The Society’s new flagship branch is to be opened by a Government minister – alongside one of the country’s longest-serving market stallholders.

The Society will host the official ribbon cutting at the relocated Darlington branch on November 2, marking a major investment in the town centre.

A Treasury minister will be joined as guest of honour by Robin Blair, who has worked on his family’s fruit and vegetable stall, in Darlington’s covered market, for more than 70 years.

It was announced in August that the 167-year-old Society was relocating its Darlington branch from Tubwell Row to a larger, more prominent building in High Row. The empty building, on the corner of Post House Wynd, has a proud history, having been opened by the North Eastern Banking Company in 1897, and later becoming Martins Bank.

We’ll open on…

The new branch will open to members on the morning of Monday, October 30, before the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony at midday on Nov 2.

The branch opening is another vote of confidence in the town centre following Rishi Sunak’s decision to make Darlington the base for the Treasury’s new northern headquarters, creating 1,400 jobs.

Mr Blair, 78, is known as the friendly, smiling face of Darlington town centre. He made his first appearance on his parents’ market stall as a baby, did his first paid shift as a five-year-old, and started working there full-time in 1960. In 2012, he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his dedication to Darlington.

Mr Blair said: “I’m deeply honoured because Darlington Building Society has been an important part of the town for generations, and it’s wonderful to see it breathing new life into such a historic building.”

A look back in time

Before the midday opening on Nov 2, Darlington journalist and historian, Chris Lloyd, will be giving an illustrated talk, in the covered market, on the heritage of the High Row building and Darlington Building Society.

And on Saturday, November 4, the branch opening will be celebrated with a community open day, including face-painters and stilt-walkers.

Darlington Building Society chief executive, Andrew Craddock, said: “At a time when we are seeing so many high street branch closures by the banks, the relocation of our flagship branch is another reaffirmation of our belief in the importance of giving our members choice, and making it as convenient as possible for them to manage their finances.

“We are delighted to have a senior figure from the Treasury to perform the opening, alongside Robin Blair, who personifies all the values we hold dear – friendly customer service, commitment to the local community, loyalty and trust.”