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First railway ticket office
48 Bridge Street, Stockton on Tees, County Durham, UK
associated engineer
George Stephenson
date  1825
era  Georgian  |  category  Building  |  reference  NZ445183
The building believed to be the world’s oldest railway ticket office stands next to the site of the former St John’s Well level crossing on the Stockton & Darlington Railway. The first passenger ticket was sold here in 1825. The railway track was lifted long ago. The building has been restored after falling into disrepair.
The 40km single-track Stockton & Darlington Railway, which ran between Stockton on Tees and Witton in County Durham, was the world's first permanent steam-powered public railway. The railway company's engineer, George Stephenson (1781-1848), cut the line's first sod close to St John’s Well in autumn 1821, while engaged in surveying the route.
On 23rd May 1822, the line's first rails were laid, also near St John’s Well, by the company’s chairman Thomas Meynell (1763-1854). The malleable iron rails, each 4.6m long and weighing 12.7kg, were set 1.435m (4ft 8.5in) apart — a distance that would became known as 'standard gauge', and is now in use on more than half of the world's railway lines.
Passengers on the Stockton & Darlington Railway (opened 27th September 1825) needed somewhere to book and buy tickets, and the building adjacent to the level crossing was adopted for the purpose (as opposed to being specially constructed, it's thought). It’s also likely that people bought tickets from local inns, as they did for travel on stagecoaches in Britain.
The building containing the ticket office (now 48 Bridge Street) was also used as a weighing house for coal being transported by rail. The two-storey structure is of dark red brick with brick chimney stacks, a slate roof and timber gutters. The front (west) elevation faces the railway line and includes a central bay section, possibly added later than 1826, with side windows facing up and down the track. The west boundary wall, of brick with panels of iron railings, is immediately adjacent to the rails.
A plaque was affixed at the top of the north wall. It read, "The first rail of the Stockton & Darlington Railway was laid on the adjacent level crossing in May 1822".
In July 1925, centenary celebrations for the railway were marked by a procession of locomotives along the remaining parts of the original route, including Stephenson's Hetton Colliery locomotive (built 1822) and his Locomotion No.1 (1825). The Duke and Duchess of York unveiled a second plaque, below the first, on the north wall of the booking office: "Here the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company issued the first passenger railway ticket thus marking an epoch in the history of mankind".
In January 1951, the building was Grade II* listed. After 1954, the plaques were removed and re-mounted on the blank central wall of the bay to the west elevation. The earlier of the two disappeared sometime after 2009. It has since been recovered and is to be restored and re-erected.
In 1975, a Stockton Railway Heritage Trail plaque was erected nearby to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway. According to the inscription, the cottage was "standing long before" the trains began running.
However, the building fell into disrepair after the track was lifted and a photograph dating from the 1980s shows the walls shored up with steel props. In the mid-1980s, Bridge House Mission, a charity for homeless single people, acquired the building and restored it from near ruin. It is still owned and used by the charity.
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"The history of the first public railway, (Stockton & Darlington) the opening day, and what followed", edited by Michael Heavisides, Heavisides & Son, Stockton-on-Tees, 1912
www.darlington.gov.uk
www.darlingtonandstocktontimes.co.uk
www.historicengland.org.uk
www.ice.org
Location

First railway ticket office