History in Structure

Former Stockton and Darlington Railway weigh house

A Grade II* Listed Building in Stockton Town Centre, Stockton-on-Tees

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Latitude: 54.5587 / 54°33'31"N

Longitude: -1.3104 / 1°18'37"W

OS Eastings: 444693

OS Northings: 518380

OS Grid: NZ446183

Mapcode National: GBR MH9Q.3M

Mapcode Global: WHD6Y.VP53

Plus Code: 9C6WHM5Q+FR

Entry Name: Former Stockton and Darlington Railway weigh house

Listing Date: 19 January 1951

Last Amended: 2 November 2023

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1139963

English Heritage Legacy ID: 59422

ID on this website: 101139963

Location: Stockton-on-Tees, North Yorkshire, TS18

County: Stockton-on-Tees

Electoral Ward/Division: Stockton Town Centre

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Stockton-on-Tees

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Stockton-on-Tees St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Durham

Tagged with: Building

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Built 1825-1826 as a weigh house for the S&DR, the first permanent building constructed by the railway for its Stockton terminus. Famously mis-identified in 1925 as where the world’s first railway passengers were booked.


Former weigh house 1825-1826 by John Carter for the Stockton and Darlington Railway, converted as part of a hostel late 1980s.

MATERIALS: brick, that to the canted bay being neatly laid in Flemish bond, more roughly built elsewhere. Openings generally have flat arches in gauged brickwork and stone sills. Welsh slate roofs.

PLAN: this has been modified internally with the insertion of partitions although the stairs are considered to be in their early C19 location, occupying the northernmost bay.

EXTERIOR: built in at least three phases, but probably all by 1828, certainly by 1839. The building appears as two storeys from the west and north, but three storeys from the lower ground surface of the courtyard and the former coal yard to the rear. The western elevation leans noticeably backwards.

The first phase is a broad, westerly-facing two-storey canted bay which originally faced the railway line, with a stone-coped gable to the rear. The side faces of the canted bay have six-over-six pane hornless sashes to both storeys, the front face being blind with a twin flued chimney rising from its eaves. This face caries a stone plaque that reads “THE FIRST RAIL OF THE STOCKTON & DARLINGTON RAILWAY WAS LAID ON THE ADJACENT LEVEL CROSSING IN MAY 1822” the plaque having a cornice and plinth. The rear of this section has a single top floor window, a small inserted middle floor window and a window and blocked doorway to the lower ground floor.

Extending southwards there is a slightly lower, single-bay addition with a single-flue chimney rising from the ridge of the coped southern gable, and a two-flued chimney rising from the rear eaves adjacent to the junction with the original section of the building. The western face has a single window to each floor, these not being aligned with each other. The southern gable is blind, the rear has a small, blocked middle floor window and a door and window to the lower ground floor.

Extending northwards from the canted bay there is a narrow lean-to addition with a split level roof. This has a door to the western face with a blocked oculus above (reputed to have been for a clock), the lean-to roof concealed by a parapet. The northern face, which retains a timber gutter to the lower roof section, has two small windows (one being a Yorkshire sliding sash), and carries the plaque unveiled in 1925 by the Duke of York that erroneously claims the building to be where the first passenger was booked in 1825 (see history).

INTERIOR: retains what is identified as the original building’s entrance doorway, this being on the northern side to the middle floor, just inside the current western entrance door, the doorway retaining its multipaned overlight. The (lower) ground floor canted bay room is reported to retain its fireplace concealed behind later partitioning.


The Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR) was pioneering: its 1823 enabling Act gave it powers to operate a public railway for the carriage of both passengers and a full range of goods, however it expected to make most of its revenue through the transportation of coal between collieries just beyond Shildon to depots along the line, principally at Darlington, Yarm and at the line’s terminus at Stockton. George Stephenson had been instructed in July 1824 to see to the construction of the Stockton depot, and on 16 September 1825, coal drops were offered for rent to seven colliery owners. The line opened 27 September, but initially charging must have been by waggon load because the weigh house had not been constructed. Its site was only agreed in October and the building, designed by John Carter, the mason who had superintended the construction of bridges along the line, was not completed until April 1826, the weighing machine finally operational in July, just over a year after it had been ordered.

The weigh house, modelled on typical toll houses built for turnpike roads, included domestic accommodation, the first resident (from April 1826) being the company’s Stockton clerk, Percival Tully. A poster advertising the passenger service between Stockton and Darlington which commenced 10 October 1825, named Tully as the person from whom to book tickets. This is probably the cause of the erroneous claim made by the plaque on the building that was unveiled by the Duke of York to celebrate the S&DR’s centenary: ‘Here in 1825 the Stockton and Darlington Railway company booked the first passenger thus marking an epoch in the history of mankind’. The weigh house was not completed until six months after the first passengers had travelled on the railway and is not thought to have been used as a booking office in the 1820s, although it may have been used as a booking office for a time after 1833. The railway’s first passengers were most likely booked at an inn operated by the S&DR at Cottage Row some 0.25km to the north, closer to the centre of Stockton. Instead the weigh house had a more important role for the company, being key to the railway’s income generation through its goods traffic which in the early years was far more significant than its passenger services, these being run by independent coach operators up until 1833.

When the S&DR opened in 1825, the concept of the railway station had not been developed. Instead the functions of what later became associated with railway terminus stations either did not exist at Stockton or were scattered across a wide area. The line ended at a series of wharfs along the river close to the town, however the coal depot was built about a mile to the south at John’s Well to be adjacent to the approach road to the bridge across the Tees. It was here that the railway’s first rail had been ceremoniously laid on 23 May 1822 showing the importance of the site to the company, and it was here that the weigh house was constructed.

The weigh house was first depicted on John Wood’s 1826 survey of Stockton together with a second, smaller square building just to the north which may have been the water cistern which company records suggest was built close by. This depiction appears to show the original canted bay building as well as the southern extension. A simplified plan of Stockton dated 1828, published in Brewster’s history of the town published in 1829, shows the two structures surveyed by Wood merged together along with the addition of the Railway Tavern just to the east that the S&DR constructed in late 1826 (see separate Listing). Together these buildings started to form the nucleus of what can be seen as a proto-railway station. This was added to with the addition of rail-accessed buildings to the west, including a coach station built in the 1830s, shown on the 1839 Dixon plan of the railway and its larger, early 1840s replacement shown on the 1846 Harris plan. The Dixon plan also shows the worker’s cottage that links the weigh house to the Railway Tavern, this possibly being referred to in company minutes in 1830. The original weighing machine is recorded to have been relocated to Bowesfield Junction to the south in 1831 to the junction with the newly opened line to Middlesbrough. Census and other records indicate that the weigh house was retained as domestic accommodation, generally for railway workers, normally split into two households in the C19, then for a single household in the C20 until at least 1955. The railway line (used only for goods from 1848) continued into the mid-1970s by which time the buildings were derelict. In the late 1980s, the former weigh house, inn and attached workers’ housing were bought from British Rail and converted into a hostel for single homeless people. The former coal depot (see separate Listing), which had been partly reconfigured in the late C19, was cleared of railway lines and became a storage yard for the local authority’s highways department.

Reasons for Listing

The former Stockton & Darlington Railway weigh house, 48 Bridge Road, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* as one of the few surviving and least altered buildings constructed for the Stockton & Darlington Railway in the 1820s, when the railway was highly influential in the development of other early railways both in England and abroad;

* for its architectural form, the canted bay overlooking the line taking inspiration from toll houses built on turnpike roads, the integration of domestic accommodation prefiguring the later development of the classic railway stationmaster’s house.

Historic interest:
* as a key component of an early proto-railway station. Built 1825-1826, it was the first building specifically constructed as part of the Stockton & Darlington Railway’s Stockton terminus.

External Links

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