Darlington, County Durham
The Kings Head
25 Sept 2023
Darlington, County Durham
This is a
Hotel, Coaching Inn
Current status is
Designer (if known):
George Gordon Hoskins
Listed Grade II
Another grand and charismatic Darlington hotel - The Kings Head.
A beautiful red brick Victorian facade here, reconstructed in 1893 when Darlington was truly at its zenith. The red bricks were sourced from Grosmont nr Whitby.
There’s records of a coaching inn here much earlier under this name, from at least the 17th century when it was put up for sale. In the 1730s it was owned by a Mr William Stephenson, who appeared to be a commissioner administrating bankruptcies in the town. He was owner from at least 1727, as a notice in the Newcastle Courant advertises the selling of "purging pills" at the inn. These were likely medicinal pills to induce vomiting to clear of any toxins. William Stephenson continued to be owner for the next couple of decades.
We can then read on to May 1755 in the Newcastle Courant, when the Manor of Dinsdale and Middleton One Row were being sold to the highest bidder at the coaching house. At this time, it was "the house of Mrs Dorothy Stephenson", who was the owner of the property and likely the daughter of William mentioned above. We can assume the inn was one of the primary administrative instruments in the town.
It was a stopping point for Royal Mail coaches every Monday in the early 19th century.
However this iteration gratified a hunger for a growing and gentrifying town, witnessing visitors from across the country. The Mayor of Leeds said it was one of the “most perfectly furnished and comfortable hotels in the country” in 1893, and the Northern Review stated it had been erected “on a palatial scale”. It was opened in late May 1893, and was designed by Mr G. Gordon Hoskins at a cost of £50,000 in the renaissance style with English and Italian characteristics. Hoskins also designed Middlesbrough Town Hall, Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School and the Victoria Hall in Sunderland.
From its outset it was electrified and had beer and wine cellars, a spirit store, still room, boots room, silver cleaning room, a spacious hall, grill room and buffet, smoke-room, ballroom. coffee room, ladies drawing room and writing room. It also had 50 rooms in total, and the first manager was Mr J T Robinson of the Station Hotel at Grimsby and formerly the hotel manager under the whole Great Eastern Railway. The furniture was supplied by JT Calvert of Sunderland High Street, and the grand staircase was executed by Mr R T Smith of Darlington. Decorations were from Messrs Laidler and Robson of Newcastle and Sunderland. The extent of northern manufacture accentuates the hotel being the centrepiece of northern Victorian craftsmanship.
It’s still in operations these days and still looks decent too - an uncommon example with many Victorian hotels falling to the wayside in recent decades. This is despite a large fire in 2012.
Listing Description (if available)
The Ordnance Survey maps above illustrate the Kings Head both before and after reconstruction in 1893. The 1850s map shows just how dense the area was by the 1850s, with great development seen from the outset of the 19th century thanks to the coal and railways making the town a centrepoint of the region.
By the 1890s, greater amenities were developed for the people of Darlington including the tramway, General Post Office and public library constructed over the old mill race. The area was also rife with banks, who all helped to finance the many industrial ventures happening in the region at the time.
The 1915 Ordnance Survey shows the tramway had been expanded widely to the south of the town, with the Kings Head being the main thoroughfare and junction.
The hotel in 2023, which is still in operation from the first floor.
A previous iteration of the Kings Head in 1888 facing east. The statue of Pease also still stands.
The Kings Head in 1915. There were stables just behind the entrance way. Unknown source.