A FORTNIGHT ago in this space, we were musing about the Pen Shop, a curious red brick building in Richmond’s Market Place on the corner with Finkle Street. Musing about its history and about whether it is quirkily characterful or just downright ugly?

Several people, including Jane Hatcher and Robin Brooks, emailed to say that it was built by about 1890 by Darlington architects Frederick Clark and William Moscrop for printer Thomas Spencer.

Between 1882 and 1924, Clark and Moscrop designed a couple of hundred buildings in this area, including Barnard Castle School in 1886 and Aysgarth School, at Newton-le-Willows, in 1890. In Richmond, they also did the Congregational Church in Dundas Street, and they placed the steeple on Emmanuel Church, Saltburn. In Darlington, they are best known for the Empire Picture Palace, which was the first purpose-built cinema, opposite the library where Wilkinson’s is today.

From his corner shop, which replaced the last timber-framed building in Richmond, Mr Spencer sold his almanacs and postcards.

Jane says the Pen Shop was, in its day, in a fashionable ‘eclectic’ style using polychromatic brickwork, although there has definitely been some discordant discolouration of bricks since, and Robin says: “I think the Pen Shop building is quirky enough to be attractive.

“Others on the quirky list in Richmond are the Fleece Hotel, the old Co-op on the corner of Rosemary Lane and Finkle Street with a tower and cupola that was recently damaged by fire, and St Joseph’s Catholic church in Newbiggin which Pevsner describes as having “a naughty, very High Victorian turret with extraordinary things happening at the corners”.

Looking Back is a big fan of the Fleece, designed by our favourite Darlington architect GG Hoskins (library, technical college, sixth form college, King’s Head), but we are really going to have to examine the Catholic church more closely.

Given Clark and Moscrop’s track record, we are happy to accept that the old Pen Shop is quite delightful. However, the duo did design a new town hall for Darlington in about 1893 that was going to replace the covered market complex and iconic clocktower. The last time the D&S printed their drawing of their plan was in 1953 beneath the headline: “Darlington was spared this abhorrence”. While their Pen Shop may be quirkily characterful, their town hall would have been blooming awful.

* Many thanks for lots of letters about the 1927 eclipse and Broken Brae – more next week.