People who are keen on local history might well be interested to know that “Darlington Through Time” by Paul Chrystal is one of the latest releases from Amberley Publishing to cover our area. The local history series from this publisher has sold over 500,000 copies and this book will certainly create a lot of interest. For a start I am sure many people will recall what a huge part the town played in the building of the railways with the Stockton and Darlington Railway opening in 1825 and, as I’m a railway enthusiast, I was more than happy to see some old steam engines featured in the book and, taking us back in time to when it all began, there's Locomotion which can be seen at the Head of Steam - Darlington Railway Museum. It was built by Robert Stephenson and Company at the Forth Street Works in Newcastle and was the first to be used on a public railway. At the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway on September 27th, 1825 it was driven by George Stephenson and hauled a train of 90 tons from Shildon to Stockton - a distance of 18 miles. It continued to be in use on this line until 1841.

The book gives you an insight into the town’s early days, its civic services and amenities, the industrial side and its people. I did enjoy seeing the photographs showing the town as it was and as it is now. Entertainment is covered, too, with The Civic Theatre, The Dolphin Centre, The Majestic and The Odeon. It was also nice to see some of the old pubs as well! As a lover of historic buildings I am sure you will know that there are many Grade I and Grade II listed buildings in the town as many of the old photographs in the book clearly show. I found the book very interesting and informative as I’m not very familiar with the town’s history - apart from the fact that it had a large quaker population! The book is essential reading for anybody who knows and loves this historic town. “Darlington Through Time” is available at a special price of £13.99 through the Amberley Publishing website.

Another recently released book is “Hartlepool Through the Ages” by Paul Chrystal and Stan Laundon and is published by Amberley Books. “Hartlepool Through the Ages” is the sister book to “Hartlepool Through Time” but this time I have provided all of the modern photographs. As the title might suggest, the book  shows Hartlepool then and now, looking at old Hartlepool and West Hartlepool, and some of the outlying villages including Wolviston, Blackhall and Crimdon. The cover shows an old photograph of Church Square with the Binns’ store in the background and a policeman on duty directing traffic into Stockton Street and Victoria Road. The same image has been recreated with me going to the top of the old Christ Church (now the town’s Art Gallery) to look down. The policeman might have disappeared but the view is still the same - albeit in glorious colour.

Several local people provided the older images in this book and it certainly was a challenge to show the area as it is today. From St. Hilda’s Amateur Operatic Society in the 1950s to the Hartlepool Stage Society rehearsing The Wizard of Oz in the Town Hall, views of the carnival in old Hartlepool in 1950s to as it is today. The book covers the docks and ferry, steam engines in Mainsforth Terrace sheds, Throston Bridge, the coal staithes and engine house and the 1914-18 war and the bombardment.

There is a section in the book looking at some of the old pubs including the Traveller’s Rest and Nursery Inn together with a modern location shot of Birks’ Station Cafe (as seen above) in Church Street. There are memories of the Tall Ships’ Races in 2010, the Saturday morning picture shows at The Forum (ABC) as well as happy days recalled as people used to play the slot machines and visit the playground rides in Seaton Carew. Dalton Piercy, Elwick, Greatham and Hart are also featured in the book. Great memories for me personally and a pleasure to be involved with my camera. I hope you enjoy it, too! The book is on sale through Amberley Books at £13.49. It's also available through Amazon and Waterstones. People living in Hartlepool can buy the book from W.H.Smith's shop in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.

Also on release from Amberley Publishing is "Secret Middlesbrough" by Paul Chrystal and Stan Laundon and sells for £14.99 or direct from Amberley's own website at £13.49. I'm so pleased to be involved in a new book which has just been released from Amberley Publishing titled "Secret Middlesbrough" and sells for £14.99 or direct from Amberley's own website at £13.49 and also from various on line book sellers such as Amazon, Waterstones and W.H.Smith.

Middlesbrough may have only been a hamlet in the early nineteenth century, but that all changed with the arrival of the Stockton & Darlington Railway; this led to the former farmstead soon becoming a cauldron of industrial activity, an early ‘powerhouse of the north’. It is also home to much impressive industrial architecture that is recognised the world over, including the truly iconic Transporter and Tees Newport Bridges, both living, and still working, testaments to the town’s industrial past. The book also includes a feast of ‘secrets’ from Stockton, Yarm and Redcar. "Secret Middlesbrough" delves into the hidden past and reveals tantalising tales, traditions and trivia that will fascinate and inform anyone interested in these famous towns. You can read more details about the book, by Paul Chrystal and Stan Laundon, on a specially created page titled simply Middlesbrough.

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