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Exploring Locomotion No. 1

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Locomotion No. 1 has had a rich history in Darlington, with a collection of artwork and artefacts that capture the town's railway heritage.  

John Dobbin (1815 - 1888) was an English landscape painter who is best known for his work 'The Opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway'. This painting was on the back of the £5 note produced until 2003 and is currently displayed in our museum.

Dobbin frequently returned to his home town, and Darlington features in many of his works. 

John Dobbin

John Dobbin (1815 - 1888) was an English landscape painter, the son of John and Elizabeth who lived in Weaver's Yard in Darlington. John did not follow the same trade as his father, who was a weaver working in Pease's Mill in Darlington town centre, but was apprenticed instead to a cabinet-maker in Grange Road. He was not happy with this choice of career and in his twenties left for London to become an artist.

Dobbin later travelled extensively in Scotland, France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. He exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1842 and 1875.

Dobbin's best-known work is the Opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, showing Ignatius Bonomi's Skerne Viaduct, portrayed until 2003 on the reverse of £5 notes issued by the Bank of England, where George Stephenson's portrait is also shown. John was 10 years old at the time, and possibly attended the historic opening, but it was only 50 years later that the picture was painted, so that it was done either from memory or from a sketch by his father.

Dobbin frequently returned to his home town, and Darlington features in many of his works. His paintings became more spiritual after the death of his first wife, Amy. His second wife, Hannah Jones, came from an affluent family and probably paid for his grand tour of Europe. Dobbin was fairly renowned in his day and enjoyed an audience with Isabella II of Spain, who gave him free rein to paint what he pleased in her country.

‘Watercolour of the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway by John Dobbin, dated 1871 is said to have been commissioned by Henry Pease, the last surviving son of Edward Pease, for the 50th Anniversary the opening of the railway.

It was first exhibited at a Conversazione held in Central Hall in 1875 by Henry Fell Pease, the son of Henry Pease and Mayor of Darlington that year.

It is believed that Dobbin painted himself in the picture as a young boy, with a toy ship on a string.