Secret Darlington

WhereGreat Broughton Village HallType of EventIllustrated Talk
When Monday 11th September 2023TutorChris Lloyd

The lecture was delivered by Chris Lloyd who has given the LHG talks on a variety of topics over the last few years.  When he is not talking to us he has regular engagements with other societies.  In addition, he has a day job as a journalist contributing, among other subjects, local history articles to The Northern Echo and the Darlington & Stockton Times.  We had a good sized audience which was no surprise given his reputation as an enthusiastic, not to say exuberant, speaker.

The introduction to Darlington showed the town to be a mill town and agricultural centre.  Darlington is often thought of as a railway town but Chris wished to make it clear that its earlier focus was just as important.  Although the title referred to “Darlington” the main part was about Darlington people.  Chris seems to have a gift for discovering and drawing out the unusual and eccentric nature of the people at the centre of his talks.  The “secret “part was that there were those who were well known but he revealed little known parts of them.  Or, they were people who were not well known but had interesting lives.

The first secret disclosed was the mill and its significance.  The characters he assembled with other secrets included several members of the Pease family, which would surprise few.  But their lives perhaps would.  For many years the family dominated the town.  They included industrial entrepreneurs in railways, coal mines and brickworks.  Also a wine merchant who imported vast amounts of liquor in amazingly large casks.  He was also an expert in ferns.  (The custard cream owes its invention to the developing mania for ferns).   And there was a female member of the family who, escaping the usual constraints on life, attained both national and international fame as an anthropologist and archaeologist, and who travelled the world extensively.

Otherwise, there was the member of the Backhouse family of bankers who seemed to spend money without limit.  He went to China and made claims while there which could not be believed.  One description of him was a “fraud, forger and fantasist”.

Other persons included a seaman who sailed with Captain Cook and was described in Cook’s diary as one of the first Europeans to be tattooed.  Tattoo is derived from a Polynesian word.  There was the man reputed to have invented lion taming with a chair and the young lady who became a Hollywood star.  Last, but not least, was the man who became World Dart Pouffing Champion in 1938.  This activity involved blowing darts over thirty feet from his mouth with great accuracy.

The audience was attentive and entertained.  An enjoyable evening.   

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