The History of Stockton-on-Tees
Since Saxon times the County of Durham had been a Palatinate, that is territory ruled on behalf of the Sovereign by the Bishops of Durham. William had probably conceded the Conqueror in return for protection this power the Conqueror in return for protection from the marauding Scots. The County of Durham certainly suffered from invasions and in the fourteenth century Stockton was virtually devastated. Destroyed too were the market and annual fair that Bishop Bec had granted in 1310. Plague also had its toll and at the beginning of the seventeenth century Stockton was practically derelict.
In 1312, in the reign of Edward 11, Bishop Kelloe granted a strip of land on the west side of what is now the High Street to Thomas Burdon. One hundred and seventy years later, William and Henry Burdon built two houses adjoining each other, the building having one large overhanging gable on which they affixed the date 1483. When Cromwell was marching north in 1653 Rowland Burdon was the Royalist Mayor of Stockton. Some years later when the Castle was being demolished, he acquired two Frosterley marble pillars and he had them fixed to support the great gable of 8 and 9 Main Street as the High Street was known at that time, and the building came to be known as the 'Blue Posts.'
These eventually came into the procession of Mr. Burdon of Castle Eden who had them cut down and used as lamp stands. Mr. Burdon thought they had been the gateposts of the Castle, but in view of the fact that the marble was so highly thought of (it was used to adorn the banqueting hall or the chapel of Stockton Castle. Today these posts can be seen in Preston Hall Museum.
The Civil War which started in 1644 also took its toll, for the town was ravaged by Parliamentary troops. The Castle dating from the twelfth century and belonging to the Bishops was perhaps one of the early reasons for the development of Stockton. During the Civil War the Castle was besieged, captured and finally dismantled in 1652. Nine years later there were still only 120 dwellings in Stockton.
While the fortunes of Stockton may well have appeared at they're lowest in this period they may also have reached their turning point. Peace and stability followed allowing the development of commerce and trade which was boosted by Bishop Cousins (or Cosins) when he authorised, by charter, a weekly market and an annual fair in 1666.
Stockton's potential for commerce and trade gradually became apparent. The growth of the population from 544 in 1666 to 1,500 in 1692, 1,892 in 1725 and 3,614 in 1794 reflected the increasing prosperity. In 1680 Stockton's growing importance was recognised when Custom's control was transferred from Hartlepool, the port of which had declined.
In 1865 Camden tells us that 'below Darlington stands Yarm, bigger and better than Darlington, Yarm has a considerable market and below Darlington eight miles by water stands Stockton, a well built town having a great trade in lead and butter.'
People from Cleveland wishing to attend the market at Stockton had either to go round by Yarm bridge or cross the river by ferry. Farmers and their wives used to ride together on horseback, the lady seated herself behind her husband on a pillion which was a kind of stuffed seat and in that way they would jog contentedly along. To accommodate those who traveled in this fashion there used to be stone mounts or housing steps attached to every inn in Stockton, where there were thirty-four public houses.
The 1700's brought progress and expansion to most aspects of Stockton's development and the number of prominent buildings that were erected probably best illustrates this. Plans for a parish church, replacing the chapel of ease, got underway in 1710 and the completed building was consecrated on 21 August 1712. An Act of Parliament dated 1711 created the parish of Stockton on Tees which was separate from Norton.
In 1718 two wells and pumps were made in the High Street. Later, a third pump was made by public subscription at the end of Church Row.
At the end of the 17th century Stockton High Street was still wholly unpaved and the first improvement came in 1717 when the causeways were laid down to save pedestrians walking through the mud in bad weather. There were further improvements to the pavements a year later and then the smithy in the Tolbooth was purchased by the town and the profits set aside for paving until the whole of the High Street was completed. It was a tremendous task for the population numbered under 2,000.
However, there was still no path from the Workhouse (now Lindsay House) to the Church, the ground outside the Church wall being just a grassy bank. Paving was finally laid down in December 1820. The townsfolk were highly amused at the type of stone used, for they said it looked like a kind of petrified potato.
Stockton's first charity school was built in 1721 and twenty boys were taught there. By 1756, sixteen girls had been added and a further four became pupils. These received tuition but they were given no clothes. In 1796, the Master's salary was thirty pounds a year. Twenty years later a husband and wife ran the school; their combined salary was £100 a year and accommodation. Their method was to teach a subject to several monitors who, in their turn, instructed a group of children. The charity girls were taught to knit and sew, weave cloth and make the clothing for the Blue Coat boys, as well as their own. Every child was forced to go to Sunday School where they were taught by school-master and his wife.
In 1758 Stockton's Grammar School was opened in West Row. The pupils paid a fee of between 5/- and 10/6 a quarter. There were also several private schools in the town and a ladies' boarding school. Mary Hutchinson, the future wife of William Wordworths came to Stockton to be educated. An advertisement giving the terms of a young ladies boarding school at this time is interesting for they were: "Entrance £1.1.0d. Broad and washing, reading and plain and fancy sewing £12.12.0d. a year. Writing 5/- a quarter extra. Tea and sugar for the year if required, £1.1.0d."
For centuries Stockton had a Tolbooth under which were small shops which were leased by the Bishop of Durham. Near it was a covered Market Cross, a smith's chop and a butcher's shambles. In 1735 permission was obtained to erect a spacious building in which the business of the town could be conducted. It as also intended to have a house for the Sergeant, and on the ground floor, some shops. The Tolbooth was demolished and 1744, as it was called, further enlarged the Town's House.
Stockton owes its Town's House to five public spirited men who laid out a large sum of money on condition that they had the profits of business transacted in the Town's House for twenty-one years, after which they agreed to present the building to the town as a free gift. Stockton took for its motto "Courage and Hope." A rare Chinese porcelain punch bowl, believed to have been made to mark the opening of the Town's House was placed in the Preston Museum in 1954. The bowl, which is sixteen inches in diameter, has on it a Latin inscription and is unique, for it is believed that it is the first recorded example of a piece of Chinese porcelain with the town badge on it made especially for an English town.
In the early days, the first floor of the Town's House was used as a tavern and it the tower there was a bell to warn the townsfolk in case of fire. After the covered Market Cross was taken down and the Doric Column erected in 1875 at a cost of £45, the farmers' wives had nowhere in which to display their butter, eggs and curd, so two piazzas were eventually built onto the Town's House to accommodate them. One was facing the Parish Church and the other was opposite Finkle Street. When not in use for the Market, the piazzas were the haunt of sea-faring men.
The small iron grilled window on the west side of the Town's House lighted a cell which was used for people who had been arrested. It is said that it was very uncomfortable place indeed. The Council Chamber was used as a Justice Room, and balls, dinners and concerts were held there. The Duke of Wellington was entertained at the Town's House in September 1827 after his victory at Waterloo. With horsemen preceding, and the Marquis of Londonderry, Lord Castlereagh and their personal friends riding behind, the Duke rode into Stockton to be met at the Town's House by the Mayors of Stockton and Hartlepool.
It is said that a London firm made the present turret clock in the Town Hall in 1803. It has a particularly interesting mechanism, every seven days the man who has the job of winding it has to climb the narrow hazardous staircase, to the clock tower. The handle of the mechanism closely resembles that of an old Victorian mangle and it has to turned forty times. The clock has a face which is eight feet in diameter and it has a bell which has never been heard to ring.
Mr. F. Hunter, who was born in 1821, distinctly remembered the wooden stocks which stood at the foot of the Doric Column. Men who were drunk and disorderly were put in them until they calmed down.
On the map of Stockton dated 1724, the Friend's Meeting House is shown to be across Dovecote Street at about Hartington Road, although the little bridle path still ran alongside it. However, when in 1814 it was decided to extend the road, the Meeting House was removed to its present position at a cost of £1,800 and plot for a little graveyard was laid out behind it. This was for the members of the Society of Friends, who were not allowed to be buried in the graveyard of the Parish Church. At that time, the Meeting House overlooked a wide expanse of meadowland and the windmill of Mill Lane. In those early days the members wore the traditional Quaker dress. The womenfolk of the community wore the attractive poke bonnets and grey dresses, and the men, broad brimmed hats and collarless coats.
The Edmund Harvey House in Finkle Street was the home of the Stockton pewterer who died in 1781 at the age of eighty three. It is said that it is to Harvey and not Robert Raikes should go the credit for commencing the first Sunday School, for had a Sunday School many years before Raikes commenced his good work at Gloucester.
Edmund Harvey used his shop on weekdays as a school for six poor boys. Indeed, he commenced what Richmond suggested may fairly be called a 'Ragged School' for with the assistance of friends he not only educated them but he also clothed them. Later he added six girls to his school and by further help from his friends was enabled to engage a lady to teach them needlework. He took his little school every day to morning service. At the end of his life Edmund Harvey petitioned the Trustees of Bishop Crewe for their assistance for funds to enable a schoolmaster to be engaged for his boys after his decease, but after his death no one came forward to continue his work.
To Edmund Harvey also should go the credit for the idea of making two cuts in the course to the Tees which greatly helped towards the prosperity of the town. He made a model of the river in copper to prove that by straightening its course there would not only be a saving of four miles, but the silt which continually built up into the sandbanks which were such a hazard to shipping, would be greatly reduced and many acres of marshland (he reckoned about 600) could be reclaimed.
Nothing was done in his lifetime, but forty one years later his plan for the two cuts he had proposed were carried out and all his findings were proved correct. In addition, the slit in the river was greatly reduced and Stockton got the great advantage of having the river deepened at the quays by eight to ten feet, which enabled larger ships to sail up river.
One of Edmund Harvey's former pupils, Mr. Henry Mellanby, was for a few years a schoolmaster in Ram's Wynd before becoming a clerk in a solicitor's office. After Mr. Harvey's death he composed a poem to him which Mr. Richmond inserted in his book 'The Local Records of Stockton'.
In 1730 the side of the Almshouses built a workhouse on a part of the meadow called the "Vicar's Waste" on the narrow lane which later became the fashionable Bishop Street. At the time the Workhouse Master was allowed 1/10 a week to feed each inmate. In 1851 the poor of the Stockton Union were removed to a more spacious site at Portrack.
Brass Crosby, Lord Mayor of London, was born in Stockton in 1725. He was trained as a solicitor and went to London where he had an outstanding career. When he was elected Lord Mayor, he assured his fellow citizens that he would protect their liberties at the risk of his life. It was not long before there sentiments were put to the test, for the Speaker of the House of Commons issued a warrant for the arrest of printers and publishers for misrepresenting speeches made during debates in the House of Commons.
In England. a magistrate is the only person who is allowed to issue warrants for the arrest of any citizen, so Brass Crosby discharged one of the printers brought before him. The House of Commons was very indignant at this defiance of its authority and because of it, both he and his friend Alderman Oliver, who had supported him, were imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Brass Crosby was highly respected, and during his imprisonment, he was honoured with the freedom of several cities and he also received addresses from counties and towns throughout England. When he left the Tower after his imprisonment, he received a 21 gun salute, and rode to the Mansion House accompanied by Fifty-three carriages. That night the City of London was illuminated, and on the conclusion of his Mayoralty he received the thanks of the Corporation and a silver cup valued at £200.
Brass Crosby was also responsible for stopping the activities of the Press Gang within the City of London. He substituted Prize Bonus Money for those who enlisted in the Royal Navy voluntarily, and it is said one thousand men enlisted over the years.
When he died in 1793 he was buried with great pomp in the churchyard of the Parish Church at Chelsfield, and an obelisk was erected to his honour in Saint George's Field in London. St. George's Circus is a great traffic centre where six thoroughfares meet. Because of the traffic congestion at this point the obelisk was later removed to the grounds of the Bethlehem Hospital, now the Imperial War Museum. It has been erected in a beautiful setting and the authorities should be congratulated on the excellent way in which it is kept.
Brass Crosby had no children so he left the bulk of his fortune to the Bethlehem Hospital, which was the foremost institute for mental disorders. At the time, doctors came from all over the world to study its methods. This great man is said to have been one of London's outstanding Lord Mayors. It is surprising that Stockton has never owned him.
Thomas Sheraton was a famous designer of elegant but simple furniture, whose skill and originality placed him in the front rank of technical artists. He was born in Stockton in 1751 and he married Margaret Mitchinson in Norton Church on February 8th, 1779.
It has been said that Sheraton who had been apprenticed to a cabinet maker, was self taught, but at that time there was an excellent Blue Coat School within a stone's throw from his home, so it seems hardly feasible that a boy who obviously had a flair for mathematics and was to win acclaim by his printed essays did not get the opportunity of attending it, especially as his father is entered in the Parish Register as a 'schoolmaster'.
It is evident from his wonderful drawings that he had a complete knowledge of geometry. He was a zealous Baptist and a successful preacher. The welfare of the inmates of the Stockton Workhouse was always his concern and when a new master was appointed in 1770, Thomas Sheraton was one of the Guardians who signed the document setting out the terms of his employment.
In 1790 he decided to go to London where it was thought he would have a wider scope for his work. It is said that he walked the two hundred and forty miles to the capital, taking his wife and little daughter with him, because he was so poor. However may not mean Sheraton was desperately poor for at that time Mr. Pybus, the towns principal shoemaker, walked to London and arrived there the ship carrying the goods he was to sell berthed at the Dock.
In 1793 he published his famous work "The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book" and among the list of subscribers are many aristocratic patrons and four hundred and fifty cabinet makers and kindred trades. Thomas Sheraton did not have the financial success for which he had hoped as trade was bad owing to the impending war with France. By 1880 he was back in Stockton and that year he and Valentine Short were ordained, and given the joint pasturate of the Baptist Churches of Marton and Stockton.
The Baptists met in an upper room in Green Dragon Yard, where the Theatre Royal was also situated. At that time Stephen Kemble was the manager of the Theatre and Sheraton had the greatest admiration for the talents of the great actor.
Sheraton served his church faithfully for four years, when he once again set up house with his family at Broad Street, Soho, which was half workshop and half dwelling. Here he augmented his income by teaching drawing. Black, the publisher, who did some work for him at this time said that Sheraton, who was always dressed in clerical black, was very poor and he was very loath to charge his fee. Sheraton's designs made a fortune for many but he himself was dogged by poverty all his life which, it is said, made him very disillusioned and bitter. He died in October 1806 and left his family is such straitened circumstances that they returned to Stockton and were forced to have parish relief.
After the deaths of Sheraton and Short, the Baptist congregation in Stockton dwindled, but four years later the zealous little band that remained purchased a house in West Row for £250 and spent a further £150 in converting the ground floor into a chapel and the upper floor into a Manse. This was a tremendous undertaking as the Baptists were very poor. Little by little the debt was cleared and from then on the Baptist movement in Stockton went from strength to strength.
In 1752, a year after Sheraton, Joseph Ritson was born in a house in the High Street. He was a poet, a distinguished editor of old manuscripts and a critic of high standing. He also helped Sit Cuthbert Sharp with his history of Hartlepool and Brewster with his history of Stockton. Although he was greatly respected among his scholars the length and breadth of England he was little known in his own town.
Generations of children, however, owe much to him for many nursery rhymes might never have come down to us but for Ritson who collected and edited them. "Taffy was a Welshman", and "Ride a Cockhorse" were just two which were included in the booklet which was printed by R. Christopher, the Stockton publisher. Joseph Ritson was one of the literary figures of his day and he counted Robert Surtees and Sir Walter Scott among his acquaintances.
Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet, once wrote in a letter that he always carried with him the collection of ballads edited by Ritson to read while on his way to work at the plough. Joseph Ritson was so highly thought of in America that Dr. Bernard Bronson came especially to this country and spent some months in Stockton studying the history of the district before writing Ritson's biography. Ritson published 36 volumes in the last twenty years of his life and ten more were published after his death.
On May 24th 1781 there was born at 104 High Street, Stockton, to John Walker the grocer, draper and druggist, a third son, who forty-six years later was to invent the friction match. He did not take out a Patent for his invention as he did not think a great deal about it. Young John was educated in Stockton and was articled to Dr. Watson Alcock, and later to a leading surgeon at Durham. He then went to London for extra experience, but on returning to Dr. Alcock he decided surgery did not appeal to him. He joined a firm of wholesale druggists and worked for a while at Durham and York and finally, in 1819, he commenced business as a druggist at 59 High Street, Stockton. It is said that John Walker was a merry little fellow who never weighed more than nine stones. He loved both to hear and crack a joke and, it is said, his sunny smile was enough to send his patients away feeling a good deal better even before they took his physic. The townsfolk at the time were fortunate in having Doctor Walker to consult, for he had had an excellent training both as a surgeon and as a pharmacist. He was a talented botanist and gathered a great many herbs locally. He was also interested in science and it was while he was experimenting with explosive material in his house, facing the quayside, that in 1826 his friction light came into being when he realised the possibility of producing a flame from a chemical mixture on the end of an ignitable substance. The first sale to be recorded in his day book was made on April 7th 1827. John Walker's earliest "lights" were fitted with cardboard stems, but he soon improved on these by using wooden splints, and he employed aged inmates of the Stockton Almshouse to split them be hand. Later he employed pupils from the Grammar School, paying them sixpence per thousand.
The lights were sold at one shilling per hundred plus twopence for a case (a tin cylinder) and a small piece of glass paper in the shape of a cocked hat. To ignite the friction light the head was placed between the folds of the glass paper, and suddenly withdrawn.
John Walker moved to a fine house in the Square, overlooking the little park behind the Parish Church, and he died there in 1859 when he was seventy-eight years old. He buried in Norton Churchyard, and for many years the flame at the top of the Doric Column in Stockton High Street was gilded in his honour.
After the Restoration sugar began to be imported into Stockton, much of it in a crude and unrefined state. A sugar refinery was constructed about 1780, and gave the romantic name of "Sugar House Open" to an open space close to the river. In later years it was used partly as a granary and finally as a warehouse. On the 8th October 1790 the Sugar house was auctioned to the highest bidder.
A favourite sport of the townsfolk was bull baiting, as it was thought that baiting the bull just before it was slaughtered made the meat more tender. The Bull Ring was situated on the north side of the Town House. The animal was fastened by a rope to a ring in the ground and given just enough room to allow it to turn around and gore the dogs which were set loose upon it. The more dogs he managed to maim the more the crowd was delighted.
This practice, however, was discontinued after an enraged animal slipped its chain and chased the crowd, badly injuring an onlooker. The crowd fled in all directions. Bull baiting was officially abolished in 1793 but is was still in existence in 1796. The Bull Ring in the Coal Market was not removed until 1800.
On Shrove Tuesday there was the custom of "Throwing at Cocks". This was also a cruel sport for the sticks used were heavy enough to injure and sometimes kill a bird. The rules were that anyone who could knock over a bird which was tethered to a post, and secure it before it could recover its feet, could claim it as a prize. This custom so horrified the Vicar that in 1742 he finally got it abandoned.
In 1724 the first Stockton races were held on the low lying meadows on the Yorkshire side of the river opposite Stockton Town Hall. At first the admission to the racecourse was free, but afterwards a penny was charged and there were early morning gallops so that racegoers could decide on which horse to place their bets.
The racecourse was removed in 1839 to a farm at Billingham called Tibbersley, which is now part of I.C.I. and the Stockton people attending it went by boat down the river.
Sixteen years later, after the cut in the neck of the river was made which dried out the Mandale Marshes, it was decided to transfer the racecourse to this tract of land which had been formerly been part of the bed of the river. Stockton Races became a fashionable event many famous people stayed a Wynyard Hall for the races and the townsfolk would crowd into the High street to catch a glimpse of them and cheer them as they passed. King Edward VII was a frequent visitor to Wynyard.
At one time a series of cock fights were organised on the same day as the races in the cock pit which had been built in the centre of Green Dragon Yard. A Stockton man, whose forebears had bred game cocks which were very successful, said they were all red and black in colour and were purchased for a very high price by the local well-to-do patrons of the sport. If a bird had even one white feather it was prohibited from being entered in the list for the fight, as it was considered a cross-bred bird would not be a good fighter.
Later, the cock pit was used by the Primitive Methodists for twenty one years at a rent of £4 a year before they got their new Chapel in Maritime Street and, finally in 1866, they're elegant meeting place in Paradise Row which is now Church Road. It is surprising to think in these days of inflated prices that the entire cost of the new chapel amounted to only £3,237.
The cock pit itself was eventually used as a copper's workshop but unfortunately it was razed to the ground.
The Stockton people may have been poor but they never let an opportunity pass which gave them the excuse for a celebration or a procession. On the day George III was proclaimed King, the Corporation spent 2/6d on fireworks and when he was crowned, £2 was spent on tarbarrels, which made a fine blaze when lighted after dark, and 5/8d worth of candles were provided to illuminate the Town's House. At the time band concerts were held behind the Parish Church in the delightful little park bordered with trees, which was over looked by the fine houses of Paradise Row, a penny being charged for admission. The townsfolk promenaded the main walk chatting to friends or sat on the grass in their best finery listening to the music. Occasionally a gala night would be held, when a firework display would be added to the concert given by the bend. The cost on these occasions was sixpence. The lovely little park was eventually sacrificed and became the terribly ugly cattle market because, in spite of having ropes fixed to be posts which had been built at the edge of the pavement in the High Street, the cattle on market days often strayed on the footpaths, causing panic among the ladies out shopping.
Stockton had a fine little Georgian Theatre in Green Dragon Yard which can still be reached either from Silver Street by the way of Wasp Nest to Calvert's Square, or by Finkle Street. It was called the Theatre Royal and it was opened in 1766 by Thomas Bates after two dressing rooms had been built on a converted barn which formed the theatre. The restored theatre at Richmond, Yorkshire, was established twenty-two years after the theatre at Stockton.
Mr. Heavisides tells us that the Theatre Royal consisted of a low passage which was liberally strewn with sawdust, a pit which accommodated one hundred people, and a gallery which was separated by a wooden partition, on which spikes were fixed to deter people in "the gods" from climbing into the pit. Later Mr. Bates sold the theatre for 200 guineas to his nephew James Cawdell, who not only made the Stockton theatre a financial success, but by the time he died in 1799, owned several more in various parts of the north. Unfortunately, Mr. Cawdell's successor did not possess his business ability and the little theatre was not so successful under the new management. However, when later Stephen Kemble took over the theatre he made it a most elegant place with improvements all round. His charges were expensive, seats in the boxes being 3/-, pit2/- and gallery 1/-.
Famous artistes from Drury Lane, Saint James, and the Lyceum theatres in London appeared in Stockton's Theatre Royal in Shakespeare and musical comedy. Junius Booth, the father of Wilkes Booth who shot President Lincoln, played there with outstanding success, and Mrs. Jordan, the mistress of King William IV, played there also. Her daughter became Lady Falkland of Skutterskelfe.
By 1858, artists from London rarely came to the theatre. It degenerated into a Music Hall and its name was changed to "The Oxford". The price of the seats in the gallery at the time was twopence. After the theatre finally closed, the Salvation Army used the building and eventually it was taken over by a firm manufacturing confectionery.
Many of Stockton's interesting buildings were demolished during the 1970's but fortunately in 1972 the Teesside Corporation placed a preservation order on the Green Dragon Yard and one day this link with the town's past will be restored.
Bishop Street in Georgian times was a fashionable and prosperous shopping centre. In it the Star Theatre was built where dramas and serious plays were performed. After the theatre had suffered considerable damage by fire, it was thoroughly renovated and decorated with "chaste decorations." The prices were expensive, for the boxes were 10/6d. with single seats in them costing 2/- each. The pit and circle 1/- and gallery, 3d. However, at nine o'clock patrons could get seats at half price. Later it became a Music Hall and was remained the "The Grand". By the turn of the century the people of Stockton would not patronise it because, by this time, the houses which were frequented buy the lowest type of beggar and hawker.
The famous actor, Sir Henry Irving, received a great welcome when he came to play at the Theatre Royal which had been built in 1866 near Trinity Churchyard. It held 1,650 people and had a stage as large as that of Drury Lane in London. Unfortunately, the theatre was burned down in 1906 and the building became first a skating rink, and then a ballroom, before it was demolished.
The splendid Castle Theatre was later at the corner of the High Street and Bridge Road. It had a handsome white marble staircase with ruby carpet and gleaming brass stir-rods , and the entrance to the circle was very lovely, with palms and a fountain splashing into a pool containing gold-fish in a setting of ruby and gilt. However, the Castle Theatre was not a financial success and its names way for the great modern hotel we know today.
Stockton had a good market for butter, eggs, cheese, poultry and corn, but there were only a few stalls and those only sold gingerbread. At first there were a few cattle sold, for Darlington was the great cattle market, but in 1770, immediately the new bridge over the tees was opened at Stockton, the first fair was held for horned sheep, cattle and horses. It was so successful that it was decided to hold it twice a year, on January 31st and May 9th. In conjunction with the bridge, two new turnpike roads, one from Stockton to Sedgefield in 1742, and Stockton to Sunderland in 1789, opened up a whole area to the town.
By 1855 trade had so increased that a weekly market for fruit and vegetables was commenced and garden produce from as far away as Hamburg and 1855 were selling Holland. At that time it was quite a common sight to see the round ended Dutch boats being unloaded at the quays. At the bottom of Finkle Street a sink, which was fed by a spring, was provided for the Dutch seamen to enable them to fill their water casks.
Now the great trading wagons with their broad wheels and six to twelve horses, or two lead horses and four oxen, handled the long distance traffic on the three newly built turnpike roads out of the town, for by now the new road to Darlington had been laid.
Stockton's earliest ideas of trade were centred around its Fair, Market and valuable salmon fisheries. However, the number of salmon declined because, it is said, the salmon spawn high up the river was gathered each year and fed to the pigs. This caused the Tees Fisheries Landowner's Association to be formed and vigorous steps were taken to protect the salmon fishing on the river.
At the corner of Finkle Street and the High Street there were at one time two stalls especially kept for the sale of salmon by three sturdy women, two having been there for thirty-eight years. The salmon was sold for sixpence a pound. At one time there was a clause in the terms of the apprentice's employment, limiting the eating of salmon for dinner to two days a week. A great variety of fish and shell fish could be purchased quite cheaply at the quays, and a quantity of it was taken regularly from Stockton by packhorse as far away as Osmotherly. In August 1842, the quantity as salmon was greater than had previously been known and one boat netted 110 salmon on one tide.
In 1825 the Stockton, Norton, and Yarm Mechanics Institute was founded. Its aim was to foster the education of working men. The fees were 12/- a year; the apprentices paid 6/-. It had 224 members and 261 volumes in its library. Concerts were also held every fortnight and the cost of a seat was one penny with threepence for a reserved seat.
A subscription News Room was held at this time in the Town Hall. The first subscription library had been opened in the town in 1791; it possessed several hundred books. The fee for membership was expensive, being one guinea a year.
Until 1771 the only way of crossing the Tees locally was by the Bishop's Horse Ferry.
The first bridge to serve the growing town of Stockton, and link it with Yorkshire, was opened in 1771. The opening of Stockton Bridge did not kill off Stockton's cross ferry services. The first traveler to go over the bridge was a dead one, for the body of James Hustler, who owned Acklam and Middlesbrough, was taken across it for burial at Acklam before the bridge was completed. It is said the body had been brought from London by sea to Stockton Quay. The cost of the bridge was £8,000 and tolls were levied to pay for it and to compensate the See of Durham for the loss of the ferry dues, which were reckoned at ninety pounds a year. Its construction aided the development of Stockton and Thornaby and it also acted as a barrier preventing larger coastal ships from navigating the river to Yarm. It was agreed that the cost of the bridge should be borne equally by Durham County and Yorkshire. 1816 cleared the debt but the toll was still in existence in 1819. This angered the people using the bridge, and drivers taking coal carts over backed into the gates and toll houses. Two gates were thrown into the river and the rest were burned at the Market Cross. The ringleaders were imprisoned but it was 1820 before the tolls ceased to be demanded and bridge was free.
Stockton High Street had been closed at the south end by the gates of the Castle Park, but after the bridge was built is was necessary to link it with the High Street. There was already a road as far as Saint John's Well through the Castle grounds and this was further extended to link it with the bridge, and it was agreed to pay the Bishop of Durham £3 per acre a year for the land occupied by the road. However, it appears to have been a rough country road, for it was not until 18 years after the bridge was opened that a subscription was opened for a foot road.
With money given by Mr. Sutton, trees were planted down one side of the new road and seats were placed at convenient places. On the other side, a white fence bound the whole length of the road and ornamental trees were set in clusters at various places. They called the road "The New Walk" and Mr. Sutton and his friends thought they had given the townsfolk of Stockton a pleasant country road they could enjoy forever.
By 1854 the trees along the New Walk were well grown and the road with its hedgerows, its trees, and castellated barn, behind which was the grassy mound which covered the foundations of Stockton Castle, formed an attractive outlet from the town. How different Stockton would look today if those trees had been allowed to remain. The castellated barn was demolished in 1865.
By 1856 traffic had so increased that it was found necessary to widen the narrow Stockton Bridge to a road width of 18ft. with a raised footpath on one side 3ft. in width. The New Walk was also widened and renamed the Bridge Road but a house and shop were in the way. The Corporation put a compulsory purchase order on it and, to the indignation of the townsfolk, the price they paid for the property was only £3.15.0d. even though they had taken the owner's livelihood.
The splendid mansion of Alderman James Cooke stood at the entrance to Bridge Road. The outbuildings had been erected from the stones of the ruined Castle and the garden went down to the river by the side of the great moat. Later, the mansion was converted into the two ivy-covered residences of Mr. Faber and Mr. Felix Cruise. These houses were eventually demolished and the Castle Theatre was built on the site.
It was in 1716 that a lease had been granted to Alderman Cooke by the Vicar and Vestrymen of Stockton of a portion of land called "The Vicar's Waste" for a term of a thousand years at a ground rent of £13 per annum. Smaller portions were also granted to other people for a term of 999 years, making a total rent of £38. One hundred years later, after the fashionable Bishop Street and Silver Street were built on this land, which had become a prosperous shopping centre, an attempt was made to invalidate the leases, but the Court upheld them.
By the hedgerows of Bridge Road was Saint John's Well; a holy well which had stood outside the walls of the Castle. It had been so named to commemorate the visit of King John to the Castle in 1201. The well was situated at one time inn a meadow and was reached by going down a very steep grassy bank. The man who looked after it lived in a little cottage by the side of it. The water gushed from a semi-circular stone surround, and from there it flowed into an ancient stone trough. In some manuscripts it is said that a bath was once attached to it, and miraculous cures were attributed to it over the centuries. Indeed, at one time the authorities were considering converting Saint John's Well into a spa and in 1825 three hundred pounds was voted to construct hot and cold baths there, but the scheme did not materialise.
The well was considered to have the best water in the district, even in modern times. For hundreds of years the people of Stockton had had their drinking water brought into the town from the well in a horse-drawn cart shaped like a barrel. Even after three pumps had been installed in the High Street, they still preferred to get their water that way, paying a halfpenny a bucketful or 10/- a year for it. In 1845 seven hundred people were still getting their drinking water from the well and for many years, right up to the time it was sealed, it was used exclusively by a firm of mineral water manufacturers who protested strongly when they heard they would no longer be able to use it. Today, the site where it once stood can still be seen some ten feet below the level of Bridge Road, by the side of the old railway ticket office. It is now a dirty, derelict place and a disgrace to the town.
What a tourist attraction it could have been if it had been commercialised, for few towns had an attractive tree-lined road, with an ancient medieval barn on a grassy slope going down to a wide river, the first railway booking office in the world and a holy well, altogether within a few hundred yards, as Stockton had at that time.
William Wordsworth's poem: "The Daffodils" which commences "I wandered lonely as a cloud" is well known. However, few people know that his wife who before her marriage was Mary Hutchinson who was educated at Stockton contributed the last two lines of the poem which the poet considered were the best.
Mary was born at Stockton-on-Tees and she lived there with her brother and sister for several years. Two of the younger brothers farmed in this area and John the eldest, besides having a farm in Stockton, finally became head of the firm of John Hutchinson & Co. bankers of Stockton, and Mayor of the town in 1810.
Before both families were orphaned, the Hutchinsons and Wordsworths had been neighbours in early childhood at Penrith and had been close friends, but when she lost her parents, Mary was sent to live with her uncle, Henry Hutchinson, at Stockton in order to go school there. When she was twenty-four years of age Mary announced that she was going to marry William Wordsworth but her uncle did not approve, as he considered Wordsworth had no profession. However, when William became famous and eventually Poet Laureate he thought highly of him.
The Wordsworths visited Stockton a great deal and made most of their purchases in the town. There is still in existence a letter from Mary ordering for shirts for the poet, also cambric for ruffles and caps for herself from Mr. Dixon, the leading draper in Stockton. They also ordered goods from London through a relative who lived in Pudding Lane and had them sent by sea to Stockton.
Early in November 1807 Mary Wordsworth had gone to Stockton from their home in the Lake District and the poet intended to follow her in a day or two. The weather that year was very severe and he was forced to remain home for two weeks longer than he had intended. In the end he decided to walk to Stockton and when he had got to within half a mile from Threlkheld he saw a man with a horse and it was agreed that the poet should ride the horse for four miles. He set off with a boy riding behind, in order to take the animal back. The ride cost him one shilling for the horse and sixpence for the boy. Later he saw a gig and was offered a lift along the road but conditions were so bad the driver soon decided he could go no further.
Eventually Wordsworth reached Stockton and during his stay there he used to go out of his brother-in-law's house and walk the hundred or so yards from the garden to the farm road which is now the path to Holy Trinity Church.
At the time, nearly thirty years before the Church was built, the land belonged to Black Lion Farm. Hay and corn stacks stood near the entrance of the farm road, which came out on Yarm lane; and half way along the road was a duck pond. Where Trinity Church now stands, the farmhouse was situated and was surrounded by stables and byres. It was there, in the peace of the farm road in the shelter of the haystacks, that the poet used to walk up and down reciting his newly composed verses. Often he got so absorbed in his task that he completely lost track of time. This was a great worry to Mrs. Wordsworth as John Hutchinson expected all his guests to be punctual for meals and would not commence until they were all present.
Part of one of Wordsworth's finest poems, "The White Doe of Ryleston" was written at this time in John Hutchinson's house at 105 High Street, Stockton. It tells the story of old Richard Norton who joined the Catholic rebellion and rode out to battle at the head of his eight sons. With the collapse of the revolt one of his sons was beheaded at Tyburn, four of his servants were hanged and Richard Norton died in exile. Three hundred people were either executed or hanged at this time in Co. Durham, including five at Sedgefield, four at Hartburn, four at Wolviston outside their villages. Nine people were implicated at Stockton and two were afterwards executed. Norton only had one and he was Marmaduke Blakeston who was afterwards pardoned.
Both Mary Wordsworth's uncle and brother were benefactors of Stockton's first Sick People's Dispensary. In the days when they were mayors, the Stockton people participated in the Mayor Making and made it an occasion for celebration. At that time there was a little balcony on the Town hall, where the Mayor would stand with the Alderman and Councilors to be presented to the townsfolk who would cheer him and shout up good humoured jokes, to the amusement of the crowd who enjoyed the fun. Then the Mayor and Aldermen would follow the age-old custom of throwing apples and nuts to the people assembled below and this caused great merriment. Later, the new Mayor, accompanied by the members of the Town Council would walk the boundaries of the Borough of Stockton followed by a large crowd in holiday mood.
A post coach commenced to travel through Stockton in 1796. It was called the Union Coach and it ran twice a week from Sunderland to Whitby. When stage coaches started to pass through Stockton, the town became the centre for coaches from Edinburgh, London, Newcastle, Whitby, Darlington and Shildon. The Vane Arms was a busy place. In 1798 it had stables with standings for twenty-six horses and loose stabling for thirty. There were also two coach houses, two granaries, a blacksmith's forge, a harness maker's shop and Stockton's first Customs House. Mr. Heavisides tells us that the sound of the horn and the clatter of the horses, hooves heralded the approach of a coach which, although it happened daily, still held absorbing interest to the tradesman who hurried to the doors of their shops to watch the passengers alight and go into the hotel while the ostlers looked after the horses. During cold weather the passengers were supplied with "bell warmers." These were small oval metal containers which were filled with boiling water. However, in 1802 the townsfolk who were forced to travel long hours on the outside of the coach, in all weathers, received a great boon when Mr. Dixon, the leading draper, brought to Stockton the first consignment of woollen cloth, which had been treated by a newly discovered method which rendered it impenetrable to water.
Stockton's oldest inn was the Blue Post Hotel. The building was situated on the west side of the High Street and gained its name from a pair of Frosterley marble pillars (said to from Stockton Castle) which were built into the structure by Rowland Burdon in the late 18th Century.
The town's next oldest inn was the Custom House Hotel at the bottom of Finkle Street. It was built in the late 17th century as a private residence but was licensed by 1717 when it is mentioned in the will of Mrs. Emma Redman (she had brought the property from Mr. Robert Spearman sometime before). Many of the town's inns incorporated a small kiln where beer was brewed for sale and this practice continued into the 19th century. The Custom House Hotel brewed its own beer until 1879 when the premises were sold to Stockton on Tees Corporation. The local brewing company, J. W. Cameron Limited, acquired the property on 30th June 1896 and it continued to trade until the late 1940s. It stood empty for a number of years before being demolished in 1959 to make way for the riverside redevelopment scheme.
Several other public houses stood close to the riverside. These included the Baltic Tavern (no. 18 Quayside) which was previously known as the Blue Anchor Tavern, and continued to trade until the late 1960s. Nearby was the Ship Launch Inn (no.27 Quayside) and the Greyhound Inn which closed in the mid 1960s. Features of this building included the concert room upstairs and the Captain's Bar where ship' crews had been paid at the end of a voyage.
Closer to the centre of town, the Star Inn, on Garbutt Street, closed on 11th April 1963 and the Grand stopped trading in 1969. The century-old King's Head stopped trading into the early 1970s. The Regent Hotel on Nelson Terrace was demolished to make way for extensions to Littlewoods Ltd. It continued 12 bedrooms and was a stop over for celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin and Julie Andrews when they appeared at the nearby Hippodrome.
Another public house with theatrical connections is The Theatre in Yarm Lane. Built by Thomas Wright, a soda manufacturer, it opened for business on 8th July 1870 and the first landlord was John Moody. Its name and decor are linked with the former Theatre Royal which stood nearby and the premises continue to trade today. Another town centre tavern where the accent is on tradition is the 200-year-old Sun Inn on Knowles Street. It occupies a corner section of the old churchyard adjacent to the parish church and, during recent building work, human remains were unexpectedly unearthed below the building.
In the early 1870s there were said to be as many as 108 licensed houses in the town and, although many of these had closed by the late 1920s, it was still possible to stand on Grey Horse Corner - at the junction of Yarm Lane and the High Street - and count a dozen hotels in close proximity. The Grey Horse Inn was itself a landmark but on the east side of the inns. The Vane Arms was a stopping place for coaches linking east coast towns. In 1798 it is said to have had stables with standings for 26 horses, loose stabling for 30, tow granaries and a blacksmith's forge.
Next to the Vane Arms was another old world coaching house called the Black Lion Inn. It had a reputation for outstanding service and in this century the Black Lion Grill, run by Mr. Fred Beaumont, was famous. Indeed, Mr. Harold MacMillan who was a Member of Parliament for Stockton, wrote in 1936: "Stockton is the pioneer of many good things, Railways, matches and Mixed Grills." When Mr. MacMillan became Prime Minister he invited Mr. Beaumont to visit him at No. 10 Drowning Street.
Along the same stretch of the High Street stood the William IV. All these fine frontages were demolished in the late 1960s to make way for the Castle Centre development. Another well known local landmark, the Queen's Hotel, met a dramatic end in January 1981 when it was badly damaged by fire and had to demolished.
Because the trade of Hartlepool had declined the Chief Officers of the Customs had been removed to Stockton in 1680 and a commission in 1683 had appointed three free quays. In that document Stockton is described as a port of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and its limit are stated to be "From Blackhall Rocks, about eight miles from the bar of the Tease to Huntciffe-foot, and from the said bar up the river Tease to the Horse Ferry commonly called Stockton Ferry." Among those who were allowed to levy dues on the port were William and Mary established the "Russian Company" which had "to certain merchant adventures for the discovery of lands unknown."
Shipbuilding, a long established industry on the River Tees received a boost by the development of industry and trade. While the increasing size of vessels and the building of a bridge across the River at Stockton in 1761 placed severe obstacles to shipbuilding at Yarm small boats were built there until 1844.
At this time, the need to provide sailing ships with rope brought into being many firms in Stockton which flourished and gave employment to the townsfolk. Harper Terrace in Hartburn was once a ropewalk, and there was another which was a continuation of Ropery Street. The site was still there in 1973, the entrance was in Nelson Terrace.
On February 22nd 1822 the most unusual appointment was made when the Earl of Darlington decided that William Skinner should be installed Deputy Vice Admiral of the Port of Stockton.
By the eighteenth century Stockton had clearly become the main shipbuilding centre on the Tees and in 1790 there were four shipbuilding yards. Forty vessels were built at Stockton between the years 1790 and 1805. The wood for the sailing ships was brought from the Baltic ports in such great quantities that it is said that every available plot of land within easy distance of the river became a wood yard for storing timber. Among the vessels built in the Stockton shipyards were two ordered by Captain Christopher for the Hudson's Bay Company. They were "Highland Lass" of 556 tons and the "Tottenham" 517 tons.
Captain Christopher who lived at 145 High Street was in the service of the Hudson Bay Company for thirty-three years. While on a voyage of 'discovery and trade' he was the first man to discover the great river from which the Province of Saskatchewan was to eventually get its name. In 1761 the Chief at Fort Prince of Wales, on the Churchill River, reported to London: "Mr. Christopher in the sloop Churchill this year found the Straight or river called by the Indians "Kis-catch-ewen" up which he sailed 100 miles. It is a fine river and had a view further up but the wind would not permit him to proceed any further. We promise your honour we will prosecute the said discovery to the utmost and will let nothing be wanting to complete it."
The next year William Christopher, in command of the sloop "Churchill" and the cutter "Strivewell" accompanied by Moses Norton, a crew of ten men and two northern Indians, spent a month exploring the great river.
Captain Jonathan Fowler, who lived at Egglescliffe, was also in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company and the two men sailed together for several years between Hudson's Bay and London bringing back the valuable furs which had been collected during the winter months. At this time England was at war with France and in 1782 both commanders had a narrow escape when they were pursued by three enemy ships under the command of the French Admiral Geographer, Laperouse.
Captain Christopher retired from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1788 and Captain Jonathan Fowler in 1782. Captain Christopher died in 1797 aged 68 and is buried in Norton Churchyard and Captain Jonathan Fowler was buried at Egglescliffe.
Captain Cook stayed with Captain Christopher at 145 High Street when, after he had discovered Australia, he came north to visit his aged father who lived with his daughter, the wife of a master mariner, at Redcar. Both men were interested in discovering the legendary North West Passage for the English government were offering £20,00 to the man who found it. However, neither of them was fortunate and Captain Cook was murdered on his next voyage of discovery.
The Tees at this time was wide but very shallow in places, the river at its mouth flowing into the sea in three channels. There was often but a few feet of water at the bar at low tide, while the river daily overflowed its banks when the tide was at his height, so there were extensive salt marshes along its course. Large colonies of seals frequented the broad sandbanks at the estuary and one is still called Seal Sands although there is only an occasional, seal to be seen there nowadays. The fishermen considered the seals so destructive to the salmon that a time was set each year to cull them, and as many as nine or ten have been caught in the fishing nets at one time. There was once a beautiful island in the river near Portrack which was covered with flowers and a rustic bridge led over it. It was called Jennie Mill's Island but the attractive place eventually got lost after the course of the river was straightened. Conversely, land which at one time was nothing but mud and slime was reclaimed after a twenty mile wall of slag was built on each side of the river. This land after a while produced good crops. The slag wall, which contained the river, deepened it and after the Tees Conservancy purchased a dredger, the river at the bar at low tide finally had a depth of twenty feet and many of the small sandbanks disappeared.
In 1825 there were three shipbuilding yards on the Tees at Stockton. The 1830's however saw the establishment of new shipyards both on the Tees and at Hartlepool. T. Lane & Co. for example started in 1830 at South Stockton and R. Craggs began at Stockton in 1835. Another shipyard was started at South Stockton by Messrs. Spence and their boat the "Coundon" weighing 340 tons was launched in 1837. At that time ships were still built primarily of wood. The period when iron and steam were to compete against the traditional wood and sails was yet to come.
It was a Middlesbrough man, William Cudworth, who began to apply the innovations in engineering to shipbuilding. In 1840 the first steam ship The Fortitude to be built on the River Tees was launched from Cudworth's shipyard. This was followed by T. Lane & Co. at South Stockton who built the English Rose in 1843 using engines made by Bolckow and Vaughan.
At South Stockton again the South Stockton Iron Shipbuilding Company achieved a "first" by constructing the first ship made of iron, The Advance on the River Tees in 1854. While the vagaries of shipbuilding meant that many firms which started in periods of prosperity closed down in subsequent periods of depression, some proved more stable. By the end of the nineteenth century six firms had established themselves on the River Tees. R. Craggs & Son moved to Middlesbrough in 1896 when it took over the Teesside Iron and Engine Works. Richardson Duck & Co. took over the yards of the South Stockton Iron Ship Company in 1854 and that of Rake, Kimber & Co. in 1859. On the northern side of the River at Stockton, Ropner took over the old yards of Pearse Lockwood & Co. in 1888.
In the early days the low ground where the Teesside Racecourse is today was regularly under water at the high spring tide. Here the river took tremendous detour and flowed in a large triangular loop for two and a half miles before coming back to within 220 yards from where it had started. There was also a smaller loop at Portrack and laden vessels could rarely get higher up the river than Portrack on one tide, for to negotiate the crooked channel they had to wait for a contrary wind. The masters of sailing chips were usually obliged to unload their cargo into small river boats at Newport, and even these small craft often got struck on the sandbanks when they missed the channel after periods of gale-force winds and storms which often changed the course of the river. When this happened they could be delayed several days and were at the mercy of any thieves who happened to be in the vicinity. To avoid these delays, the masters of these ships, if they so wished, could hire a gang of men who wait for the middle tide and attach a rope to the vessel and drag or, in the local dialect, 'rack' it round the four miles of swamp.
Stockton really woke in the 18th century and started to trade in earnest. The town was so successful that a much more rapid method of transport was required. It was then decided to undertake the costly task of straightening the course of the river on the basis of the plan which had been proposed by Edmund Harvey forty-one years before. This meant that the Mandale Granary would be no longer be able to use the river for transporting grain for, it the cut was made, it would be surrounded by dry land.
The cut in the Mandale Loop of the river was successfully completed, in September 1810 at a cost of £12,163.5.4. and afterwards a dinner was held in the Town Hall at Stockton to celebrate the opening. While there, the seventy-two guests discussed whether it would be more practical to have either a railway or a canal built from Stockton, via Darlington, to the collieries at Winston. This would enable coal and lead to be conveyed more easily from Darlington for shipment from Stockton. Eventually, after many months of negotiation, it was decided to build a railway. Stephenson's friend Richard Trevithick; the Cornish engineer and inventor had constructed the world's first steam railway locomotive, in 1803. He ran his engine on the tramway at Penydaren with passengers and coal wagons but its importance was not recognised and he failed to get financial backing. However, the Stockton and Darlington Railway Centenary, that in August 1821 George Stephenson accepted appointment as Engineer for the proposed twelve miles of railway from Stockton to Darlington. He received one hundred and forty pounds to cover salaries and expenses of himself and his assistants for making the survey, which took them five weeks to complete. The first rail was laid near Saint John's Well on May 22nd 1822. Three years later the proprietors of the Stockton and Darlington Railway gave notice that their main line, commencing at Whitton Park Colliery and ending at Stockton, would be formally opened on September 27th 1825. The project had cost the shareholders £150,000.
Locomotive No.1 was built at Newcastle and was carried in separate parts on three trolleys to Aycliffe (Heightington) Crossing, where a few days before the opening ceremony the parts were assembled and the engine finally put on rails. When, for the first time, the boiler was filled and the wood and coal ready for lighting it was discovered that no one had either a light or tinder box. They were just going to send to Aycliffe for a lighted lantern when Robert Metcalf suggested that they try burning glass. They did, and it proved successful.
On the appointed day the engine, Locomotive No.1, was getting up steam at the foot of the incline at Brusselton near West Auckland, nine miles from Darlington. There, in front of a large crowd, its train was attached. This was composed of the tender with coal and water, five wagons laden with coal and passengers, one wagon laden with flour and passengers, one wagons carrying surveyors and engineers, and the first passenger coach in the world called "The Experiment". This was for the use of the Proprietors and the Committee. Attached to "The Experiment" were six wagons with strangers seated, fourteen wagons with workmen and others standing, and finally, six wagons of coal and passengers.
"The Experiment" had only arrived the day before the opening so the railwaymen viewed it with interest. It was a long coach with a table down the centre accommodating sixteen to eighteen people.
That day every railwayman proudly wore a little blue ribbon bow in his buttonhole. Those men who were directly responsible for the control of the train wore a wide blue sash over their right shoulder. From early morning excited people converged on Brusselton incline from all over the district to see the wonderful "Iron Horse". They came walking, on horseback, in post chaises, gigs, jaunting cars, wagons and carts. Three hundred tickets had been distributed and everyone having one was supposed to know where he should ride, but when the prospective passengers saw the huge crowd they began to fear they would be left behind and they panicked and rushed on to the wagons. The demand for tickets had been so great that it was impossible to accommodate everyone, so from Brusselton to Darlington, wagons drawn by horses were put on the rails and followed in the rear of the train.
Just before commencing the journey the safety valve was opened and the noise so startled the onlookers that they fled for their lives, as they thought the boiler was going to burst. Eventually, with George Stephenson and his associates driving, Timothy Hackworth acting as guard and a man with a wide blue sash between each wagon ready to apply the brakes, it was time for the journey to commence. There was a moment's amazed silence as the train, with all its trucks, started to move and then cheer upon cheer from the excited crowd.
There were three delays, which lasted fifty-five minutes on the way to Darlington and by the time the train arrived it had taken two hours to do nine miles. Once Darlington was reached the last six wagons containing coal were uncoupled and their contents distributed to the poor. The passengers who lighted had their places taken by people wishing to go to Stockton and it was finally reckoned that they must have been between six or seven hundred people on the train, riding, hanging on, and scrambling over the coals in their excitement. Once again the number of people wishing to ride on the train exceeded the number who could be accommodated. So extra wagons were put on the rails and drawn by Mr. Lancaster's blind bay pony who became something of a celebrity, for the game little animal put its nose over the last wagon of the train and kept up with it all the way to Stockton. Twice the trains stopped to fill its water tank but on the ceremonial run there were no mishaps.
When the railway engine was running alongside the turnpike road from Yarm near Potato Hall it happened, by chance, to come up with the stage coach going to Stockton. The coach was drawn by four horses and carried sixteen passengers. They ran side by side for a while then the Iron Horse, pulling nearly seven hundred people, outdistanced the coach. The new form of transport had triumphed.
When Locomotive No.1 and her train arrived at Stockton at a quarter past three, a roar greeted them from seven guns on the Company's wharf. Mr. Meynell's Band of Music from Yarm, which had accompanied the train, played "God Save the King" and then marched to the High Street followed by a great crowd. There, the men with the wide blue sashes were allocated to the various public houses for a fine meal. The proprietors and their guests, who numbered one hundred and two, had a gala dinner in the Town Hall and Mr. Lanchester unyoked his splendid little bay, who from then on was to became famous, and took him to stables for a well earned rest.
After Stephenson had run the first passenger train between Stockton and Darlington, it is generally supposed that the steam engine ran daily between the two towns. However, this was not the case as far as passenger traffic was concerned. The solitary railway coach, which had no springs, was drawn on the line by one horse for over ten years. The coach, which had been built in the shape of a stagecoach, had flanged wheels. It started near the bottom of the yard of the Black Lion Inn and accommodated four passengers outside and eight inside and traveled at about eight miles an hour on a line which had passing places every quarter of a mile. The fare was 1/- which either the guard or the engine driver collected.
The directors of the company were mainly concerned with carrying merchandise and the greater proportion of the traffic was in wagons of fifty three hundredweight drawn by horses, six to eight wagons forming a load. When the wind was favourable, a sail was hoisted to help the horse and a bogey called a "dandy cart" was attached to the back of a line of wagons. When there was an incline, the horse was unharnessed and put into the dandy cart. Here, he enjoyed a ride and feed from the fodder in the tough provided until the wagon came on to flat ground, when he descend and once again resume his work. One of these dandy carts has been preserved and is now in the Railway Museum at York. On January 24th 1826 the Tees Coal Company commenced loading the "Adamant" with the first shipment of coal for London. Towed by the steam tug "Albion" she left the Tees on the 26th accompanied by a band and the cheers of all the townsfolk, who lined the banks of the river in their hundreds to watch her departure.
However, the first engines which were made by Stephenson did not prove strong enough to cope with the continuous heavy loads which they were expected to draw, and the Stockton and Darlington Committee began seriously to consider using horses only on the line and dispensing entirely with steam engines. It was then that Timothy Hackworth suggested that he might be allowed to build an engine which should exceed the efficiency of horses. The Committee recognised the original genius and inventive faculty of Hackworth and they commissioned an engine which they called "The Royal George" and cost £425 to build.
In 1828, the first year the Royal George was in service, the Committee of Stockton and Darlington Railway were so pleased with the result that they gave Timothy Hackworth a bonus of twenty pounds. By the end of twelve months it had conveyed 22,422 tons of coal at a rate of a farthing a ton. It maintained a speed of nine miles an hour ran continually for twelve years and was then sold for one hundred and twenty pounds more than its original cost. That year, Locomotive No.1 blew up killing its driver.
In the "Centenary of Public Railways" it is said that Timothy Hackworth was a great engineer in his own day, of equal rank with Stephenson, many think even surpassing him as a pioneer in locomotive engine construction. Possibly he had more to do with the construction of No.1 than is realised.
After the railway had been completed, 100,000 tons of coal each year was ordered for shipment to London alone. The price of coal at that time fell to 8/6d a ton.
At night the drivers of these first trains signaled to each other by throwing shovelsful of red hot embers into the air, and if a station master wished the train to stop at his little station he put a lighted candle in the window of the station house. Instead of a rear light Locomotive No.1 had an iron bucket filled with burning coal.
The wages of this exclusive band of men were very good. The average wage of a driver was 24/- to 30/-; firemen received from 15/- to 18/- a week. The station masters received £100 a year for a large terminal and £60 to £80 for a smaller one, but they were expected to help load the trucks in the goods sheds. The guards received 24/- to 26/- and they looked very smart in their scarlet coats.
Stockton's early railway station stood on the site of the present goods station in Bridge Road. In 1830 the suspension bridge which crossed the river Tees from Bowesfield to Carr House, Thornaby, was finished and the railway was extended to Middlesbrough. The new Stockton Station thus became isolated and inconvenient and remained in disuse for many years and another station had to be built by the side of the Middlesbrough to Stockton line. This eventually became the Thornaby Station. By 1844 the traffic had so increased that the original suspension bridge proved inadequate and one made of iron replaced it. Before the toll road between Brewery Bank and Newport was laid down through the marshes, foot passengers were allowed to walk on the railway line on Sundays, until a stipulated time before the horse drawn passenger train was due. There was one train down in the morning and one up at night.
When one approaches the railway and the present Victoria Bridge from what is now Bridge Road, it will be noticed that the ground on either side is very much lower than the road. This was the height of the original "New Walk" which was just a country road bordered with trees. At that time it had only a level crossing over the railway lines. In 1838 William Smith had purchased land for building sites in the neighbourhood of the level crossing and the old narrow Stockton Bridge. Here, clustered around the new railway, he built a tightly packed community of cottage property, business premises, shops and a pottery, and called it South Stockton. A year after William Smith purchased his building sites, Thomas Lambert of Stockton, a gifted engineer, invented the level crossing safety gates which came into general use on all railways. His gates were so made that one man could open both of them at one time with the greatest of ease. Each gate was furnished with an elevated circular signal which contained a lamp which turned with the gates, so people could see from a distance when danger was announced.
In 1858, thirty years after the railway commenced to run, the great new highway through the reclaimed marsh land called "the wilderness" was completed between South Stockton and Middlesbrough and for many years it was a turnpike road. When the new Middlesbrough road was opened, business in the area so increased that the approaches to the old bridge and the railway were found to be too narrow to take the flow of traffic. Consequently that year the old original Stockton Bridge was widened, as also was the New Walk, which now became Bridge Road. However, there were still considerable delays which were caused by the level railway crossing and there were still a number of accidents. One especially serious one had occurred when Thomas Gray was killed by a steam engine when driving a cart and three horses over the level crossing. The engine man was accused of manslaughter and the Railway Company had to pay £1,400 in compensation.
Mr. Hatcher tells us that about 1882 the Railway Corporation decided to undertake the gigantic task of the wholesale demolition of the buildings in the neighbourhood of the dangerous level crossing, and they built a bridge over railway to eliminate it. With the completion of the great scheme it became clear that to obtain the full benefit of the improvements the Railway Company had commenced, a new, wider bridge over the river was required. This necessitated many meetings and much discussion with various local bodies, as, being a county bridge, people as far away as Bishop Auckland had to contribute to the cost. However, in spite of the difficulties the scheme went forward and in 1887 the present Victoria Bridge was completed and some of the stone from the old bridge was used to build the house called "Stonyroyd" at the corner of Oxbridge Avenue and Oxbridge Lane in Stockton. This splendid bridge of iron and granite has seventy foot spans, two pavements each measuring ten feet and a forty foot roadway. It had cost £88,878.16.6d.
By 1968 traffic had so increased that 29,000 vehicles a day were crossing the bridge. That year the first railway milestone, weather-worn but in a good state of preservation, was found on the exact spot where it had been laid 143 years previously. It was on the lawn of the British Visqueen factory and is now in the Preston Museum.
Mr. Heavisides said that after Stephenson had commenced the Stockton to Darlington Railway, travelling was still difficult. Mr. Clephan, who left Stockton on a Sunday afternoon to go to Leicester, told how he went to Darlington from the Black Lion Yard in an old railway coach drawn by a horse. The journey to Darlington took an hour and he had to stay there until Monday. He then went by stage coach to Leeds but by the time he arrived in that city, the mail coach by which he had expected to travel south had gone. Because of this he had to sleep overnight at Leeds at the famous coaching inn called "The Bull and Mouth." The next day he spent a long morning wandering around Leeds before he caught the southern coach which arrived at Leicester on Wednesday morning. The journey had taken nearly four days. There was great rejoicing therefore when the railway extension from Leeds to the new passenger station at Bishopton Lane, Stockton commenced in May 1852. Bishopton Lane station was open to the public two weeks later. Three engines which were painted green and decorated with flags and evergreens drew the passenger train from Leeds, and the Mayor and Corporation gave it. At the time third class carriages were only equipped with plain wooden seats and were devoid of anything in the way of covered seating. The Dewsbury Band accompanied the train and gave the first concert in the Borough Hall, which was opened that day at the south end of the High Street, with a dinner for 250 people.
The Georgian Mansion of the late Mr. Dickson, which expects considered the most interesting building in the High Street, had been made into the Borough Hall. The house was converted into a council chamber and other offices, part of which eventually became the Customs House. The hall, which was 80 feet long and 36 feet wide, held about 600 people and was built in the garden; the former yard was covered with a roof of ridged glass and lined with cases of stuffed birds, which made a elegant approach.
Because of the uncertainty caused by the Napoleonic wars, coinage was in short supply. By 1812 this became so troublesome to the tradesmen of the town that 1812 issued tokens to tide them over the difficulty.
At Stockton Christopher and Jennett, the printers issued shilling tokens bearing their names on one side and the Stockton Arms on the other. They also issued sixpenny tokens of two kinds but without their name, the first having Britannia on one side and the figure 6 without a date. In the following year copper tokens of one penny and one halfpenny were issued by them, the former having Stockton Bridge on one side and Britannia on the other, the halfpenny having the head of Lord Nelson on the obverse and a ship on the reverse.
In 1814 Parliament passed an Act making both payers and receivers of tokens liable to a penalty of £5 and not exceeding £10, but it was some time before conditions returned to normal.
Stocktonians do not seem to know that a Bishop was once held at gunpoint in the Parish Church. In 1814 the Bishop of Lincoln was holding a Confirmation Service when, to the horror of the congregation, Jonathan Martin, a religious enthusiast produced a pistol and aimed it at the Bishop. Martin was overwhelmed by some of the congregation who were near and he was sentenced to be confirmed to West Auckland Asylum.
The chimneys of the residences of the well-to-do citizens of Stockton were very wide and were swept by small boys. In 1815 Mr. W. Blake, the chimney sweeper of Cherry Lane, informed the "Nobility, gentry and chimneys", and the fourpence for room chimneys. Mr. Blake especially mentioned that his boys wore a plate in front of their caps. However, two years later the conscience of the townsfolk was aroused and a resolution was signed by a hundred and eighty-eight of the principal householders of Stockton, Norton and the surrounding district. This stated that they wished, in future, to have their chimneys cleaned by mechanical means and that "climbing boys" acting as chimneys sweeps should no longer be employed on such a dangerous task.
The price of coal in 1819 was 27/- a chaldron which was fifty-three hundredweight. Stockton's first savings bank was opened in 1816 and the amount of money deposited in the first half year was £1,212. The bank opened for one hour each Wednesday, which was Market Day. A preliminary savings bank was opened in 1852 in the Mechanics Institute. It commenced with thirty deposited and at the end of the year there were ninety-six. The amounts from one penny upwards, but they received no interest until their account reached 16/18d.
By 1821 the old shambles, which had been erected in the centre of the High Street, was said to be a disgrace to the town, so in 1825 the present shambles was built at a cost of £1,960. When the workmen commenced to pull the old shambles down, some of the members of the Volunteer Band assembled by the side of it and, for a joke, played "The Downfall of Paris". This highly amused the townsfolk, as the building was a decrepit old place. Once the site had been cleared everyone was so delighted with the appearance of the High Street that they were against another building being erected in its place. There was a request by the townsfolk for a temporary structure to be considered which could be taken down when not in use, but the request was not granted. However, when they discovered that the building was to be extended eight or nine yards further south with the aid of workmen they pulled down the brickwork and leveled the foundations. Thirteen people were arrested, but the case was dismissed as all the townsfolk were in sympathy with them.
Stockton High Street was lighted for this the first time in 1820 and a watchman was appointed. The lamplighter used to go round with his ladder over his shoulder and a small lantern in his hand, nimbly ascend the lamp-post, open a small door, and in a half turn, continue on his way from one lamp to another. In 1822 an improvement came when the gas was installed by the Stockton Gas Light and Coke Company. The works was at the corner of Yarm Lane and Bridge Road. In 1846 the service was extended to Norton and South Stockton. In 1853 John Riley, foreman for Kirkstall Forge, came to Stockton to erect a new gas-holder at the Gas Works in Yarm Lane. He remained in Stockton after completion of the contract, and was employed at Brown's Portrack Lane Ironworks. His three sons were apprenticed there and by 1869 were able to set up on their own as boiler and ship repairers, in a workshop situated at the Quayside at the foot of Maritime Street. In 1872 they transferred to Light Pipe Hall Road and Riley Street. Later in 1891 they brought out the Millfield Ironworks of Messrs. Thompson Gilks and Company. This works had begun its existence in 1864 as Smith, Hardy and Company and later as Smith, Thompson and Company. The newly constructed works was known as the Preseverance Boiler Works and was wholly concerned with the design and manufacture of Scotch Marine and Shell-type boilers. It was the first firm in the district to lay down plant for boring oval holes in boiler plates. In 1897 it was producing an average of sixteen new boilers a month and employed 150 to 200 men. The old Riley site was sold to Mainwarings who transferred from Skinner Street. This factory was finally extended to the corner to Tynedale Street about 1910 and became the Stockton Steel Foundry, eventually Head Wrightson. Rileys closed down in 1965, the entire industrial site passing to Head Wrightson.
The shops were the first to have gas installed. They were only naked flames and the Market Inspector used to go round measuring the height of the flames to verify that the gas used was not above a prescribed volume. However, these "vapour luminaries" as they were called, were not by any means in general use, and there were still many antiquated bow-windowed shops in Stockton which relied at night on the light from a few candles. Indeed, even as late as 1873, when Mr. John Luther Green commenced work with Mr. Faber, Stockton's town clerk, as his deputy, he found the office which was situated at the foot of Silver Street a dismal place. The rooms on the ground floor had their floors sprinkled with sea sand and Mr. Green had to work in a small office at the back of the premises, where the sun never penetrated. On the first day of his new appointment he worked on until failed and then he was given three huge candle sticks with the remains of candles in them. Mr. John Luther Green was the brother-in-law of Mrs. Spencer of Marks and Spencer, and he eventually became associated with that firm.
In 1822 the town got its first Police Officer and George Gibson, the tailor, and Thomas Ramsden, the shoemaker, were heavily fined for assaulting the watchman. At this time the penalties for breaking the law were very severe.
Two years later, the townsfolk took care not to go out after dark, especially alone, as a warning had gone out that two body stealers were in the district. These people obtained good prices from the surgeons, who needed bodies so urgently for dissection that no questions were asked as the source of the supply. Body snatchers were not above clubbing the lone traveler out walking on his own at night and selling his body. Indeed, body snatching became such a menace, that large stone slabs were frequently used to prevent bodies being taken out of their graves. It is said that when a person died at this time the men of the family would take turns watching in the graveyard for a number of nights after an interment.
In 1825 William Smith "a builder of Stockton" opened his Stafford Pottery at South Stockton to produce "Brown ware". Shortly afterwards in 1826 the firm became Wm. Smith and Company and went into the production of general earthenware under John Whalley, a Staffordshire potter. In 1829 the sons of Mr. Skinner the Stockton Banker entered into partnership. Finally one of these sons bought out the interest of the others and the firm now became "George Skinner and Company", but still employed George Whalley. It employed 150 men in 1865. Finally Ambrose Walker replaced Whalley on the latter's retirement and eventually succeeded to the business in April 1870 under the style of "Skinner and Walker". By 1833 it was merely "Ambrose Walker and Company".
In 1845 the firm took out a patent for "Certain improvements in the manufacture of earthenware pastes and vitreous bodies..." which consisted in ".... combining chalk or carbonate of lime in union with silica, flint, or silex".
In 1848 an injunction was granted restraining the firm from using as they had illegally done, the name of "Wedgewood and Company" or "Wedgewood" stamped or otherwise marked on goods produced by them. The marks accepted were "W.S. & Co. Queen's Ware Stockton" or " S & W Queen's Ware Stockton".
James Smith brother of the William Smith of Stafford Pottery established the North Shore Pottery about 1860. It also employed 150 men in 1865. James' nephew, William, (son of the William of the Stafford Pottery), carried it on under the name of "William Smith, Jun., & Co." It passed through the styles "G. F. Smith & Co." and "G & W Smith". It produced pottery in both cream and white earthenware, and printed and coloured goods.
Other potteries included the Ainsworth's White at North Stockton founded 1840 for white and printed ware, Harwood's Norton Pottery which specialised in Sunderland and yellow wares, and the Clarence Pottery for Sunderland and brown ware. The Clarence Pottery closed about 1930. Glass manufacturing was carried on by Bowron, bailey & Co. Stockton near the railway, and by Jos. Scott (1851).
The news of the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832 was brought to the district on a large printed poster which had been fixed to back of the stage coach. The news was enthusiastically received by all the towns and villages through which the vehicle passed. In Stockton it was the signal for rejoicing and there was a great procession of all trades in the town with banners flying and a service in the Parish Church. That day there was a dinner for the better off and a meal for the poor people.
In the early 19th century the man who owned the cart shaped like a barrel and brought up the water from St. John's Well lived in a house and garth in Ramsgate, then called "Rams Weend". At that time, it was a residential area with a large field at the end, which stretched from Yarm Lane to Dovecote Street. Later, the houses in Ramsgate were used as lodging houses where men could stay at a cost of fourpence a night. The iron beds were placed close together but the bedding was clean.
At harvest time, before the introduction of the mechanical reaper, the Irish casual labourers came into the town and lodged in Ramsgate. They were fine, well-built men who added a touch of the picturesque as they are moved about the district. They were dressed in felt sugar-loaf hats, blue sickles they used for reaping, bound in straw, over their shoulders and their few possessions wrapped in red and white handkerchiefs.
There was many a fierce argument culminating in a fight when they had had too much whiskey. When this happened, the landlady would send for the Catholic priest. His sudden appearance was usually enough to stop the fiercest fight. Whiskey at this time was 17/- a gallon, gin 12/6d and run 17/-.
Brown's Bridge was just a little humped-back bridge at that time and often under water after torrential rain. There was once a leper colony on low lying ground by the bridge, and the lepers used to go to the Norman Church at Redmarshall each Sunday to receive Holy Communion through a little window at the side of the altar. However, the lepers were forced by law to be out of the churchyard by this time the congregation came out of church. In the early days leprosy was a terrible scourge and both rich and poor alike fell victims to it. Indeed, both King Henry IV and King Robert Bruce of Scotland contracted the disease.
Eventually Wren's Mill was built on the field where the leper colony had once been and workmen, coming home in the early hours one morning from night shift, could scarcely believe their eyes, when they saw a great colony of rats running down the centre of Bishopton Lane towards Wren's Mill. It was never discovered what had caused the exodus.
In 1762 Mr. Parkhurst gave the rent from twenty-seven acres of land at Brown's Bridge for six poor widows or spinsters of Greatham Hospital. Each inmate was to receive £1, a gown once a year and a reasonable amount of coal.
When a new straight one in 1830 superseded the old winding road from Stockton to Sedgefield, it was called Durham Road, and Londonderry Bridge was erected over the Lustrum at what is now Newtown Schools. The road was a turnpike road for many years.
It was here, on the town side of the toll bar in the fields, where Durham Road cemetery is situated today that David Fisken, the Stockton schoolmaster, and his brother demonstrated their new invention, "The Steam Plough", They also demonstrated it at a farm called Bowe's Field. On July 19th 1855 they were granted a patent which they sold to John Fowler and Son of Leeds. This firm made modifications to the original plough but were refused a patent for it. Fisken's steam plough was manufactured for over sixty years and more than ten thousand of them were sent all over the world, giving employment to two thousand five hundred people. Unfortunately, like so many inventors before them, the Fisken brothers did not share in the prosperity which the success of their idea had made for others. Indeed, it is said, a monument to John Fowler stands in the park at Darlington and he is holding the plough which, it states, he invented. The original patent, which was taken out by the Fisken brothers, is today lodged in the Stockton Library - it is patent No. 1629 and dated 1855.
For centuries, Stockton was a poor little market town, and few learned people ever thought it worth writing anything either of its history or folklore. However, in addition to the Rev. Thomas Brewster and Thomas Richmond, Stockton owes a great deal to Michael and Henry Heavisides who were printers in the town, for they wrote extensively of the happenings in Stockton in their day and their accounts give us an invaluable insight into the lives of the townsfolk.
When, in August 1852, word reached Stockton that the Tees Conservancy, the Stockton Dock Bill, and the Borough Extension Bill had been passed, the existed townsfolk made it a public holiday of such magnitude and rejoicing as had been rarely seen in the town. There was the Mayor and Corporation head a procession with banners flying, and three thousand people sat down to a substantial meal on the Green. However, the Dock Scheme never materialised as much of Stockton's trade went to Middlesbrough and it was afterwards said that the Stockton people ate their docks before they got them.
Cholera made its appearance in the north of England in October 1831, starting at Sunderland where there were 105 deaths and spreading to the surrounding district. It got such a grip at Newburn, that out of a population of 505 people there were 424 cases with 57 deaths. The Stockton people were terrified and they held a meeting to decide how best to cleanse their district. As a precaution, they decided to whitewash all the windows and paint all doors and woodwork with tar. They also started a fund so that food and help would be available for those in need.
Four months later cholera struck with great violence and out of a population of 7,800 some 604 people contracted the disease in the August and September and there were 126 deaths in the space of a few weeks. The Blue Coat School was fitted out as a hospital for the cholera patients but there was no one to look after them, as all who had been able had fled out of town and the few who remained were too terrified to help. The place was deserted. It was then that two young ministers of the Church of England, Rowland Webster and Francis Faber, bravely offered their services and they attended the hospital every day to look after the sick and the dying.
The townsfolk were afraid to have the victims buried in the graveyard of the Parish Church as it was so near the houses, so the Bishop of Durham gave permission for a plot to be consecrated in the Castle Park, which was then on the edge of the town. There the victims were buried in a communal grave called "The Monument". This was marked by two rows of six trees and was situated along the footpath which, at that time, led from West Row to Preston.
Two years later, the Bishop gave five acres on this site for a cemetery, church and parsonage. This part of the Castle Park had been a farm since the Restoration. Holy Trinity Church was erected where the farm buildings had stood and in the early days there were still haystacks and a duckpond by the church path. The pond was later drained but even today its outline can still be seen on left hand side of the path when walking towards the church from Yarm Lane. Holy Trinity Church was opened for divine service in May 1838 and the income of the church at that time was about £300.
In 1849 there was another outbreak of cholera with twenty deaths, and another communal grave was made on the south side of Trinity Church, by the side of the footpath to Preston. A circle of trees, three of which are still in existence, marked this. There was another outbreak in 1854 but the infection was contained and there were only a few deaths.
At this time one was in the country when one passed Bowesfield Lane and the Vicarage, which was the last house in Yarm Lane, overlooked fields. In the distance one could see the windmill of Mill Lane.
A Church of England school for boys was built in the corner of the graveyard of Holy Trinity, opposite West Row in 1847. Later, an infant school and the School of Industry for girls, which had been founded in Castlegate in 1803, were added to it. Conditions at the school were spartan even fifty years later. "Spare the rod and spoil the child", would have been a good motto for Holy Trinity. When the school house was first built, it had a brick floor. In the boy's section three classes were held simultaneously in the large hall and the only fire to heat the place was in one corner. In winter the headmaster would have a session of hand-clapping, clap, clap, clap-clap-clap, to enable the boys to get enough circulation going so that they would be able to use a pen. The boys were also allowed to go out by two during lesson time to warm up in front of the fire. Nevertheless, in spite of the harsh conditions, the education the pupils received was excellent and many had very successful careers.
Stockton's population was expanding rapidly. Now Roman Catholics, Quakers, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Independent Baptists, and Unitarians, all had their separate places of worship and their Sunday Schools. Over the years other Church of England parishes came into being, namely, St. James 1864, St. John 1871, St. Paul 1875 and St. Peter 1875.
In 1968 the boys of Holy Trinity moved to a fine new set of buildings at Fairfield, which had cost £74,00. Viscount Mills, who commenced his education at Oxbridge School and went from there to Trinity, opened them. He was knighted in 1942 and created a Viscount in 1962. During his political career he became Minister of Power, Paymaster General and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords.
In 1831 a second cut was made in the river between Newport and Blue House Point, Portrack, at a cost of £25,995.18.5d. and workmen, when excavating the soil, were surprised to discover buried in the clay the remains of giant oak trees, some of which measured twenty feet in circumference above the root.
When the cut was completed, the course of the Tees was straightened and ships were saved, not only four miles and perhaps several days waiting for a change of wind, but the danger from the great sandbanks which was greatly reduced. The cuts at Mandale and Portrack also had the effect of deepening the river by eight to ten feet at the Castle Quay and this, added to the benefits of the bridge over the Tees, considerably increased the trade of the town.
Stockton's trade was spectacular from 1835 to 1840, and the number of vessels in which nearly all the tradesmen in the town had shares more than doubled. The dredging of the Tees, and the building of a twenty mile wall of slag on either side of the river, enabled Stockton to build larger ships, and the townsfolk were very proud when a frigate, built by them and named "The Tees", was used to bring Queen Caroline and her suite from St. Omer to London.
Mr. Craddock, a manger of the old Blue Coat School, said that in 1840 there were only one or two large houses of well-to-do citizens in Yarm Lane. Trinity Church was two years old and was called "The New Church". There were practically no buildings on the lane which led to Norton.
Stockton's two or three yards which built wooden ships were comparatively small but were considered very important. The ships were about one hundred tons but there was a splendid one built called "The Racehorse", which was of three hundred and fifty tons. Stockton was then the chief shipping port for coal. Old Hartlepool had no dock at that time.
Mr. Craddock considered the trade done in coal "simply wonderful". After a spell of bad weather it was a grand sight to see the Tees, from Stockton Bridge to the bend of the river, crowded with boats of one hundred to one hundred and fifty tons waiting their turn to go under the coal drop to be loaded up with coal.
At this time the town's foreign trade trebled and Stockton ships were sailing to London, Rye, and the French coast, Holland, Russia and Canada. The quayside between Finkle Street and Silver Street was a hive of industry with workmen in white smocks unloading a variety of cargo from schooners and brigs which had arrived from Hamburg, Holland, France and the Colonies. Timber from the Baltic ports was arriving in such large quantities that storing it was posing quite a problem to the authorities. According to Mr. Heavisides, in 1840 there was not a single unemployed person in Stockton, the town was in such a flourishing condition. Bricklayers, masons, and mechanics could command twenty-two to twenty-four shillings a week and shipbuilders as much as thirty shillings, and the noise of their hammers could be heard the length of the High Street.
During this period of great prosperity, the young Queen Victoria was crowned and the people of Stockton made it a day that was long remembered. On June 28th 1838 all the shops were closed for the day and in the morning there was a wonderful procession led by the town band and twenty-four of the Stockton Volunteers in their smart uniforms with colours flying.
After a while, however, it became apparent that the great prosperity Stockton had been experiencing had its drawbacks, for the town could not handle all the coal which was being delivered as they were not enough berths in the river to carry on an export trade of any magnitude. Faced with these difficulties Joseph Pease and his Quaker partners decided to purchased the farm belonging to Mr. Chilton of Billingham, which was situated in the bend of the river at Middlesbrough. There they built quays and coal staithes on the most modern principles, and by 1840 one and a half million tons of coal were being shipped from the new port. This competition, coupled with the shipping depression which occurred all over Britain, so crippled Stockton's trade that the town's fleet could not be worked even to pay expenses and after only ten years the majority of the vessels were sold at a great loss. In fact, during the winter of 1841 there was so much distress in the town that soup was sold to the poor at a penny a quart, and potatoes and coal supplied to those in need. By that year the population of Stockton had reached 9,925.
On July 7th 1842, Bishop Mostyn dedicated the beautiful Roman Catholic in Norton Road. The lovely building, which had cost £7,000 with 242 yards of land for a cemetery was the result of the untiring exertions of the Rev. J. Dugdale, the young priest who ministered to the congregations of Stockton and the new town of Middlesbrough.
At the request of the principal citizens of Stockton, Mr. William Ranger, Superintendent Inspector to the General Board of Health, conducted an enquiry into the sewerage, draining and supply of water of the town and borough. As a result, in April 1850, he submitted to the authorities a document which has come to be known as "The Ranger Report."
The report makes dismal reading. The streets had open drains and rarely, if ever, cleaned. The majority of yards had open privies by the side of the ashpits which, because of the lack of drainage, were very offensive especially as, in addition, there was often a sty with a pig in it. Houses were continually erected without attention being paid to the formation of drains, and where these had been laid down, the cellars of the houses in some cases were six feet underground, while the drains were four feet. In Cherry Lane was found 'almost every description of dirt, filth and misery.' The houses in general were very dirty and many people, a number of them Irish, lived in one room. Next in the scale of misery were those streets in which lodging houses were the resort of itinerant beggars and hawkers.
Conditions which had been admissible in 1966 in a country community of 544 people were far from pleasant in the narrow streets and sunless alleys of a town and borough of 9,925.
However, the Ranger Report had a far reaching effect and a better water supply was provided from a catchment area situated at Norton and Charlton, and gradually Stockton became a healthier place.
The weather in Stockton during the winters of 1859-60 and 1860-61 was terrible. Sailing ships anchored in the Tees became locked in ice which was so thick the ice merchants were able to cut and shore all they required instead of sending for it from Norway as they were in the habit of doing. People were able to walk on the river from the old ferry to Blue House Point at Portrack. There was a regular fair going on with everyone enjoying themselves immensely.
In the last century the people whose premises were insured with the Norwich Union, and were therefore entitled to the services of the fire engine, had a flat plate shaped like a bell tacked on to the front of their Blandford's Corner in Norton Road. At that time water was brought to the scene of the fire in buckets.
For a very long time Stockton's two little fire engines had been kept in the porch of the Parish Church but there had been no one appointed to man them. On December 20th 1845 fire broke out on the top floor of a bonded warehouse on the quayside. There was some considerable delay in getting water from the fire engines to play on the premises as the pipes were not in good order and broke in several places. However, all the townsfolk, both young and old, rich and poor, helped to remove the goods from the lower floors and because of their efforts much merchandise was saved.
Eventually two fire engines from Darlington arrived and saved the fire spreading to the surrounding property. Later the Mayor publicly thanked all the citizens for their valuable assistance and called a meeting to take into consideration the establishment of a fire brigade. A new engine was purchased and call boys were hired to call out the men. It was worked manually and it said that thirty men were required at the scene of the fire, carrying water and working the engine and each men was paid one shilling an hour.
Mr. Henry Heavisides, the Stockton historian, said that when he was a member of the Darlington Volunteers he wasted many a bit of soap and many a pound a flour when dressing for a parade. At that time pigtails and powdered hair were considered necessary to the appearance of every well dressed gentleman.
This was a case with the 'Stockton Independent Volunteers' who were enrolled in 1797 when the invasion of England by Napoleon seemed imminent.
When Napoleon reached Bologne, the three Companies of Volunteers comprising 170 men were ordered to Hartlepool for fourteen days, to the delight of the young soldiers but to the distress of their masters, who had to carry on their business under great difficulty. At that time the weather was perfect, but extremely hot in the middle of the day, so the soldiers filled their wooden canteens either with water or beer. They slung the canteens over their shoulders and marched proudly away down Norton Road. However, the canteens had not been used for a very long time and wood had shrunk. Consequently they started to leak and, to the amusement of the crowds which lined the road to watch the volunteers pass, by the time they reached Norton every man's back was wet through, the men who had beer in their canteens being in an especially bad mess.
Through Billingham, Wolviston, Cowpen and Stranton they marched with pretty girls waving their handkerchiefs, the gentry waving their hats and the farm labourers cheering. Eventually the force which was guarding England reached their destination worn out and in no shape to meet Napoleon even if had arrived.
Two old tattered flags, the colours of the 'Loyal Stockton Independent Volunteers', hang today in Stockton Parish Church. The people of Stockton presented them to the men in 1804.
Many years after they said that the only reward they received for being Volunteers was "to by physicked by the Stockton Dispensary, they and their families."
The Dispensary for Sick People had been opened in a room in the Poor House in May 1790, and Mr. Longstaff, the apothecary, had been given an allowance of £15 a year to run it. The first housekeeper-attendant was given a salary of £6 a year, board and firewood. In the first 12 months, 120 people were given medical treatment, but owing to lack of funds, because of the distress caused by the Napoleonic wars, the Dispensary closed in 1812 and was not opened again for three years. However, in 1815 it commenced to flourish, and Lindsay House occupies the next year it was moved to more convenient accommodation in the Almshouses which had just been built in the High Street, on the site which today. Several years later the Dispensary moved again when the site was sold and new Almshouses were erected in Mill Lane. The cost of heating and lighting the place in 1857 was 3 tins of fuel - £2, and 5/- for candles, as gas was not laid on until 1878.
The finances were further enlarged when Lt. Col. Raisbeck, the Recorder of Stockton transferred the sum of £1,700 to the trustees of the Dispensary. This large sum had occurred because, thirty years before, the officers of the Volunteers had not accepted the expenses allowed to them and the money had been invested. The conditions for the gift were that the officers and men, their families descendants, should be treated at the Dispensary, the interest on the money being used for that purpose.
During the cholera epidemics the Dispensary was opened night and day and the early treatment which townsfolk received went far to save many lives during that terrible time.
The Rev. Brewster, the Stockton Historian, was one of the founders of the Dispensary. He also put forward the suggestion that day labourers and common workmen, who could not afford to pay two pence a week to a Friendly Society against sickness because their wages were so small, should form a Penny or Halfpenny Society. This scheme was working well in many English towns. The Society would have no funds, but when a member was ill or confined to bed, every member would give him one penny, or if he was able to go about through not at work, they gave him one halfpenny.
In 1863 the people of Stockton presented Mr. Thomas Richmond, who had taken a great interest in the Dispensary for many years, with his portrait on the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday. This remarkable man, a wealthy iron merchant, had been a County magistrate from 1842. He was also a member of the Board of Guardians and a Town Councilor. He had been treasurer of Stockton's first hospital and he undertook the formidable task of writing a history of Stockton, for which the people of the town owe him a debt of gratitude.
There was so much poverty among the working population in the narrow overcrowded lanes and yards of the old town that many women were undernourished and made a poor recovery after childbirth. To try to combat this, a number of the townsfolk with considerable help from Lady Londonderry, formed a 'Society for the Relief of Lying in Women', which was supported by voluntary subscriptions. Any mother who required help was given a loan of bedding and baby linen for a month. She was also given a bushel of coal, a pound of soap, a supply of gruel and bread for twelve days, and a donation of one shilling. Sixty to eighty poor women each year were assisted in this way and the help this society gave was greatly appreciated.
A surgical hospital had been established in 1862 in a building in Sugar House Lane, which was a thoroughfare leading from Thistle Green to the Quayside. Mr. George Davies said his grandfather was the first to be admitted as a patient to the hospital from the ironworks. There were four beds and two patients; later there were six beds in the ward. The number of patients admitted in the first nine and a half months, was twenty-three and there were thirty-five outpatients. However, one night in 1868 the little hospital experienced the busiest night in its history. It was during an election and passions rose to such a pitch that the opposing sides came out into the streets armed with pokers, shillelaghs, sticks and paving stones. There was a rare old fight and casualties were rushed down to the Cottage Hospital in dozens.
Eight years later, two and a half acres of land were purchased in Love Lane, now Bowesfield Lane, for a new hospital and the Stockton and Thornaby Hospital was opened in 1877. The local doctors had all given their services free to the Cottage Hospital but in 1878 Mr. Beattie Smith was engaged to be house surgeon and apothecary at a salary of two hundred pounds a year. The Dispensary paying one hundred and twenty pounds and the hospital eighty covered this amount.
In 1890 the Fowler Wing was completed, the old part of the hospital restored, and the grounds attractively laid out. There were seven wards, four large, two small and a children's ward with six cots. Now the hospital could accommodate sixty patients. In 1892 the cost of each in-patient was 3/43/4d a day and that year 1,689 out-patients received treatment.
In those days the hospital was situated in green fields. The land inside the wall of the grounds was higher than that of the lane outside and many courting couples, walking in the lane, were terrified by a boy wrapped in a sheet walking silently towards them, actually on the high ground, but looking for all the world like a ghost gliding towards them in the moonlight on the top of the wall.
After the houses were built around the new hospital, the surroundings were far from hygienic, for none had flush lavatories and the night soil men went round at night with their horse and cart emptying the privies and middens. There were no ambulances as we know them today. Accident cases were wheeled through the streets on a two-wheeled stretcher with a large hood, similar to that of a baby's pram, and householders living in the vicinity of the hospital witnessed some terrible sights and sounds.
In 1926 Princess Mary opened extensions to the Stockton and Thornaby Hospital, which cost seventy thousand pounds. There were now additional wards which increased the number of beds to one hundred and thirty, an outpatients' department and a nurses' home. Quarters for resident medical officers were also provided along with a dispensary and electro-orthopaedic department.
A fever isolation hospital was built on Durham Road in the early 1890's and over the years various buildings were added to the main block. However, within twelve months of the passing of the 1948 Public Health Act it was converted into a hospital for sick children and all isolation cases were transferred to Middlesbrough.
In 1893, the Corporation erected a smallpox hospital in the plantation at Summerville, near the corner of Harrogate Lane and Durham Road. This was demolished in recent years.
In 1919 the Robson family gave their town house in Bowesfield Lane to the Corporation for a maternity hospital and in the forty-nine years of existence 44,000 babies were born there. For many years the motherly Matron Nixon was in charge and was a well loved figure in the life of the town. The most timid mother-to-be-had every confidence when she was in Matron Nixon's care. As a mark of the high regard in which she was held the Queen conferred on her the O.B.E.
In May 1968 the first stage of the magnificent new North Tees Hospital was opened at Hardwick, with the maternity unit containing 112 beds, a psychiatric unit with 50 beds, and accommodation for 70 day patients. The cost of the new hospital when completed was expected to be somewhere in the region of £7,500.000.
Those who did not go to a chemist patronised "Segua" who extracted teeth without anaesthetic in the market and the hirings in Stockton. He sold bottles of a physic which was considered very good. Sequa and his braves had steps leading up to their cart which had a chair on it, and the victim would sit in chair and have the tooth extracted while one of the braves beat a drum vigorously during the process. Old Teesside folk liked Sequa and said he was highly skilled at the job and had the tooth taken out in the twinkling of an eye. The country folk thought it splendid entertainment. Sequa was so highly respected that when he died at Middlesbrough there was one of the largest funerals the town had ever seen, so many people turned out to pay their last respects to him.
In the old days it was not necessary for a dentist to be qualified. Anyone could put a up plate. When in 1921 it was made compulsory for all dentists to be registered, it was discovered that 60% had no official training.
Miss Heavisides, when discussing the early days in Stockton, said that the womenfolk at that time had no labour saving devices. The only means of getting a light was by flint and tallow and rushlights lighted steel and the rooms of the little cottages. The supply of water was limited although the river was only fifty yards away from the houses. If at any time the water barrels which caught the soft rain water from the roofs ran dry, water had to be brought up from the river, but it had to be obtained at low tide otherwise it was salt and muddy. The water from the three pumps in the High Street was disliked as it was hard and brackish. The townsfolk liked their drinking water brought up from Saint John's Well because it was so pure. The people in the grand houses in the High Street had their own wells in the cellar.
The walls of the working men's houses were white-washed or colour washed and the stone floors were scrubbed clean and then rubber over with yellow clay. The kitchen floor was usually done over with red and looked very cosy and bright and a large 'hookey mat' was laid down before the hearth. These were made from the material of clothing too worn out for further use, and it was surprising how attractive some of these could be. In the windows of many of the cottages there was a pot of mignonette, or yellow musk growing; the flowers were not particularly attractive but their perfume was pleasant. Suddenly these plants seemed to lose their fragrance and now are rarely seen.
In the days before sewing machines came into general use garments were made by hand by the light of rushlights or candles, and when the serge of the women's skirts became shabby and shiny the whole garment was unpicked and made up on the wrong side, and looked as good as new. Once the skirt had been discarded the best of the material was put aside to cut into strips for the hookey mats. Nothing was wasted. Many households prepared their rushlight at home from the long rushes which were gathered from the marshes round the town. They were peeled, dried in the open air and soaked in boiling fat in a special pan made just long enough to hold them. The light the rushlights gave was clear and steady and each burned for a long time.
Dr. John Walker, the pharmacist who invented the friction match, was an expert botanist and many of the herbs he used for his prescriptions were gathered in the fields and hedgerows around the town. Any of the townsfolk who suffered from warts went to Betty Duck, who could guarantee to have such success with even bad cases that her fame spread far beyond the town to the surrounding villages. Betty certainly seems to have found the secret of healthy living for she lived to the ripe old age of ninety-six and her husband to ninety-five.
The midwife who attended the women in the poorer parts of the town always insisted that they took a cup of raspberry leaf tea every day towards the end of their pregnancy. She did not believe in bathing her patients until three days after childbirth, and reckoned she had far less complications if she left nature to get on with the work unaided. It is said she apparently was quite successful and her patients usually made an excellent recovery.
Chest troubles were usually treated with either goose grease or camphorated oil, well rubbed in, after which coarse brown paper was put on the back and chest. The old northern remedy for whooping cough was to carry a child out on to either the moors or a meadow, cut a hole in the turf, and hold the patient's mouth over it, in the belief that the smell of newly turned earth would cure the disease. However, the treatment for croup was so severe that it is amazing that a tiny patient ever recovered. Mary Wordsworth, wife of the poet, when writing to her sister at 105 High Street, told how the doctor had blistered and bled her child and prescribed huge doses of calomine and foxglove. If a child in those days had ear ache the centre of a hot onion was put into the ear.
A Stockton lady told of an interesting remedy for the removal of corns:- take twelve young ivy leaves and soak them in vinegar for three days. Paint the solution on to the corn and cover with one of the ivy leaves held by a thread. Change it night and morning until the corn comes out then continue for a day or two until the hard skin disappears.
Victorian ladies were advised that salt sprinkled on sheets and around the mattress on rising, would effectively repel fleas, and if the salt was shaken out just before getting into bed, the ladies would be assured of a peaceful night. At the time appendicitis was looked upon with dread and one old lady remembered that at the end of the last century, after she had undergone the operation, she was kept lying on her back for a month with no pillows under her head but two under her knees. Doctors often had to work under great difficulties, for minor operations, which today are performed in hospital, were usually done by the local doctor on a scrubbed kitchen table covered with a sheet.
Mrs. Bott, Stockton's first Freewomen, who visited the sick and aged in the narrow alleys of the old town for over fifty years, was of the opinion that Stockton was a much more friendly place in the early days of the century before the slums were cleaned away, when people had but little of this world's goods. The lack of money and the crowded conditions bred a community spirit which is lacking in these days of the Welfare State. In those days people, in the main, had to rely on their own resources. A family could be sure that the neighbours would rally round in case of illness, confinement, or any other distress and they would automatically expect to reciprocate and do their share when the necessity arose. The Stockton folk were big heated, sturdy, and neighbourly and they shared what little they had. During the First World War, Mrs. Bott would often come out of a cottage to discover a little gift, of perhaps a few matches or some other small item which was in short supply, wrapped in a little piece of newspaper and tied to the handle of her ancient bicycle.
In spite of the hard times, the Stockton womenfolk made life comfortable and homely. Material was cheap if you had the money to buy it, for it is said unbleached calico could be brought for 21/2d a yard and fine linen, suitable for clerical surplices, at 101/2d a yard. Corsets were 2/113/4d and 3/113/4d and men's shirts 'shaped on anatomical lines' were sold by Mr. Winpenny at 2/11d each or three for 8/11d. He also sold collars of genuine Irish manufacture at three collars for one shilling. A straw hat was once purchased from 'Farthing Wilsons' for 1/113/4d. It was worn for a couple of seasons, then scrubbed, re-trimmed with cherries, and looked as good as new. The large store in the High Street from which the hat was bought got its nickname because the price of every item it sold finished with either one farthing or three.
To become an assistant in a draper's shop at this time a girl leaving school had to have a smart black dress and work a year and a half without wages, and after that she received 2/6d a week.
To become a milliner an additional premium of £1 was required and an aged grandmother remembered, with regret, how she had her heart set on following that profession but her parents had been too poor to pay the premium. There was little opportunity for women, so shop work and domestic service were the chief sources of income. Stockton's domestic servants received 2/6d and 5/- a week for long hours of arduous work. Conditions for shop assistants slightly improved in October 1915, when Stockton's traders decided that closing hours should be seven o'clock on week days and ten o'clock on Saturday nights.
There were few aids to beauty to be purchased, but an egg shell rinsed out with a tiny drop of water was found to be useful for damping the hair before putting it into curl rags and this was excellent for keeping in the curls. If available, a piece of wadding, which had been dipped in diluted beetroot juice, was very judiciously patted on to the cheeks, but slapping the cheeks vigorously before entering a room made the young ladies look very pretty indeed.
Stockton has always been noted for its lovely girls and Ivy Close, who lived at Newton, won the very first international beauty competition which was organised by the Daily Mail. She received a thousand pounds, which was a fabulous amount at that time. It was said that she was the first English girl to appear on the silent screen.
Just before the Second World War, it was said that Stockton was the cheapest place in Britain in which to live, but after war was declared, in order to save profiteering, the Government issued a list of prices for foodstuffs which was to be the same for the whole of the country. This was excellent for the big cities, but it meant that Stockton housewives suddenly found things more expensive.
A horse-drawn tram ran from Norton Duck Pond to the High Street for a number of years but in 1880 the Stockton Steam Tramway Company was formed. At that time if a person wished to go to Middlesbrough he took the ferry steamer at the Black Lion landing stage and went to Newport and then continued on by tram from there. Steam trams with a trailer commenced to run by 1881 from the Green to the Harewood Arms, Thornaby. This line became electrified in 1898. This covered the route from Norton Green to North Ormesby. The upper decks of these cars were open to the elements and had wooden seats which could be turned, so that passengers could always face the way the tramcar was going. Neither the driver nor conductor had any protection from the weather and a journey on the top deck of an electric tram in winter in high wind and driving rain was a very uncomfortable ride. It was so windy on Thornaby Bridge one passenger saw his bowler hat fly into the air and sail down the river like a little boat. At one time trams that went up Yarm Lane only went as far as the Queen Victoria High School.
The drivers had a iron knob sticking up about a couple of inches from the floor, and he would stamp on it vigorously to clang his bell if anything got in the way. What with the rattle of the wheels on the metal rails and the clanging of the driver's bell the old trams were noisy things. The only way to get along Stockton High Street during the Hirings was to follow in the wake of a tramcar as it crawled through the crowded street. People wandered all over the wide High Street in those days.
In 1922 there was a great improvement when a tiny motor bus, carrying fourteen passengers, commenced to run from Hartburn, through the High Street, to the Fever Hospital on Durham Road. The fare was twopence all the way. A Hartburn lady recalled with amusement how, when she told her grandmother that she was going to Stockton on the bus the following morning, the old lady replied: "Lay out all the clothes you are going to wear, and I will look them over for it would be a terrible thing if you had an accident and you appeared before the Lord with a button off."
On New Year's Eve 1931, the last tram arrived at Norton after its commercial run. The fact that it was the last night of the year was well timed for all the town turned out to see it pass and the event gave added gaiety to the holiday atmosphere.
A diversion among the youngsters at this time was "Jarping." To do this they each had hard boiled eggs and held competitions as to who could crack the largest number of eggs and have their own remain intact. This went a stage further with the Stockton workmen, who used all sorts of secret methods to get their eggs rock hard and there was betting on the outcome down on the various quays by the river. Even schoolboys had their own pet methods of toughening up their conkers, when they got their supplies each year from the horse chestnut trees. In 1850's a young schoolmaster in Stockton once asked his class what was their favourite song. "Hearts of Oak, Sir" was the reply. "The one that says - 'Come cheer up my lads - we'll fight with conkers again and again."
One of the important events in Stockton's year was the Cherry Fair and the farming community came into the town from the surrounding villages to attend it and enjoy the fun. A Donkey Derby was held in the High Street, the course stretching from the pump opposite Church Row to the pump at the south end of the town. At the Cherry Fair there were only a few stalls but those that were there displayed fruit or every description from the local market gardens, cherries of course predominating. These were tied on to clean sticks about fifteen inches long and flowers were bound between the bunches. The whole effect looked most attractive and they were eagerly sought after. It was a happy time; with something for everybody.
Another event was the Hirings. This took place on two Wednesdays preceding old May Day and two Wednesdays preceding Martinmas Day. The farm workers, both men and women, came from as far away as Bedale. The Borough Hall was opened for them. They sat in groups and farmers would go from one group to another bidding for their services. When a satisfactory agreement was reached the Hiring was sealed with a "Hiring Penny" (usually 1/-) and the farm worker was bound to the job for six months. Transport was unreliable so few of the people journeyed back into Stockton until the next Hirings. These were times of great merriment with roundabouts, shooting booths and all the fun of the fair.
Between the Town Hall and the Shambles was a tent in which were trestled tables and benches. Here were sold plates of peas and penny ducks, all pipping hot. The customers who sat on the benches to enjoy the fare, made bulges in the wall of the tent, and boys have been known to go down into the High Street armed with hat pins with which they jabbed the bulges in the canvas of the tent. The sudden howls from the shocked customers, plus the chaos caused by the split peas as they sprang to their feet can be imagined.
Stockton High Street at that time was a great expanse, paved with cobble stones, with a narrow pavement on each side of the street.
When Christmas was approaching, flocks of upwards of one hundred geese would be driven into the High Street for sale. The birds had been "shod" by dipping their feet in warm tar and then sand. They were not penned but their owners kept in a compact flock with the aid of a long switch cut from a tree.
In 1883, Stockton was honoured by a visit by Prince and Princess of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. We have been fortunate for there is in existence one of the very early "instantaneous photographs" of the ceremony when their Royal Highnesses rode into the High Street in their coach drawn by four Windsor Greys and escorted by members of the Household cavalry. A marquee had been erected near the Parish Church outside the Royal Oak Hotel for the royal visitors and soldiers in their splendid red uniforms lining the route added dignity to the glittering occasion. There is preserved a letter from the future King, written in December 1883, thanking Lord Londonderry and the people of Stockton, for their hospitality during the visit.
A right of way crossed the fields from the lane to Yarm at Spring Gardens and went to Hartburn Village. When Colonel Sir Leonard Ropner, J.P. gave these fields to the town for a park, the right of way became the main thoroughfare of the new Ropner Park. The Corporation spent £16,000 in laying out the land and the park was opened in 1893 by the Duke and Duchess of York, who were afterwards King George V and Queen Mary. A banquet was held that day in the Exchange Hall, attended by the Mayor and corporation and all the local dignitaries.
Another 'Handsome new building' - the Stockton Police Court - was opened as the new police station on Church Row during March 1910.
Travelers on the Victoria Bridge watched the completion of one of the district's best known landmarks during the early months of 1912. The new grain silo at the Cleveland Floor Mills site on the south bank of the Tees had a total height of 130 ft. and included 15 bins which could hold a total of 3,700 tons of wheat when full.
The early months of 1914 brought calls for river-based developments at Stockton. On 26th February the Great City was launched from the yards of Messrs. Ropner & Sons. Weighing 10,000 tons, she was, according to the local press, 'the largest vessel yet launched on the higher reaches of the Tees'. During the following months there were renewed calls for development of the river at Stockton but the outbreak of war in August refocused priorities. Soon after the outbreak of hostilities, Belgian refugees were arriving in the area and injured troops were moved to local centres for treatment and convalescence. In December 1914 the horrors of modern warfare were brought home as nearby Hartlepool was blasted by German battlecruisers. The later stages of the war were brightened with the news that a Stockton man, Sgt. Edward Cooper, had won the Victoria Cross during the Third Battle of Ypres on 16th August 1917. He received a rapturous reception on his arrival at Stockton railway station a month later (on September 1917). During 1918 he was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant and, after rejoining his battalion, fighting ended on the same ground as it had begun at the start of hostilities.
By the end of the 19th century the great warehouses which had been built on the wharfs along the river bank, a reminder of Stockton's past affluence in shipping, were in the main empty and derelict. One tumbled down warehouse was an incredible sight with thousand of rabbit skins hanging from the rafters. The smell was beyond description.
One further substantial concentration of engineering developed at Stockton. Engineering had existed there in a small way before 1840 principally serving shipbuilding. The Stockton Rail Mill Company, the Malleable Iron Company and Holdsworth Company all started at Stockton between 1855 and 1865. In November 1871, the Bowesfield Iron Works rolled the first plate and many men came from Staffordshire to the new works. But perhaps the most substantial development at Stockton was that of Ashmore & While at the Hope Iron Works, Bowesfield Lane in 1873 to manufacture gas making plant. The firm rapidly expanded and in 1885 it became Ashmore, Benson, Pease & Co. Limited. Vertical boilers, railway bridges, tanks, cisterns, wagon hoists and coke breakers featured in the products made. However the building of gas holders for the fast growing gas industry was a particular specialty. In 1901 the Power Gas Corporation which was developing the Mond gas ammonia recovery process acquired the firm. This led the two linked enterprises into a new period of expansion. During the First World War the Corporation worked closely with the Ministry of Munitions and production was greatly stimulated by the formation of the I.C.I. Equally important was the constant search for new processes. The firm, for example, in the 1920's developed corrosion and acid-resisting steels, invaluable for lengthening the life and performance of chemical plant. Use of the "K.K.K." process which had been developed on the continent for improved coating of steel and iron homogeneously with lead, tin and nickel and other metals was also acquired.
Perhaps however the shrewdest move was to study the superior techniques of iron and steel production in North America. This led to an association with the Freyn Engineering Co. of Chicago and Ashmore, Benson, Pease & Co. Ltd. gained the knowledge to produce the most efficient blast furnaces of the time. Consequently when re-investment in blast furnaces resumed Ashmore, Benson, Pease & Co. Ltd. had an undoubted advantage over many competitors.
Ability to seize new opportunities in the iron and steel industry was demonstrated again during the 1930's when imported ore began to play an increasingly important role in iron and steel production. The firm than began to design and build high speed heavy duty ore unloaders, transporters and stocking reclaimed bridges.
Success was also created by activities in the design and construction of gas and chemical plant. In particular the Power Gas Corporation and Ashmore, Benson, Pease & Co. Ltd. were closely associated with the early development of Synthetic Ammonia and Nitrate Ltd. at Billingham for whom Ashmore, Benson, Pease & Co. Ltd. built the world's largest water gas plant of the time. Subsequently orders were secured from Japan and Russia.
During the 1930's the Power Gas Corporation acquired the designs and goodwill of a rival firm Davison & Partners which went into voluntary liquidation. The increasing volume of business made it necessary to expand and adjacent properties were purchased in Bowesfield Lane. In the Second World War the firm was working at full capacity until it eventually sold the factory to the Parkfield Foundries and Whessoe Limited and became consulting engineers.
Head Wrightson introduced new techniques such as electric furnaces in 1917 at the Teesdale Works Thornaby, for the manufacture of steel castings. Success led to the acquisition of a second steel foundry in Stockton in 1927 which was then fully modernised. Highly specialised engineering knowledge, a diversity of products and an international reputation helped Head Wrightson to weather the storm of adversity. In addition to the design and manufacture of blast furnaces the firm built bridges, piers, dock gates, floating docks, industrial plant tanks, tunnel segments railway equipment.
Some ancient cottages by the side of the Parish church were demolished to make way for Stockton's war memorial which was raised to the memory of the 1,223 men who died in the 1914-18 war. The names of the fallen and copies of the London Gazette containing the proclamation of the war and the terms of the Armistice with Germany were put into a hermetically sealed box and placed in the foundation of the monument.
Twelve thousand pounds had been collected and about seven thousand pound was spent on the memorial. The remainder of the money was used to give further education to those soldiers' children who showed standing ability. Later, the names of the men who fell in the Second World War were added to those already on the memorial.
The depression of the 1920's had a terrible effect on the life of Stockton. By 1922 every second man was out of work. Blairs Engineering Works, which employed 1600, closed that year being in existence since 1840. The shipyards, on which much of the town's prosperity had once relied, went out of production and were rapidly falling into decay and factories and shops had closed. The cost of living in Stockton at this time was reputed to be the cheapest in England. There was no denying that the Stockton housewives were among the most efficient in the country. Nevertheless, even with their skill, hundreds of households - with their menfolk out of work - found difficulty in meeting their day-to-day expenses and they were forced to apply for the "dole." This also meant the "means test", where an employee of the Employment Exchange who looked into their circumstances before making an allowance visited each individual family. One old Stocktonian, whose salary only amounted to £170 a year, supported a home, an invalid brother and an eighty-year old mother, who was a widow, and received no old age pension because her husband had been too old to qualify when the pension scheme was introduced. Yet when a second brother went back home because he was unemployed, he received no allowance because his brother was working.
F. Hills began to diversify by manufacturing a new range of products for the building industry, including window frames and doors. After they took over Blair's factory at Stockton in 1933, the then new "flush" type of door, for which they have become renowned, was introduced. Pickerings also at Stockton continued to do well supplying lifts for such buildings and offices, hotels, department stores and hospitals.
By 1935 trade was so bad in Stockton and there was so much unemployment that two hundred and fifty men and women took part in a hunger march from Stockton Town Hall to London with blankets draped round their shoulders. They walked for six weeks to the tune of mouth organs and eventually they handed a petition of protest against unemployment and the means test into Whitehall. For all there were no immediate results they blazed the trail for the much publicised Jarrow march which took place the following year.
The I.C.I. was a godsend to the district at this period but it was impossible for this giant to absorb all the men available, so that even at the beginning of 1939 when re-armament meant more jobs, Stockton still had twenty-one percent of its men unemployed.
At the commencement of the Second World War on September 3rd 1939, Teesside was in the forefront of enemy activity. The schools were closed, many being converted into first aid posts and ambulance depots with a portion set aside for the air raid warden service. Public air raid shelters were built and Anderson shelters, which were made of heavy galvanised sheeting, were supplied to all householders and these were placed six feet in the earth to mitigate the effect of bomb blasts. Gas masks were issued to men, women and children and an ingenious contrivance in which a small baby could be encased was also provided. However, there was no enemy activity for some time after war was declared which was fortunate as it gave the authorities time to get things organised.
By the spring of 1940 there was enough shelter accommodation to enable the children to attend school part-time, but there were so many raids by single and small groups of German aircraft by both day and night that there was little chance of much formal education. These raids continued unabated until Belgium and Holland capitulated and the Germans were able to operate from the coast, which enabled the range of their aircraft to be greatly increased. From then, until the end of the war, enemy aircraft usually passed over Teesside to bomb the large cities such as Manchester and Birmingham. Because of this, the air raid sirens continually wailed the "Alert", anti-aircraft guns roared and dozens of searchlights pierced the night sky. It is said that one starlit night an enemy plane, which had been hit by guns around Stockton, finally came down near Sedgefield.
During the war years the engineering firms were occupied mainly with servicing the war effort. Head Wrightson, for example, produced bomb casings and landing barges besides engineering the Pluto project. Power Gas made gas producers and water gas generators to serve factories making munitions where town gas was inadequate and they also made plant to produce hydrogen for barrage balloons. Ashmore Benson and Pease, linked with Power Gas, built bailey bridges, mortar bomb casings and along with Head Wrightson the Mulberry Harbour floating bridges which played such an important part in the Normandy invasion. Whessoe of Darlington applied its expertise in welding to the design and construction of underground storage tanks, military tanks, seacraft and munitions. Davy and United Roll Foundry Ltd., was responsible for the production of bomb casings and bullet proof casings for tanks.
Little was produced for purely peaceful purposes and consequently when the war ended in 1945, demand was unleashed for peacetime requirements. This together with the need to continue production of war materials and equipment into the 1950's meant that there was considerable strain on available resources. Demand remained fluctuated more widely. Periods of depression affected the economy between 1958-62 and 1966-72. Whilst all firms have to adjust themselves to changing conditions, heavy engineering firms are particularly vulnerable being the producers of "capital" goods.
Athole G. Allen (Stockton) Ltd. continued after the War producing barium chloride and iron perchloride. Government contracts for T.N.T. stopped in 1945 but the firm had begun another activity in 1940 which was mining of barytes (mineral barium sulphate) as its own Middleton-in-Teesdale mine. The firm decided to suspend chemical production in 1952 except for the processing and fine grinding of barytes and witherite (Barium Carbonate). Athole G. Allen then proceeded to convert the surplus 23 acres at Stockton into a light industrial estate, though not with much success.
Stockton High Street had a wretched look at this time for trade had slowed down to such an extent that many of the shops were closed. Even so, there was no vandalism and no shop windows were ever broken. Clothes could be brought only on coupons, which thought before using even purchasing power, and there had to be much thought before using even one. The buying of certain foods was also restricted and ration books were issued for tea, sugar, butter, meat, eggs and bacon, and a coupon was given for a week's supply of each commodity. The quantities were so small it set the housewives many a problem. Some got round it by using toilet paraffin to make pastry, which tasted very nice. When the medical profession heard about it they stated that it was injurious to health. Natural flour, which had a percentage of bran left in, was issued in place of white flour. This was very good from the health point of view and it was a pity when, after the war, it was discontinued.
The American Government helped by sending over quantities of skimmed milk powder and tins of dried egg which were greatly appreciated and the children were supplied with cod liver oil and orange juice. After a sleepless night, due to enemy activity, the harassed housewife would go down early to Stockton Market to join the great queues which formed at various stalls for tripe, biscuits and citrus fruits etc. Nothing was wasted and metal bins were placed at the end of each road and potato and vegetable peelings etc., were put in these to be gathered up later and processed in to pig food.
It was an anxious time for all as every day news came through of the death or injury of someone's husband or son. The families whose men were in the Far East were especially anxious as no news came from them. A service to trace prisoners of war was set up which did splendid work but many womenfolk in Stockton never learned what happened to their loved ones. All they knew was that they never returned.
During the summer months of 1940 there were a number of air raids on Thornaby Aerodrome (6th and 8th June, 6th and 24th September) and on the Norton, Portrack and Haverton areas (July and August). The raid on 25/26 August caused damage to properties on the Thornaby side of the river and to premises (including the Vane Arms) on the east side of the High Street. Gas pipes under Victoria Bridge were ruptured and cast-iron balustrades on the Thornaby side of the structure still bear shrapnel holes caused during the raid.
Cinemas continued to show all-time favourites such as Walt Disney's Pinocchio, and Rebecca starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine at the Regal during the first two weeks of November 1940. There were encouraging reports about the town's Corporation Quay in mid November with plans to install new cranes and railway sidings in response to increased trade at the wharf, and the year closed with the forwarding of a £5,000 cheque from the townspeople of Stockton, Thornaby and Billingham to Lord Beaverbrook towards the cost of buying a Spitfire.
Much damage was being done at this time by the blast from bombs and our own shrapnel. On the night of the 12th May 1941 three bombs were dropped near the Lustrum Beck in Bishopton Road. Unfortunately a Mr. Chapman had just seen his family safely into the air raid shelter and had paused at the doorway to light a cigarette when he was killed by the blast. His house in Greys Road and the one next door were so badly damaged that they had to demolished and new ones erected. A bomb wrecked houses in Dennison Street and two people and a baby were killed, the blast causing structural damage to many houses in the area. That same night a bomb fell in the orchard on Hartburn Avenue damaging the houses in Kilburn Road. At about the same time (9th May 1941) it was announced that Kelly's ferry was to reopen. It had recently stopped operations but was to be reinstated at a cost of £200 - £300 as an alternative river crossing during war time.
The later war years were characterised by further air raids - mainly targeted at the Billingham and Stockton districts. During the war years a total of 21 civilians were killed in Stockton and 194 houses were destroyed in the town with damage to almost 2,000 other properties. Fundraising schemes and morale-boosting events featured prominently and, as plans were laid for celebrating the end of hostilities in the summer of 1945, local folk were celebrating a return to normal living with the second annual show of the Stockton Agricultural and Horticultural Society at Ropner Park of 18th August 1945.
V.E. Day (Victory in Europe) in May 1945 was celebrated with great enthusiasm by the people of Stockton. In spite of rationing the housewives contrived to make a celebration tea for the children in their particular vicinity. When victory over Japan caused the complete cessation of hostilities, tables were placed down the centre of each little street in the town and all the folk in the surrounding houses joined together to prepare a party with their meagre rations. They organised tea, games, races and fancy dress parades. Fortunately, the weather was glorious and everyone enjoyed the occasion to the full after so many years of worry and austerity.
Diversity of production is not always necessary so long as the firm's product has a wide range of application. Pickerings Ltd., of Stockton, for example, continued to successfully exploit of markets for industrial and commercial lifts while Alan Kennedy of Stockton and Lionweld which had factories at Stockton and Middlesbrough, both specialised in the production of metal flooring and handrails for industrial and commercial markets.
On 4th June 1956, Teesside was honoured by a visit from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. After Her Majesty had signed the Distinguished Visitor's Book in Stockton, the royal party made an eight mile tour of the town, where they received a warm welcome, not only from the people of Stockton but from many who came from all over County Durham. They afterwards visited Thornaby and Middlesbrough where they inspected various works. At the end of the day, after a very heavy programme, they went to Teesport where the Royal Yacht was waiting to take them on a state visit to Sweden.
Light industrial estates or local authorities also developed sites. At Stockton for example firms in light industry and distribution were provided with sites along Portrack Lane and Haverton Hill Road close to the North Tees Industrial Estate and on the southern side close to the River Tees at Boathouse Lane. Local authorities at Thornaby, Middlesbrough and Eston provided sites. As mentioned earlier Athole G. Allen began to develop a private estate in Bowesfield Lane.
On the whole the 1950's was a period of increasing prosperity. Demand for peacetime requirements grew steadily and controls on building were relaxed enjoyed in 1954 with the abolition of building licenses. As the existing heavy industries enjoyed full order books so unemployment fell. The need for Government direction industry was less imperative and fewer firms moved to Development Areas. But by 1958 the growth of the economy had begun to show signs of slowing down and one of the Government's actions was to introduce the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act which gave the Treasury greater financial powers for assisting industry.
In 1868, a girl born at Marton who was greatly to benefit the young people of the district. She qualified as a teacher and when she was the headmistress of the Blue Coat School in Stockton she met Thomas Spencer, who was very attracted to the small efficient person. They were married and went to live in Leeds, where Mr. Spencer was the cashier of the firm of I.J. Dewhurst.
About the year 1882, Michael Marks had come from a village in Poland at a time when the Jewish community was suffering terrible oppression. He went first to London and then to Leeds where he was fortunate in meeting Isaac Dewhurst, who took him to his warehouse and advanced him goods to the value of five pounds. These the young immigrant took round the Yorkshire villages in a pack and later he was able to take a stall in Leeds Market, where everything he sold was priced at one penny. This venture flourished and later he commenced a Penny Bazaar.
During his visits to Mr. Dewhurst he formed a friendship with Thomas Spencer and offered him an equal share in his business. Tom Spencer accepted the offer and he invested £300 in the venture. Under this partnership the firm of Marks and Spencer flourished and expanded.
A Literary and Philosophical Society had been formed in 1835 and the society built an imposing building in Dovecote Street. In 1964, the building was sold for £72,500 and the amount transferred to the Young Men's Christian Association to be used towards the cost of the proposed the building for ever. Today the facilities of Lt. and Phil. are available to all people on the payment of a small yearly subscription.
The magnificent building of the Young Men's Christian Association at Stockton, said to be the finest in England, was opened on March 12th 1968 by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who captured all hearts by her natural charm. She looked most attractive wearing a dress, coat, gloves and a feathered hat all in the identical shade of rich jade green.
The old Stockton Town Hall, in the centre of the High Street, had for years been inadequate for the amount of business associated with a flourishing town. Because of this the Municipal Buildings replaced the old building in Church Road which were opened in 1961 at a cost of £200,000.
In 1968 the foundation of Stockton's splendid Public Library was laid as an extension to the Municipal Buildings. This received an award from the Civic Trust for its excellence of design. It is said to have cost £227,000.
Stockton Corporation decided that in view of the town being absorbed into the new County Borough of Teesside, it was necessary to provide more modern facilities for leisure. In August 1968 the new swimming baths were completed in Church Road at a cost of £330,000. The original baths had been opened in 1859 when the population of Stockton was only 3,711. The new baths served 86,000 people. Also at this time a new sports centre was opened at a cost of £196,000.
Stockton's market had so flourished that there was a waiting list for any of the 250 stalls which became vacant in the town's outdoor market and the 74 in the indoor Meat Market in the centre of the High Street.
One of last acts of the Stockton Corporation was to purchase the old Corporation Quay on the riverside from the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority. This was a wise move for today a beautiful riverside walk is taking shape which will greatly increase the attraction of the town in the future.
Mr. Harold Macmillan represented Stockton in Parliament for nineteen years. His charming wife Lady Dorothy, who was a tower of strength and fitted easily and naturally into any company in which she found herself, helped him in his Parliamentary career. She was highly esteemed by all with whom she came in contact and even those who did not share the Captain's political point of view thought the world of Lady Dorothy.
While fighting the election Mr. Macmillan and Lady Dorothy rented a house in Richmond Road and the Macmillan children accompanied their parents whenever it was possible.
The misery of the thirties in Stockton had a lasting effect on the future Prime Minister and during the time he represented Stockton Mr. Macmillan did a great deal of good which never became public knowledge. Lady Dorothy was also vitally interested in all aspects of welfare affecting women and she worked hard and long on their behalf.
The Labour candidate, Mr. George Chetwynd, in the 1945 election defeated Mr. Macmillan. The townsfolk, in spite of this, were always delighted when Mr. Macmillan visited Stockton. They watched his successful career in Parliament with pride and to this day Lady Dorothy still has a place in their hearts. In 1968 the people of Stockton showed their appreciation of Mr. Macmillan by presenting him with the Freedom of the Borough.
On April 1st 1968 Stockton, after being in existence for over eight hundred years, lost its identity and became one of the authorities to form the new County Borough of Teesside.
The transfer, as far as the ordinary citizen was concerned, was made without any fanfare of trumpets and perhaps with a sigh that the long years of complete independence were at an end. Henceforth, all the principal administration was conducted from Middlesbrough.
For sixty years the Victoria Bridge area of Thornaby was dominated by the massive bulk of the Cleveland Flour Mill's silo. In June 1970, however, time had at last run out for the disused building as a demolition team, led by expert John Mitchell, prepared the silo for toppling. For a week the team prepared the silo, the plan being to set off the demolition charges in a sequence that would ensure the building collapsing on to vacant land and not into the Tees. When the big day came, police sealed off Victoria Bridge to all traffic and hundreds of sightseers gathered to watch the proceedings. AT the appointed time, Mr. Mitchell pushed the button to detonate 28 lbs. of gelignite. There was a loud explosion, a cloud of dust and the sound of shattering concrete as the silo slowly toppled over. But the cheers from the crowd were short-lived. Having moved some 20ft from the perpendicular, the collapse came to a sudden stop as the gelignited end of the silo bit into the slope in the ground, and though it lacked the architectural grandeur of Pisa, it certainly had a far more impressive lean. The following day another big blast was tired - that too failed. It was to take several days before the old silo finally bit the dust.
Six years later Stockton was to experience yet another upheaval when owing to the re-organisation of local government, on March 31st 1974, Teesside went out of existence. On 1st April 1974 Cleveland County took its place with four districts, i.e. Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees, Middlesbrough and Langbaurgh.
In September 1975, the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the Stockton and Darlington Railway was celebrated in Stockton under the chairmanship of Councilor Peter Bonar. A railway coach, the gift of businessmen, was displayed in the John Walker Square, and the week of festivities culminated in the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh to Preston Park. That evening a civic dinner was held at the Swallow Hotel which had recently been built on the site on which Stockton Castle had once stood. The Guests of Honour were Mr. Harold Macmillan, Mr. Emanuel Shinwell and Mr. Bill Rodgers, the Minister of State for Defence, and Stockton's Member of Parliament. Mr. Macmillan had taken the opportunity to tour the district and he said he was amazed at the housing developments which had taken place since those days when he had represented Stockton in Parliament.
Today, Stockton's two picturesque coaching inns, and the shop where John Walker sold his matches have been demolished to make way for a great modern shopping centre with a roof-top car park. A pleasant little square with seats divides the complex from the Swallow Hotel. Here a grill has been named after Timothy Hackworth's engine 'The Royal George' which saved the Stockton and Darlington Railway when Stevenson's engines proved too frail for the continuous heavy loads they were expected to pull.
The ancient derelict quays and warehouses, the remnants of Stockton's days as a thriving port, have been removed, and by driving piles into the river a wide motor road, with a pleasant walk-way has emerged, with trees and well-kept verges. On the opposite bank of the river Head Wrightson have transformed the view by clearing the debris from their site, seeding a wide area, and planting it with trees.
The view of the river today with its handsome bridge in the distance is very pleasant indeed, and the people of Stockton can be justly proud of their town.