The Stockton & Darlington Railway only existed for a mere 38 years, yet the impact on the world cannot be denied or measured. On 13th November, 1818, a general meeting was held at Darlington Town Hall and resolution was proposed to apply for an Act of Parliament to construct a rail or tramroad based upon the plan produced by George Overton.
A prospectus was produced "...The railway is proposed to extend from Stockton to the collieries in the Auckland district, by one continued main line, until it approach to the coalfield, where it is intended to separate into the principal branches..."
..Despite a number of objections the Darlington Committee, formed in 1818, decided to bring their Bill before parliament in 1819. In March of that year the bill came before parliament and on 5th April 1819, it was defeated by 13 votes at its second reading. To reduce opposition, substantial payments were made to purchase land and the route was re-planned. And so on 19th April, 1821, with little opposition in Parliament the first Act of the Stockton and Darlington Railway was passed.On 12th May, 1821 at the Kings Head in Darlington, the committee formed in 1818 was dissolved and a Railway Board of Directors was elected:
At a further meeting, held later that day, Thomas Meynell was elected Chairman, and a coat of arms was adopted with the motto;
" Periculum Privatum Utilitas Publica"(At Private Risk for Public Service).
On the same day as the Act received the Royal Assent, Edward Pease and George Stephenson met at the home of Edward Pease in Northgate, Darlington and thus was forged the foundation of the first public railway in the world. A further Bill was placed before Parliament in 1823, incorporating changes recommended by George Stephenson, consequent on his survey carried out between July 1821 and January 1822. The Bill also included the provision to include steam locomotives, and so when the bill received the Royal Assent on 23rd May, 1823, the building of the first public railway in the world made its first major step forward.
Perhaps it is difficult for us to understand that the only means10 of travel in those days was by foot or horse along unmade tracks beaten down by countless feet, hooves and carts, where the journey between Shildon and Stockton, a mere 21 miles, was looked on by most as a journey to the ends of the earth, undertaken perhaps only once in a lifetime, and by many, never. When a journey from London to Edinburgh took 10 days in the summer, and 12 days in the winter. And yet, the people of the North East of England were happy and content living in their communities, where the spirit of the community was of the utmost importance. Generation after generation before us have reflected on their early way of life as being better than the way of life that existed in their latter days. Perhaps they were right, who knows? Rail disasters, plane disasters, death on the roads, what were they? Certainly disease and illness took its toll, but so it does today! Poverty was widespread, but poverty never goes away.To most the possibility of steam motive power was not even a consideration, and yet the principle had been in the minds of innovators for years.The possibility of the stagecoach being replaced by an iron "monster", which to them that is what the locomotive represented, was preposterous. Innovation and change took place slowly against the background of superstition and suspicion. Whatever is - is right! The need for the introduction of the railway in the North East of England was more apparent than anywhere in the country. Whilst the rest of the counties of England benefited from the introduction of canals for the transport of coal, the north east had to depend on horses and mules, with bags slung across their backs, traveling along tracks which were impassable to carts.Improvements in roads was gradual and carts came more into general use, with a horse pulling approximately 1 ton of coal a distance of 10 miles in one day the load subsequently increased to 2 tons. Wooden wagon ways were the exception due to the difficulties encountered on ground that was not level. The introduction of cast iron rails in the late 1700's brought about an improvement in transport, with a horse pulling within the region of 10 tons for a distance of 20 miles. Shildon, Co. Durham in the early 1800's boasted a population of under 100 people, most of the menfolk employed in the mines. Crime in the area was high, mainly due to the fact that Shildon had a continuous stream of horses, carts and mules carrying coal, passing through to their various destinations. A staging post for refreshment and rest was Daniel Adamson's 'Grey Horse Inn', and it was here that most crimes were committed as travellers took a break from their journeys.