The Stockton & Darlington Railway Company corporate seal featured a horse drawn set of four waggons with a highly stylised rugged and mountainous background, possibly meant to be the folly topped Brusselton Hill, or more likely, a colliery. A river wends its way along the valley bottom, possibly the Gaunless. Around the edges, the Company motto read Periculum Privatum Utilitas Publica (at private risk for public service). This captured the Quaker philosophy on business and how to spend your money if you were fortunate enough to be wealthy, but it was actually suggested by the Rev. Daniel Mitford Peacock of Great Stainton. But the S&DR was designed to be locomotive powered, so why depict it as horse drawn? Well, it is all to do with timing.

The date of adoption was only one month after the first Act of Parliament had been approved. This Act was for a horse drawn tramway and pre-dated the involvement of George Stephenson who was responsible for persuading the company to explore locomotive power. George first met Edward Pease to discuss the use of locomotive power in April 1821; in fact it was on the very day that the Act was passed. At the same meeting in May 1821 that the Company Seal was adopted, Mr Pease and Mr Meynell were instructed to check out the prices of engineers. George stated his terms on the 13th June, but he wasn’t appointed as their surveyor until January 1822.

So, when the company seal was laid before the S&DR Committee in April 1821, the plan was still to create a railway that was horse drawn.

The seal is not wholly inaccurate though. If the hill top tower in the background is Brusselton Folly (Stephenson’s engine house hadn’t been designed by 1821), or given the chimney and the primary intended freight of coal, a colliery, and the river is the Gaunless, then the waggons are being hauled along the Gaunless flat. This flat area between the steam powered inclines of Etherley and Brusselton, was designed to be horse drawn, even once the use of locomotives was approved. It is also worth bearing in mind that accuracy was never the point. The S&DR Company seal bears a strong resemblance to other depictions of railways such as Hetton and it was simply following a trend.

With so much to achieve in a short time and so much money being spent on creating this massive new piece of infrastructure, the S&DR company were not likely to waste time redesigning their seal. However, when we recreated the S&DR Co. in 2019, we updated the seal with a locomotive – Locomotion No.1 and the passenger coach Experiment as used on the opening day of 27th September 1825. This can now be found on a number of our products including our whisky tumblers.

The adoption of the company seal was not the only thing to happen on the 25th May 1821. The company also agreed to rent two rooms on Darlington’s High Row (no.9) as offices and Joseph Pease was instructed to furnish them. The offices have long gone, but the statute of Joseph Pease still looks along High Row where those early meetings pushed forward with a pioneering form of public transport that would trigger the second wave of the industrial revolution.