North East England 1901-1919

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

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The ‘Tommy’ sculpture (created in 2014 to mark the centenary of World War One) by Ray Lonsdale, at Seaham. Photo: © 2018 David Simpson

Jan 22 1901 – EDWARD VII : Victorian era closes

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 works move to Darlington

Robert Stephenson & Co moves its locomotive works from Newcastle to Darlington due to lack of space for expansion. The Newcastle woks 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 – 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.

Whitley Sands, Whitley Bay.
Whitley Sands, Whitley Bay. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1902 – Whitley Bay

The seaside town of Whitley to the north of the Tyne is officially renamed ‘Whitley Bay‘, probably 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 are football champions

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 from the Second Division in second place, behind West Bromwich Albion. Only two teams go up.

The Durham carpet factory near the city’s market place and river. As it appeared in the 1880s

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, lethal disease that claims many lives..

1903 – Shipbuilders combine

Swan and Hunter shipbuilders combine with the Wigham Richardson firm of Walker.

1903 – Cerebos buys salt works

Cerebos buys the Greatham salt works near Billingham.

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 but their first league game here is a 2-3 defeat on September 12, to Sunderland in front of a crowd of 30,000.

Emerson Chambers Newcastle with its green copper clock near Grey’s Monument © David Simpson 2019

1904 – Emerson Chambers

The Edwardian Baroque style Emerson Chambers is built in Newcastle’s Blackett Street as 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 18th century French architecture and the 17th 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.

Alf Common, First £1000 footballer

Feb 1905 – First £1,000 footballer

Sunderland’s Alf Common becomes the world’s first £1,000 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 are football 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.

Memorial fountain of the London Lead Company, Middleton-in-Teesdale
Memorial fountain of the London Lead Company, Middleton-in-Teesdale. © David Simpson 2018

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.

Empire Theatre and Dun Cow
Empire Theatre and Dun Cow pub, Sunderland : Photo © David Simpson

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.

Clockwise from top left:  The modern Redheugh Bridge (1983), King Edward VII Bridge (1906), Queen Elizabeth II or Metro Bridge (1981), Swing Bridge (1876) Photos David Simpson

1906 – Rail bridge across the Tyne

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 – The 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.

Roker church
Roker church Photo © David Simpson

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 are football 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.

RMS Mauretania

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 – Rising Sun Colliery

The Rising Sun Colliery opens to the north of Wallsend.

West Stanley memorial
Memorial to the West Stanley Colliery explosion of 1909. © David Simpson

Feb 16 1909 – West Stanley pit disaster

168 men are killed in an explosion at Burns Pit Colliery, West Stanley, County Durham. 59 of the deaths were 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 are football 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.

Harry Watts

1909 – Carnegie helps Sunderland 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.

Queen Alexandra Bridge
Old postcard showing the Queen Alexandra Bridge

1909 – Queen Alexandra Bridge

The Queen Alexandra Bridge opens in Sunderland and at the time was 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.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee

1909 – Peter Lee heads all Labour council

England’s first all Labour County Council assembles at the Shire Hall in Durham City under the leadership of Peter Lee.

West Auckland World Cup
Sculpture commemorating West Auckland’s amazing World Cup victory of 1909. It was unveiled by Sir John Hall, David Ticer Thomas and Tim Healy in 2013. Photo © David Simpson 2018

April 1910 – West Auckland win the 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 FA Cup winners

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.

The Spanish City, Whitley Bay.
The Spanish City, Whitley Bay. Photo © David Simpson 2018

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 – Smith’s Dock

Smith’s Dock is established at South Bank, Middlesbrough by a North Shields firm established on Tyneside in 1899.

Transporter Bridge from Port Clarence looking towards Middlesbrough
Transporter Bridge from Port Clarence looking towards Middlesbrough. Photo © David Simpson 2018

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.

Editor, W.T. Stead

1912 – Former editor dies on Titanic

The Northumbrian-born social reformer and newspaper editor, WT 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.

Sunderland football fan’s house at Quarrington Hill

1913- Sunderland are football 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’. 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’.

Plaque commemorating Emily Wilding Davison, Longhorsley
Plaque commemorating Emily Wilding Davison, Longhorsley, Northumberland Photo © David Simpson 2018

June 1913 – Suicidal suffragette at Epsom Derby

North East suffragette, Emily Davison is killed after throwing herself in front of the King’s horse during the Derby. 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.

The Dainty Dinah brand
The Dainty Dinah brand

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 – ever

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 2021). Sunderland finish 7th and Newcastle finish 11th.

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 – Blyth builds 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.

Sea wall, Old Hartlepool
Sea wall, Old Hartlepool. Photo © David Simpson 2018

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.

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.

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.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick
John Simpson Kirkpatrick : Photo © David Simpson

Apr-May 1915 – Anzac hero from South Shields

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 would 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.

Redhills, Durham
Redhills, Durham © David Simpson 2020.

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 – First VC for DLI in the war

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 – Belgian Birtley

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 at Hartlepool

A German Zeppelin is shot down a mile off Hartlepool by a pilot from Seaton Carew aerodrome.

July 31 – Nov 10 1917 Third Battle of Ypres

The 20th battalion of the Durham Light Infantry was involved in the first day’s attacks in the Third Battle of Ypres. Several battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers were involved including the Tyneside Irish and Tyneside Scottish.

Apr 9 1917 – Battle of Arras

The Battle of Arras, a British offensive on the Western Front includes battalions of the Durham Light Infantry and from the Northumberland Fusiliers including the Tyneside Irish and Tyneside Scottish.

June 7 – 14 1917 – Battle of Messines

The Battle of Messines on the Western Front includes the 20th Battalion of the DLI and 8th and 10th Battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers.

Oct 4 1917 – Battle of Broodseinde

The fifteenth Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry saw involvement at the Battle of Broodseinde near Ypres in Belgium.

Nov 20 1917 – Battle of Cambrai

Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry and Northumberland Fusiliers are involved in the battle of Cambrai in northern France.

Nov-Dec 1917 – Italian front

The 12th and 13th Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry are moved to the Italian front.

Apr 7 to 29  1918 – Battle of the Lys

Also called the Fourth battle of the Lys, this battle included battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers.

Mar to Apr 1918 – Second Battle of the Somme

Batttalions of the Durham Light Infantry and Northumberland Fusiliers are included in the engagements of the Second Battle of the Somme.

Roland Boys Bradford

1918 – VCs for County 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 – DLI : Six Victoria Cross Medals, 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 and its serving soldiers were the recipients of five Victoria Crosses. Over 16,000 lives were lost within the regiment during the war.

ICI Billingham.
Chemical works at Billingham, pictured from the Ferryhill area of County Durham. Photo © David Simpson 2018.

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 – 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

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