggested that a settlement has existed there in some form since around 400 AD. Did you know that back in 2006 the village was judged as part of a BBC programme to be a perfect village? It’s also home to St Michaels Church which was built in about 1130 over the site of an even earlier Saxon one. church

If you’ve never been to Heighington it’s an extremely pretty village and well worth stopping for a little bit of a look around if you’re in the area. We’d like to find out even more about the history of Heighington and over the next few years will be running a series of research projects exploring some of the settlements in the area. If you are interested in local history or would like to learn new skills in research then please do sign up to our mailing list and we’ll make sure you get the details as soon as they are available. Unfortunately the start of these projects has been delayed slightly due to Covid -19 but we’ll get started as soon as it is safe to do so.

If anyone has any more interesting facts about Heighington, the station or the Head of Steam or has an H in the area that I’ve missed please drop me a line to sarah@bwlp.co.uk I’d love to hear from you.

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