Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Eaglescliffe Enigma (NZ421151)

Many have often wondered how the now merged settlements of Egglescliffe and Eaglescliffe came into separate existence. Such similar names – how strange! I’m not sure anyone knows the answer for sure, but here’s the generally accepted theory.

Let’s get one thing straight: Egglescliffe (to the south) has been there for at least 1,000 years. And look on the OS map of 1857 and you will find no sign of Eaglescliffe immediately to the north. All you’ll see is a newly-built railway feature called Preston Junction. The railway line which ran through this part of the world was, of course, the famous 1820s effort, the ‘Stockton & Darlington’.

Originally, however, the course of the line was a little to the east of the 1857 (and present-day) affair, and ran through the developing Preston Hall/Park estate. The estate’s owner wasn’t best pleased about this, and made the railway owners re-align the track to run on the other side of the main road in the early 1850s. Coincidentally, another, newer, line was also being laid at this time (coming north from Northallerton), so there was (and still is) a two-mile stretch of parallel lines running north from Egglescliffe. This was quite handy, as it gave the railway developers a chance to drop a new station into the gap between the two lines to act as an interchange – and it seems to have been originally called ‘Preston Junction’. However, due to the inconvenience of having to move their line, the Stockton & Darlington owners decided to quickly rename the spot ‘Egglescliffe’, after the nearby village.

Apparently, though, when the telegram was sent to the sign-maker, he somehow substituted an ‘a’ for a ‘g’ (or perhaps did so deliberately, thinking the instructions were in error), and the name of the new station became ‘Eaglescliffe’ – a place which didn’t even exist at the time! Eventually a new settlement grew up around the stopping-off point which, in turn, adopted the corrupted name.

Well, that’s the story, anyway.

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