Today is the day that Darlington Borough Councillors have to decide the future fate of this iconic institution which was gifted to the people of the town to be used as a library forever, by the Pease family. For financial reasons, the cabinet members on our council decided, it is in the best interests of the town that the building should no longer be used for this purpose. All the members of DBC will vote to decide whether or not the building which is in Crown Street, will cease to be a library and the books and archives and art collection split up and relocated in various places around town. It is thought that the ruling party will win this vote and therefore the library’s fate will be sealed. To me, this library in this building is an important part of the heritage of my town and I want to see it stay intact and go from strength to strength. I don’t welcome this detrimental move at all and I am not alone in that. I believe this place is the soul of the town and to lose it would be to lose part of our Quaker history and dilute our sense of identity and deny future generations their hometown pride.
So proud of this fantastic image which the lovely Paul Magrs created of the unique building which Guru occupies (and donated to us out of the kindness of his heart). Captures the very spirit of the place in a way that photographs can’t… Do you know, I’d love it if we could paint our shop in these colours as it would so cheer everyone up but the powers that be would never allow it. Paul is a talented writer and artist and even more importantly a very kind and lovely human being…
The title of our book which was published in September 2016 is…
THE SECRETS OF 24 BLACKWELLGATE…
The quaint little building number 24 Blackwellgate is central to our stories as can be gleaned from what follows:
‘The stories herein tend towards the supernatural including ghostly goings on, time travel, witchcraft and other spooky stuff.
They also touch upon social issues of the times they are set in, such as attitudes towards family values, same-sex love, relationships, religion, the class system and so on…
They will continue to flow from the author’s imaginations and into print to become a series. The first compilation covers various periods in time up to and including the 19th century. Any subsequent books will deal with different timescales right up to the present day.
This series centres on an attractive little building known as number 24 Blackwellgate, because we think it deserves to be famous simply for having managed to stay standing for so long whilst most of the other buildings around it have been demolished and rebuilt in different styles.
We also intend to expand our tales to take in Darlington in general, as we would love to clothe this beloved town in a mantle of legend, folklore, romance and mystery.
Whether part of the action takes place before number 24 was even built (as in Bridget’s story), in the tunnels below it (as in Rachal’s story), or in the rooms within it (as in Beryl’s stories), this surviving architectural gem of Darlington is the original inspiration behind it all.
Contributed by Beryl Guru
10 October 2014 at 12:08 · Darlington.
It’s over ten years on now since the glossy brochure from the town council arrived to inform us that there were plans for re-development in the town centre. The need for the deed was debated and questioned at length, but in spite of misgivings from many, it was passed to go ahead.
I still sob just as uncontrollably to myself now, as I did when the work actually started to happen in December 2005. The reason why these tears flow is that whenever I dare think about what we threw away when we bulldozed our unique old High Row up, I feel extremely sad for what my town has lost.
The tourist attraction potential alone was worth millions to us, but most of all its value in reassuring us true Darlophiles of our sense of place, and inspiring future generations to feel the same loyalty to their hometown would have been invaluable.
It should have been lovingly restored. Instead, it was thoughtlessly cast aside to be replaced at great pain and expense with a bland and not particularly well-constructed street pattern, that could be…well just about anywhere.
Sadly the latest version of High Row is at best merely functional and meaningless to me, and I don’t doubt that is the opinion of other ‘feeling’ people also.
The loss of the symbolic old High Row and the subsequent planning problems associated with the whole redevelopment affected the economy of the town too.
Pedestrianisation changed the dynamic and people flow of the centre. The new design with its far too many steps acts as a barrier to people wanting to cross from one side of the road to the other. The ill-considered re-siting of the bus stops causes inconvenience to visitors (especially the elderly or disabled), affecting mine and other people’s businesses.
Even more than that it totally broke a great many hearts, mine included.
My life has never been the same (since that awful time between 2005 and 2007 when the big upheaval occurred), it has been diminished. In fact, I might go as far as saying a big part of my life has been ruined.
I feel lost and discontented in a place where I formerly felt that whatever was going on, at least I was ‘at home’, and it could very likely be sorted!
Some will not even remember the vastly more people friendly old High Row or discover what historical significance it held and what it and its environs meant socially, which is a huge shame. Some others will not think what is written above to be important and may disagree, but this conviction that losing that fabulously historic icon was a sad mistake for Darlington to make is a fact for me and curdles my blood every hour of every day that I live.
I don’t hate anyone for being so lacking in vision as to have been a part of what has been described (by people I know who feel that they understand the history of the town), as an act of corporate vandalism.
I am not a ‘hater’ of people, but I do hate feeling so sad, and I don’t think I am alone in that.
I partly blame myself too, for so stupidly believing that the value of old High Row was seen and appreciated by everyone. If for one moment it had ever occurred to me that was not the case, I would have moved heaven and earth to get a preservation order on it.
It astonishes me to this day that no-one had seen the need to do that.
I’m not being melodramatic when I say that for far too many of us, when the heart of this town (our finest ever incarnation of High Row), was demolished lots more died with it – including a vital part of me.
I have never got over the shock, and hard as I try to probably never will.
Review from the web. Ours to follow later when time allows…
Kris Kristofferson has had a roller-coaster career, from military service and an Oxford scholarship to cleaning floors in a Nashville recording studio and making it big as a country singer and movie actor. At 74, his beard now totally white, he stands centre-stage, guitar in hand and harmonica at his lips. You can still see the Hollywood-grade cheekbones that earned him legions of female admirers.
Starting with “Shipwrecked in the Eighties”, he soon interrupts himself, saying: “This goes out to the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, in opposition to the war.” This former soldier, the son of an Air Force general, makes plenty of political remarks. During “Nobody Wins” he jokes that Dick Cheney and George W Bush probably sang it to each other in the shower, and then emphasises the lines: “‘Cause it’s a shame to make/ The same mistakes again/ And again/ It’s over/ Nobody wins.”
Kristofferson’s fame owes much to the songs he has written for other singers – here, “Me and Bobby McGee” is received with wild applause. The song, written for Roger Miller and a posthumous hit for an ex-girlfriend, Janis Joplin, remarks: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Kristofferson’s rendition is soft, smoothing the tune’s husky edges but preserving its resonance.
He sings about alcoholism, dope, the devil, prison and his family. You can see why he and Johnny Cash got along. The septuagenarian smiles politely down at the audience but his lyrics are dark as night. His version of “Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down”, a song made famous by Cash, rings true despite Kristofferson having kicked the booze in 1976.
Having galloped joyfully through 28 songs, a slightly overwhelmed Kristofferson retires to a standing ovation. Female fans scream for more. Returning for three encores, he finishes by shouting the last line of “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends”.