From the Darlington & Stockton Times of November 17, 1923: One hundred years ago this week, Northallerton was in mourning after a second man died of injuries following a terrific explosion and fire at the town’s largest factory.

A week earlier, the four-storey tall cork grinding mill of the Northallerton Linoleum, Tarpaulin and Brattice Cloth Company had exploded at 4am and had quickly become “a roaring inferno”.

The poorly equipped Northallerton brigade had telephoned their counterparts in Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbrough and York for help but they had “declined to come as Northallerton is not in their area”. As the inferno raged, the Teesside brigades had again been beseeched and Stockton came to Northallerton’s aid, the journey taking them 40 minutes through a “blinding snowstorm”.

Their powerful hoses quelled the flames, and allowed the “charred body” of foreman Robert Todd, 59, of King’s Arms Yard, to be retrieved. His widow, Isabel, recognised him from his boots.

A few days later, James Cooper, 26, of New Row, succumbed to his injuries, and 200 people were without work because of the blaze.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The view from the signal box at Northallerton station in 1964, looking north into the town, showing the coal drops on the left and a linoleum and carpet factory on the right

The factory was started in 1872 by George Elliott, the son of a Gateshead mine owner, to manufacture tarpaulin and also to help him win the backing of the townspeople. It worked, as they elected him as their Conservative MP in 1874.

In 1889, the factory was extended hugely beside the railway line to make linoleum. “Whose idea it was to start a linoleum business is unknown,” said the D&S, “but there was introduced into Northallerton about 1889 a colony of Caledonians, from Kirkcaldy, where there is a great manufactory of linoleum, and the canny Scotch tongue and character have been familiar at Northallerton ever since”.

Are there any descendants of those canny Scotch linoleum makers still in Northallerton? Please email if you can add to this or any of our other topics this week.