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SDR Awarded Over £3m From the National Lottery Heritage Fund

An award from The National Lottery Heritage Fund will enable redevelopment of heritage buildings as well as a community engagement programme to celebrate the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR).

The award of £3,211,632, made possible by National Lottery players, will contribute towards the capital costs for Darlington’s new Rail Heritage Quarter (RHQ), as well as the delivery of an activity plan to engage with communities up and down the length of the route of the Stockton and &Darlington Railway.

Opening in 2024, RHQ will redevelop a cluster of heritage buildings around Darlington’s Head of Steam museum and will attract over 360,000 visitors each year, playing a central role in the celebrations of the bicentenary of the S&DR in 2025. For RHQ, the funding from the Heritage Fund will enable:

  • The creation of an immersive and exciting new experience in the restored Goods Shed, Museum, Carriage Works, and across the site.
  • The creation of a new bespoke play facility designed to link with the heritage of the site.
  • The animation of the whole site from the start through digital means, including virtual and augmented reality.
  • The restoration of the Grade II listed Lime Cells
  • The refurbishment of the Carriage Works building to create an exhibition space, open store and archive facility

The grant will also enable the delivery of a comprehensive activity plan along the 26 miles of the S&DR as well as a programme of small grants to empower communities along the line to organise their own events and projects.

Embedded in the community, DRHQ will create 30 new direct jobs, 300 indirect jobs and 37 construction jobs. 300 volunteers will engage with the Stockton and Darlington Railway over the life of the S&DR activity programme and young people will have the opportunity to engage in exciting activities and learn new skills. Local students will be able to gain valuable work experience in a number of areas and progress in their chosen careers with the creation of a new apprenticeships scheme. This exciting project will form the basis of the bi-centenary celebrations of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 2025.

The successful bid to the Heritage Fund was made possible through collaboration with Darlington Borough Council, Durham County Council, Stockton Borough Council and the Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway.

On 31 January Darlington Borough Council handed the keys to the Head of Steam museum to contractor Willmott Dixon to enable redevelopment to continue onsite. Activities will continue throughout 2023; visit to sign up to the mailing list and be the first to hear about how you can get involved, as well as stay up-to-date with news of how the project is progressing.

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, Leader of Darlington Council said: “This generous award from The National Lottery Heritage Fund is key to the success of this fantastic project. The award will enable us to display and interpret our amazing railway heritage for the enjoyment of all our visitors, to cherish and maintain it for the benefit of generations to come.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “This National Lottery award highlights the impact the Stockton and Darlington Railway had on the global stage, it will help to secure tourist trade and boost the area’s economy, getting people spending in our towns, and will undoubtedly act as an inspiration for future industry, development and innovation in the region.”

Graeme Bunker James from the A1 Locomotive Trust said: ''Thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players, people will be able to explore and learn about our fascinating railway heritage and history being made by new locomotives Tornado and Prince of Wales. Visitors to heritage railway sites now expect more than just to look at restored exhibits. They want to see historic engineering skills put to use, and in Darlington The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust employs them alongside modern design techniques to create new steam locomotives, maintain existing vehicles and all whilst visitors are entertained and informed about the activities they are observing.''

Niall Hammond from the Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway said: “Thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund the creation of a Community Grants Scheme provides a wonderful opportunity to enable the involvement of voluntary groups along the 26 miles of the Stockton and Darlington Railway celebrating not just the 2025 bicentenary, but putting in place a lasting legacy.”

Councillor Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We are delighted that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting our ambitious plans to make the former Stockton and Darlington Railway line a hive of activity, both during its bicentenary celebrations in 2025 and beyond. It is great that this funding will allow community activity right along the 26 mile route and this can only complement the exciting developments already underway at Locomotion in Shildon, where the first journey on the Stockton and Darlington Railway began.”

Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The North of England is home to some of the most famous railway heritage in the world, and the Stockton and Darlington Railway is one of the jewels in that crown. As we approach the railway’s bi-centenary, we are incredibly excited to be supporting the creation of this new attraction in the Heritage Rail Quarter that will share this fascinating history with visitors from near and far through innovative techniques. We’re also delighted, that thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to support the programme to empower communities along the historic railway line to celebrate this heritage in ways that matter to them the most.”