North East England 1901-1919
The industrial importance of the region was no more apparent than during the First World War, when military engineering and expertise greatly assisted the war effort. Coastal towns of the region were bombed by German battleships while far away in Europe many North East soldiers lost their lives
Jan 22, 1901 – EDWARD VII
Queen Victoria dies at her home on the Isle of Wight. She is succeeded by her son Edward VII. The Victorian era comes to an end and the Edwardian era commences.
1901 – Stephenson move to Darlington
Robert Stephenson & Co moves its locomotive works from Newcastle to Darlington due to lack of space for expansion. The Newcastle works in Forth Street had constructed George Stephenson’s famous Rocket for the Rainhill Trials in 1829.
1901 – Redheugh Bridge
Redheugh Bridge opens, linking the two sides of the Tyne at Gateshead. It replaces an earlier Redheugh Bridge that had opened in 1871.
1901 – Town populations
91,302 people live in Middlesbrough. Seventy years ago it was little more than a farm inhabited by 25 people. Newcastle has a population of over 215,328; Sunderland’s population is 146,077 and Gateshead’s population has risen to 108,024.
1901 – Sunderland Technical College
Sunderland Technical College is established in the newly-built Galen Building in Green Terrace near Bishopwearmouth Green (the college and its buildings will expand, later becoming Sunderland Polytechnic in 1969 and Sunderland University in 1992).
1901 – 100,000 miners in the North East
100,000 coal miners work in the Durham coalfield and a further 37,000 are employed in the Northumberland coalfield.
1901 – Colliery closes
The Delaval Benwell Colliery closes to the west of Newcastle. Coal mines have a lifespan and once coal seams have been worked or become uneconomic, closure will follow. Throughout the nineteenth century and into earlier times, numerous coal mines both great and small and sometimes the villages associated with them have come and gone. The list of mines that were lost before 1900 would be too long to mention. Uncertainty and danger has long been an aspect of a life in mining. It is one of the reasons mining communities throughout the region share such strong bonds and a shared cultural identity.
1902 – Whitley Bay
The seaside town of Whitley just to the north of the Tyne is officially renamed ‘Whitley Bay‘ to avoid confusion with Whitby on the Yorkshire coast. Whitley developed as a coastal resort starting in the 1860s when railways first passed close by.
1902 – Sunderland champs, Boro promoted
Having finished runners up to Liverpool last season, Sunderland Football Club are the champions in the top tier of English football, wining the First Division title with 44 points (there are 18 teams with 2 points for a win and 1 point for a draw). It is Sunderland’s fourth title. Newcastle United finish in third place on 37 points, with Everton ahead of them on 41. Middlesbrough are promoted to the top tier of English football for the first time in their history, from the Second Division, finishing just behind first placed West Bromwich Albion. Only two teams go up.
1902 – Jarrow Town Hall
Jarrow Town Hall opens to represent the civic affairs of this proud industrial town, a place which also has links to more distant eras of the region’s past.
1903 – Hugh Mackay carpets
Hugh Mackay begins manufacturing carpets in Durham City. Carpets had been made in Durham since the 1780s but this year the Henderson family who own a large carpet factory in the city sell their business to a firm in Halifax and sadly the closure of the Durham factory ‘looms’. Former Henderson’s employee Hugh Mackay buys part of the factory and recommences making carpets in the city, initially with a reduced workforce.
1903 – Newcastle smallpox
The smallpox epidemic hits Newcastle, a lethal disease that claims many lives.
1903 – Shipbuilders combine
Swan and Hunter shipbuilders combine with the Wigham Richardson firm of Walker.
1903 – Castle conversion
Renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens converts Lindisfarne Castle into a private residence.
1903 – Cerebos buys salt works
Cerebos buys the Greatham salt works near Billingham.
1903 – Roker pier Lighthouse
Roker Pier lighthouse is completed at the end of Roker Pier. The pier was commenced in 1885.
Sep 1903 – Boro move to Ayresome Park
Middlesbrough Football Club who have just completed their first season in Division One, move from their Linthorpe Road ground to a new ground at Ayresome Park. The new ground partially overlaps the site of the former Paradise Ground where their defunct one-time rivals Middlesbrough Ironopolis once played. Boro’s first game at Ayresome is a friendly 1-0 victory over Celtic on September 7 and their first league game here is a 2-3 defeat on September 12, to Sunderland in front of a crowd of 30,000.
1904 – Doddington Colliery closes
Doddington Colliery near Wooler in Northumberland closes.
1904 – Laing Gallery
The Laing Gallery opens in Newcastle. Architecturally it is a combination of the Art Nouveau and Baroque styles.
1904 – Armstrong College
The Durham College of Science in Newcastle upon Tyne (which began life as the College of Physical Sciences in 1871) adopts the name Armstrong College in honour of the great Tyneside industrialist and philanthropist, William Armstrong, who died in 1900. Armstrong had laid the foundation stone of the college. The college, which is situated in the Barras Bridge area of the city, is part of the University of Durham.
1904 – Emerson Chambers
The Edwardian Baroque style Emerson Chambers is built in Newcastle’s Blackett Street for shops, offices and a restaurant by architects Simpson, Lawson and Rayne. Edwardian Baroque is a retrospective style of architecture of the era, drawing on influences of eighteenth century French architecture and the seventeenth century styles of Christopher Wren. It is a contrast to the Art Nouveau architecture that is much in vogue in this era but its inventive ‘free style’ sometimes incorporates elements of both.
1904 – Dorman Museum
Middlesbrough’s Dorman Museum is established off Linthorpe Road near Albert Park. The museum which initially focused on natural history (now focused on the local history of Middlesbrough) was founded by Sir Arthur Dorman of the Dorman Long engineering company. Originally called the Dorman Memorial Museum it was built in memory of Sir Arthur’s son, George Lockwood Dorman who died of a fever while serving in the Boer War.
Feb 1905 – First £1,000 footballer
Sunderland’s Alf Common becomes the world’s first £1,000 football player after he is signed by Middlesbrough for this extraordinary record-breaking fee. He helps his new team avoid relegation and then in his first full season with the club finishes as Boro’s top scorer.
1905 – Newcastle United champions
For the first time in their history Newcastle United Football Club are the champions in the top tier of English football, wining the First Division title with 48 points in a division of 18 teams. Sunderland finish in 5th place and Middlesbrough finish 15th. Newcastle miss out on the chance of ‘the double’ this season. They reach the FA Cup final, also for the first time in their history, but are defeated 2-0 by Aston Villa in the final at Crystal Palace.
1905 – Victoria Falls bridge
The Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company of Darlington build the Victoria Falls Bridge across the Zambezi river in southern Africa close to the famous waterfall.
1905 – Colliery closures
1905 – Lead company leaves Teesdale
The London Lead Company has ceased operating in Teesdale. The dales of the North Pennines – Teesdale, Weardale and Derwentdale had once formed the most important lead mining area in the world and in Teesdale the London Lead Company had been a major employer.
1906 – Doxford ships
Doxford’s at Sunderland is thought to be the world’s busiest shipbuilders, building an average of one ship every two weeks in this year.
1906 – Empire Theatre
Sunderland’s Empire Theatre opens. Built in Edwardian Baroque style by architects Thomas and William Milburn next door to Benjamin Simpson’s Edwardian Baroque Dun Cow pub of 1901.
1906 – Novelist born
Future novelist Catherine McMullen (Dame Catherine Cookson) is born at Leam Lane, Tyne Dock.
1906 – RVI, Newcastle
The Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) is established in Newcastle, situated on part of the Town Moor donated by the Freeman of the city. It will develop close links with the neighbouring Durham College of Medicine (later Newcastle University). The RVI is the successor to an earlier hospital of 1752 established in the city’s Forth Banks area.
1906 – Central Arcade
Newcastle’s beautiful Central Arcade is built. There had previously been a vaudeville theatre here within this part of the early nineteenth century Grainger development called the Central Exchange building.
1906 – Newcastle rail bridge
The King Edward VII bridge is built between Newcastle and Gateshead. It complements the Swing Bridge of 1876 and High Level Bridge of 1848.
1906 – RMS Mauretania
Under their new partnership with Wigham Richardson Swan Hunter build the famous ocean liner RMS Mauretania for Cunard at Wallsend. It is the biggest ship in the world for its time.
1906 – Royal Grammar School at Jesmond
Newcastle’s Royal Grammar School moves to Jesmond. It was established in 1525.
1906 – South Shields Town Hall
South Shields Town Hall is built in a distinctly French style. The architect is E.E Fetch of London.
Oct 14, 1906 – Wingate pit disaster
Twenty-six men were killed in an explosion at Wingate Grange Colliery.
1907 – Arts and Crafts church
St Andrew’s church at Roker in Sunderland is built, it contains features by the artists William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones and is known as ‘the cathedral of the Arts and Crafts movement’.
1907 – Newcastle United champions
Newcastle United Football Club are the champions in the top tier of English football, wining the First Division title with 51 points in a division of 20 teams. Sunderland finish in 10th place and Middlesbrough finish in 11th place.
1907 – Hippodrome Theatre
Darlington Hippodrome Theatre opens. It is built by locally-based architect G. Gordon Hoskins.
1907 – Colliery closures
1907 – Smith’s Dock, South Bank
Smith’s Dock of North Shields establish a shipbuilding yard South Bank on Teesside.
1907 – Mauretania takes Blue Riband
The Wallsend-built RMS Mauretania takes the coveted Blue Riband prize for her eastbound transatlantic voyage.
Feb 20, 1908 – Glebe pit disaster
Fourteen men are killed in an explosion at Washington Glebe Colliery.
1908 – Hartlepools United
Hartlepools United football club are formed, later simply called Hartlepool United. In 1910 the club would absorb the assets of the dissolved West Hartlepool FC, a club founded in 1881.
1908 – Rising Sun Colliery
Feb 16 1909 – West Stanley pit disaster
Tragic events unfold as 168 men are killed in an explosion at Burns Pit Colliery, West Stanley, County Durham. Among the deaths were 59 boys aged under 20. There were 36 survivors.
1909 – Shipley bequest
Joseph Shipley (born 1822), a wealthy Gateshead solicitor and art collector who died this year, left a bequest for a new gallery. It will be built in Gateshead.
1909 – Newcastle United champions
Newcastle United Football Club are the champions in the top tier of English football for the third time in their history. They take the First Division title with 53 points in a division of 20 teams. Sunderland finish in 3rd place on 44 points behind runners up Everton on 46 points. Middlesbrough finish in 9th place.
1909 – Mauretania scoops second award
The RMS Mauretania is awarded the Blue Riband prize for the westbound transatlantic voyage. The steam turbine technology that powers the ship is a development of that first pioneered by Tyneside engineer Charles Parsons.
1909 – Carnegie helps Wearside hero
On a visit to Sunderland, the American philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie secures a pension for poverty-stricken Sunderland hero, Harry Watts to live a comfortable life in his old age. Watts, a diver had been responsible for saving the lives of at least 36 people, mostly from drowning in the River Wear. Watts had also helped with with the recovery effort following the Tay Bridge disaster of 1880 and the Victoria Hall tragedy in Sunderland in 1883.
1909 – Queen Alexandra Bridge
The Queen Alexandra Bridge opens in Sunderland as what is then the heaviest bridge in the world. It links Southwick with Deptford and has two tiers for road and rail. It is named after Queen Alexandra of Denmark who is the queen of Edward VII.
1909 – Peter Lee heads Labour council
1909 – Colliery closures
1909 – Whitby Swing Bridge
A swing bridge is built at Whitby joining the two sides of the town across the River Esk.
April 1910 – West Auckland’s World Cup
West Auckland FC, a colliery village team from County Durham win a football world cup competition defeating Swiss side Winterthur 2-0 in the final. They successfully defend the title the following year beating Juventus of Turin 6-1.
April 28, 1910 – Newcastle United win FA Cup
Newcastle United win the FA Cup for the first time in their history after defeating Barnsley. Initially the final was played at Crystal Palace in south London, on April 23, but the match ended in a 1-1 draw. Newcastle’s goal came from Percy Main-born Jock Rutherford. A replay was held at Goodison Park in Liverpool on April 28 in front of a crowd of 60,000 and Newcastle won 2-0. Both goals came from the Bolton-born Albert Shepherd. Newcastle had reached the FA Cup final on three previous occasions, losing out in 1905, 1906 and 1908 to Aston Villa, Everton and Wolves at Crystal Palace. In 1911 they reached the final once again, drawing 0-0 with Bradford City at Crystal Palace before losing in a replay at Old Trafford in Manchester.
May 6, 1910 – KING GEORGE V
Following the death of his father King Edward VII at Buckingham Palace today, Prince George of Wales becomes King George V bringing an end to the decade long Edwardian era.
1910 – Spanish City at Whitley Bay
The Spanish City and Whitley Bay Pleasure Gardens open at Whitley Bay. It earned its name from the style of the tents of an earlier open air ‘Torreador’ theatre of concert performances held at the site from 1907 and called ‘The Spanish City’ by the locals.
1910 – Prolific shipbuilding by Smiths
An extraordinary 280 ships have been built by the Smith’s Dock Company at North Shields between 1899 and 1910 but this year its North Shields yards have switched from shipbuilding to ship repair. The shipbuilding arm of the business will be focused on the company’s new yard at South Bank on Teesside which opened in 1907, though the company headquarters remains at North Shields.
1910 – Consett Colliery closes
Consett Colliery, also known as Blackhill or Tin Mill Colliery closes.
Jan 17, 1911 – Transporter Bridge opens
The Transporter Bridge is opened across the River Tees at Middlesbrough by Prince Arthur of Connaught. The bridge was started in 1906 and built at a cost of £68,026. It was designed and built by Cleveland Bridge and Engineering of Darlington with the assistance of Sir William Arrol and Company of Glasgow. The Transporter Bridge was the idea of Alderman McLaughlin and has an advantage over a conventional bridge in that it does not restrict shipping.
1911 – 200,000 miners in the North East
152,000 coal miners work in the Durham coalfield and a further 54,000 are employed in the Northumberland coalfield.
1911 – Otterburn camp
The Otterburn training camp area for the Ministry of Defence, opens in the wilds of Northumberland in Redesdale. Training trenches for the First World War will later be constructed here to emulate the situation on the Western front in the First World War.
1911 – The Arches
Schools and buildings for Durham University’s Armstrong College in Newcastle upon Tyne continue to be developed in the Barras Bridge area of the city. This year saw the completion of ‘the arches’ which form an important focal point for the college.
1911 – Colliery closure
Millfield Grange Colliery near Cockfield in County Durham closes.
Apr 14/15, 1912 – Former editor dies on Titanic
The Northumbrian-born social reformer and newspaper editor, W.T Stead dies on board The Titanic. Stead was one of the first editors of The Northern Echo in Darlington and later the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette. He is seen as a pioneer of modern campaigning journalism.
1912 – Evenwood Colliery closes
Evenwood Colliery near Bishop Auckland closes.
1912 – Carnegie Library
A public library opens near Middlesbrough Town Hall. It is one of the Carnegie libraries established with funding by Scottish-American philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.
1913- Sunderland champions
Sunderland Football Club are the champions in the top tier of English football. They take the First Division title with 54 points (there are 20 teams). Aston Villa are runners up with 50 points. Newcastle United finish 14th and Middlesbrough 16th. It is the fifth time Sunderland have taken the title. Sunderland also get a shot at ‘the double’ as for the first time in their history they reach the FA Cup final (they defeated Newcastle United in a quarter final replay and Barnsley in the semi-final). In the final, at Crystal Palace, Sunderland lose 1-0 to Aston Villa much to the disdain of County Durham bus company owner, Albert Gillett. Albert, a confident fanatical Sunderland supporter had publicly promised to name his new home at Quarrington Hill after the victors, expecting to call it ‘Sunderland House’.
June 1913 – Suffragette killed by king’s horse
North East suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison is killed after throwing herself in front of the King’s horse during the famous Epsom Derby horserace. Emily was campaigning for women’s rights. Emily’s actions were dramatic and dangerous but there is a debate over whether suicide had been her intention.
1913 – Delves Colliery closes
Delves Colliery near Consett closes.
1913 – New front for Fenwick
A new building has been constructed for the Fenwick store on its site in Northumberland Street. The store was founded here in 1882.
1914 – Dainty Dinah
Horners, who took over a sweet factory at Chester-le-Street in 1910 commence the manufacture of their Dainty Dinah brand of toffees in the town. They use the portrait of a local lady, Alice Scott, to promote and trade mark their brand.
1914 – Boro’s highest finish
Football continues as war approaches. Middlesbrough FC finish 3rd in Division One, the top tier in English football, their highest ever position (still their highest in 2022). Sunderland finish 7th and Newcastle finish 11th.
1914 – Littletown Colliery closes
Littletown Colliery near Pittington to the east of Durham closes.
Aug 4, 1914 – War breaks out
Britain declares war on Germany. Thousands of miners and other workers from across the North-East join up. On Tyneside and across Durham and Northumberland thousands of men join battalions of the Durham Light Infantry and Northumberland Fusiliers. Many Teessiders join the North Yorkshire regiment of the Green Howards.
Oct 1914- Battle of Armentières
The Second Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry see involvement in the Battle of Armentières in France.
Oct-Nov 1914- First Battle of Ypres
The First Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers see involvement in the First Battle of Ypres in Belgium. British soldiers forming part of these early engagements in the war are known as the British Expeditionary Force.
1914 – World’s first aircraft carrier
A shipbuilding yard at Blyth builds the world’s first aircraft carrier. Called the Ark Royal, the ship can accommodate the landing of biplanes.
Dec 16, 1914 – Battleships bomb Hartlepool
German battleships bombard Hartlepool. One hundred and twelve civilians and nine soldiers are killed. Some 340 buildings are destroyed. The Hartlepool and Teesside area is a prime target for the Germans because it makes munitions, bridges and other resources for the war effort. Dorman Long at Middlesbrough, for example, will be responsible for the manufacture of millions of shells. Lloyd George has described the war as ‘an engineer’s war’. Scarborough and Whitby have also been shelled.
Dec 16, 1914 – Bombs hit abbey
Bombs hit Whitby Abbey causing some damage. The abbey has fallen into ruin since King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in Tudor times.
1914-18 – Armaments manufacture
The First World War brings a huge increase in the demand for armaments constructed by Armstrong Whitworth’s factory at Elswick. The naval yards of Armstrong Mitchell at Low Walker, Hawthorn Leslie at Hebburn and Palmer at Jarrow also benefit from manufacturing for the war effort.
1915 – Hartlepool Co-operative
A large Co-operative store building is built in West Hartlepool by the C.W.S architect Lionel G Ekins.
1915 – Mills Bomb grenade
Sunderland inventor and engineer William Mills invents and patents the ‘Mills Bomb’, a kind of hand grenade which will be adopted by the British army. It will be manufactured at a factory established by Mills in Birmingham.
April-May 1915 – Second Battle of Ypres
Battalions from both the Durham Light Infantry and Northumberland Fusiliers regiments are engaged at the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium.
Apr-May 1915 – South Shields’ Anzac hero
South Shields-born John Simpson Fitzpatrick, serving in the Anzac forces at Gallipoli becomes an Australian hero for his stretcher-bearing rescue efforts (assisted by a donkey) on the battlefield. His efforts will claim his life.
Sep 25, 1915 – Oct 8 – Battle of Loos
Northumberland Fusiliers and Durham Light Infantry divisions serve at the battle of Loos in France on the Western Front.
Oct 23, 1915 – Miners’ hall opens
A new Durham Miners’ Hall opens at Redhills in Durham City. The building replaces the old Miners’ Hall in the city’s North Road.
Nov 4, 1915 – VC for DLI Private Thomas Kenny
The Durham Light Infantry received its first Victoria Cross medal during the war, awarded to Pte Thomas Kenny of the 13th battalion after he rescued a wounded officer.
1916 – RAF Usworth
RAF Usworth is established near Washington.
Feb 1916 – Birtley’s Belgian village
An agreement is made with the Belgian government to enable Belgian workers to make armaments in a factory at Birtley. A Belgian village is established in the town complete with Belgian shops, school, church and Belgian street-names.
July 1-Nov 18, 1916 – Battle of the Somme
Several battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers including the Tyneside Irish and Tyneside Scottish and two battalions of the Durham Light Infantry regiment see action action in the 140 day Battle of the Somme, also known as the ‘Somme Offensive’.
Sep 2, 1916 – Last Blaydon Races
After a winning horse was disqualified and a subsequent riot broke out over a suspicion of rigged results, the Blaydon Races, once made famous by a music hall song, were brought to a final end. Despite the ongoing war, thousands attended the races which were allowed to go ahead on the provision that a donation was made to the British Sportsmen’s Ambulance Fund.
Nov 27, 1916 – Zeppelin shot down
A German Zeppelin airship is shot down a mile off Hartlepool by a pilot from Seaton Carew aerodrome.
1917 – Steel works
Steel works are opened at Warenby at the mouth of the Tees near Redcar by Dorman Long. Dormanstown, a western extension of Redcar is built to accommodate the expanding workforce of the district for the steel firm.
1917 – Haverton Hill shipyard
A shipyard is established at Haverton Hill near Stockton-on-Tees by Christopher Furness.
1917-1918 – NE regiments in battle
At the Third Battle of Ypres (July 31-Nov 10, 1917) the 20th battalion of the Durham Light Infantry was involved in the first day’s attacks. Several battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers were involved including the Tyneside Irish and Tyneside Scottish. At the Battle of Arras (Apr 9, 1917) this British offensive on the Western Front included battalions from the Durham Light Infantry and from the Northumberland Fusiliers including the Tyneside Irish and Tyneside Scottish. The Battle of Messines (Jun 7-14, 1917), on the Western Front included the 20th Battalion of the DLI and 8th and 10th Battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers. The Battle of Broodseinde (Oct 4, 1917), saw involvement of the fifteenth Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry at Broodseinde near Ypres in Belgium. Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry and Northumberland Fusiliers were involved in the Battle of Cambrai in northern France (Nov 20). In Nov-Dec 1917 the 12th and 13th Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry were moved to the Italian front. At the fourth Battle of the Lys (Apr 7-29, 1918) the battle included battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers.
Mar to Apr 1918 – Second Somme battle
Batttalions of the Durham Light Infantry and Northumberland Fusiliers are included in the engagements of the Second Battle of the Somme.
1918 – VCs for Durham’s Bradford brothers
George Nicholson Bradford, Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy is awarded the Victoria Cross after knowingly sacrificing his life at Zebrrugge this year. His brother, Roland Boys Bradford, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Durham Light Infantry, who died last year has also received a Victoria Cross for bravery. They are the only brothers to receive VCs in the First World War. Another brother, James Barker Bradford, who lost his life at the Somme is the recipient of the Military Cross. A fourth brother, and the only one of the four (all born at Witton Park), to survive the war, is awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order Medal).
Nov 11, 1918 – Armistice declared
At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month fighting ceases in the Great War. Declarations of peace are read out in towns and cities across the North.
1918 – Durham Light Infantry : 12,000 dead
Six soldiers in the Durham Light Infantry Regiment were the recipients of Victoria Cross medals during the First World War. More than 12,000 soldiers from the regiment lost their lives during the war.
1918 – Northumberland Fusiliers : 16,000 dead
The Northumberland Fusiliers were awarded many battle honours during the First World War including five recipients of the Victoria Cross. Over 16,000 lives were lost within the regiment during the war.
1918 – Chemical works
A chemical works is established at Billingham for the production of synthetic ammonia intended for making bombs for the war. As the war is now over the plant has to adapt to new manufacturing.
1919 – Cretehawser
A vessel called Crethawser is built of concrete at Southwick on the River Wear at Sunderland because of the restrictions and shortage of using iron during the war. It can still be seen across the river at South Hylton.
1919 – Steel capital
Middlesbrough is producing one third of the nation’s steel. Britain’s total steel output is ten million tons of which 3.35 million tons comes from Middlesbrough’s nine steel plants