Darlington – The Early Years

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Darlington began as a Saxon village. It first appeared in writing in the early 11th century when it was called Dearthingtun. Its name was probably originally Deornoth ing tun. Deaornoth was man. The word ‘ing’ meant belonging to and tun meant farm or hamlet. So it was the estate belonging to Deaornoth. St Cuthbert’s Church probably dates from Saxon times.

In the Middle Ages Darlington belonged to the Bishop of Durham. In the 12th century the Bishop turned part of the settlement into a market town. In the Middle Ages there were very few shops. If you wanted to buy or sell anything you had to go to a market. The Bishop could make money by charging tolls.

However Darlington was a very small town, even by the standards of the time. It probably only had a population of several hundred. It was also largely an agricultural settlement. Many of the inhabitants of Darlington made their living from farming. Nevertheless there was some industry in Medieval Darlington. The main one was making wool. Wool was woven and dyed in Darlington. There was also a leather industry. Skinners lived in Skinnergate. (The street name ‘gate’ does not mean a gate in a wall it is derived from the Danish word ‘gata’ meaning street).

Through the centuries Darlington was a thriving little market town. In 1569 a rebellion occurred called the Rising of the Northern Earls. Following its defeat a number of men were executed in Darlington. The exact number is not known.

Like all towns in those days Darlington suffered outbreaks of plague. It struck in 1543, 1597 and 1605.

In the 18th century Darlington became famous for the manufacture of linen. It was noted for making towels and tablecloths.

The first newspaper in Darlington was founded in 1772. The first bank in Darlington opened in 1774.

In the 18th century turnpike roads were built. You had to pay a toll to use them. A turnpike road was built from Boroughbridge through Darlington to Durham in 1745. It was followed by one from Barnard Castle through Darlington to Stockton in 1749. In 1751 another was built from West Auckland to Darlington.