THE Darlington book fair returns tomorrow after a two year hiatus due to the pandemic, and there will be thousands of collectable books to leaf through at the sixth form college.

All topics and types of books will be covered, including some of the sought-after sketchbooks of Darlington’s greatest artist.

George Algernon Fothergill came to Darlington as a reluctant doctor in 1898 but quickly gained entry to the country sports set. He gave up the doctoring and became a full time artist, specialising in horses and hunting scenes. He also captured lively characters, local views and quirky details – he loved pub signs, for instance.

He surrounded his sketches with pen portraits and historical details, written in his flamboyant inkpen, and published them as limited edition sketchbooks.

His first, An Old Raby Hunt Album, was sponsored by the Marquis of Zetland at Aske Hall, near Richmond, in 1899.

But the last, Notes from the Diary of a Doctor, Sketch Artist and Sportsman, in 1908, was published by William Dresser of High Row who refused to release the full print run until he had cleared his debts. This ultimately led to him being declared bankrupt, which caused him and his family to leave town.

They settled in East Grinstead in Kent (perhaps it was just coincidence that it was close to the Lingfield Park racecourse) and lived contentedly until July 9, 1943, when his wife and two Darlington-born daughters were among the 108 to be killed by a German plane which machine-gunned civilians in the town centre. Fothergill, who distinctively signed himself GAF, died soon after.

His sketchbooks are real works of art and several of them will be at the fair, which runs from 10am to 4pm tomorrow, Saturday, May 7.