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

👈 Victorian era | Timeline |1920-1937 👉

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

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 Darlington move

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.

Forth Street, Newcastle
Forth Street, Newcastle © David Simpson

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 NE

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.

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

1902 – Sunderland champions

Having finished runners up to Liverpool last season, Sunderland Football Club under Scottish player-manager Alex Mackie 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.

1902 – Boro : First tier for first time

Middlesbrough are promoted to the top tier of English football for the first time in their history. They are promoted 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.

Jarrow Town Hal
Jarrow Town Hall © David Simpson

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.

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

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.

Lindisfarne Castle from the island churchyard
Lindisfarne Castle from the island churchyard © David Simpson

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.

Roker pier lighthouse
Roker pier lighthouse © David Simpson

Sep 1903 – Boro move to Ayresome

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.

Laing Art Gallery
Laing Art Gallery © David Simpson

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.

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

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.

The Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough
The Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough © David Simpson

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.

Alf Common, First £1000 footballer

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.

June 1905 – Mackie’s Middlesbrough

Scotsman, Alex Mackie, who has only recently departed from being manager at Sunderland has been appointed as Middlesbrough’s second manager, succeeding Durham-born Jack Robson.

August 1905 – Sunderland boss Kyle

Northern Irishman, Bob Kyle becomes manager of Sunderland, where he succeeds Alex Mackie, who is now manager of Middlesbrough. He is the club’s third manager.

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

East Howle Colliery near Ferryhill closes as does a remote colliery at Brownrigg near Otterburn in Northumberland.

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.

Middleton House, Middleton-in-Teesdale viewed from south of the river
Middleton House, former London Lead Company headquarters. Middleton-in-Teesdale viewed from south of the river © David Simpson

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.

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

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.

May 1906 – Mackie leaves Boro

Middlesbrough manager Alex Mackie is succeeded by another Scotsman, Andrew Aitken. Mackie (who had previously managed Sunderland) has been banned from any further participation in football following an illegal payments scandal. He will become a publican in Middlesbrough.

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.

Central Arcade, Newcastle
Central Arcade entrance, Newcastle 1906 © David Simpson

June 20, 1906 – Novelist born

Future novelist Catherine McMullen (Dame Catherine Cookson) is born at Leam Lane, Tyne Dock.

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.

Edward VII rail bridge (foreground), Newcastle upon Tyne
Edward VII rail bridge (the nearest one), Newcastle upon Tyne © David Simpson

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 – RGS 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.

Town Hall, South Shields
Town Hall, South Shields © David Simpson

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’.

Roker church
Roker church © David Simpson

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 11th.

1907 – Hippodrome Theatre

Darlington Hippodrome Theatre opens. It is built by locally-based architect G. Gordon Hoskins.

Hippodrome Theatre, Yarm Road
Hippodrome Theatre, Yarm Road, Darlington © David Simpson

1907 – Colliery closures

Greenhead Colliery in Northumberland and Howden Colliery at Howden-le-Wear near Crook close.

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.

RMS Mauretania

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.

Hartlepool United FC football ground
Hartlepool United FC football ground © David Simpson

1908 – Rising Sun Colliery

The Rising Sun Colliery opens to the north of Wallsend. Meanwhile collieries at Binchester and Morley, both near Bishop Auckland will close.

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.

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

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. Newcastle United have been managed by Frank Watt since 1892.

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.

Harry Watts

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.

Queen Alexandra Bridge, Sunderland
Queen Alexandra Bridge, Sunderland from Webster’s Ropery © David Simpson

1909 – Peter Lee heads Labour council

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

Peter Lee
Peter Lee

1909 – Violence at derby match

Violence breaks out at Roker Park, Sunderland during a derby game against Newcastle United. A crowd of over 40,000 attended – unusually high for the this period – with the stadium uncomfortably overcrowded and people spilling on to the pitch causing delays to the game. At one point a police horse was stabbed. Out of concerns for safety the referee decided there should be no half time with the two sides simply swapping sides after 45 minutes and continuing to play without a break.

1909 – Colliery closures

Bishop’s Close Colliery near Spennymoor and Hummerbeck Colliery near West Auckland close.

1909 – Whitby Swing Bridge

A swing bridge is built at Whitby joining the two sides of the town across the River Esk.

Whitby and its bridge © David Simpson

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.

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 © David Simpson

April 28, 1910 – Magpies 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.

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

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.

Dec 3, 1910 – Boro bribe Sunderland

Middlesbrough Football Club manager, Andy Walker and the club’s Chairman, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gibson Poole are suspended from football for life following a bribery scandal. Colonel Gibson-Poole who is standing as a Conservative party candidate in a  local election believed a Middlesbrough victory over Sunderland in the derby game at Ayresome Park would boost his electoral chances. Sunderland captain, Charlie Thomson was offered a bribe by Walker to throw the game but Thomson reported the incident. Sunderland, previously unbeaten this season at the top of the league lost the game (1-0) anyway. Sunderland had recently suffered a set back after their goalkeeper, Roose broke his arm in the game against Newcastle United at St James’ Park on November 19. Despite the win for Middlesbrough, Colonel Gibson Poole would still lose the election.

Jan 17, 1911 – Transporter Bridge

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.

Transporter Bridge from Port Clarence looking towards Middlesbrough
Transporter Bridge from Port Clarence looking towards Middlesbrough © David Simpson

1911 – 200,000 miners in the NE

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.

Aug, 1911 – Middlesbrough’s McIntosh

Sedgefield-born Thomas McIntosh becomes manager (Secretary) of Middlesbrough Football Club succeeding. He had previously been player-secretary at Darlington. He will manage Middlesbrough for 179 games before moving on to Everton in 1919 where he will discover and sign up the famous Dixie Dean. McIntosh’s predecessors at Boro starting with the most recent were Andy Walker, John Gunter, Andy Aitken, Alex Mackie and Jack Robson.

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.

The Arches, Newcastle University
The Arches, at what is now Newcastle University © David Simpson

1911 – Colliery closure

Millfield Grange Colliery near Cockfield in County Durham closes.

Apr 15, 1912 – Editor’s Titanic death

The Belfast-built RMS Titanic, a huge new ocean liner sinks in the Atlantic on her maiden voyage between Southampton and New York after hitting an iceberg on the night of April 14/15 1912 with the loss of around 1,500 lives. Amongst those on board who lost their life was the Northumbrian-born social reformer and newspaper editor, W.T Stead. Stead was one of the first editors of The Northern Echo in Darlington and later the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette. He was seen as a pioneer of modern campaigning journalism.

Editor, W.T. Stead

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.

Carnegie Library, Middlesbrough
Carnegie Library, Middlesbrough © David Simpson

1913- Sunderland champions

Sunderland Football Club managed by Northern Ireland’s Bob Kyle are the champions in the top tier of English football for the fifth time in their history. 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’.

'Aston Villa 1913', plaque Quarrington Hill
‘Aston Villa 1913’, plaque Quarrington Hill © David Simpson

June 1913 – Suffragette’s Derby death

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.

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

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.

The Dainty Dinah brand
The Dainty Dinah 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.

The Response War memorial Newcastle
The Response 1914, a sculpture of 1923 near Newcastle Civic Centre, by Sir William Goscombe John R.A, featuring the Northumberland Fusiliers, represents the fervour and confidence with which Britain entered the war and soldiers enlisted © David Simpson

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.

Heugh Battery Museum Hartlepool Headland
Heugh Battery Museum, Hartlepool Headland © David Simpson

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.

Hartlepools bombardment memorial
Hartlepools bombardment memorial © David Simpson

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.

Whitby Abbey © David Simpson

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.

Former co-operative store building, Hartlepool
Former co-operative store building, Hartlepool © David Simpson

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.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick,
John Simpson Kirkpatrick, South Shields © David Simpson

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.

Redhills, Durham
Redhills, Durham © David Simpson.

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.

Blaydon Races art installation
Blaydon Races art installation of 2013 by artist Andrew McKeown near the site of the races © David Simpson 2022

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.

Steelworks, Warrenby, Redcar
Steelworks, Warrenby, Redcar © David Simpson

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/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 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).

Roland Boys Bradford

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.

War Memorial, Hartlepool
War Memorial, Hartlepool © David Simpson

1918 – DLI : 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.

Durham Rifle Volunteers Memorial, Saltwell Park Gateshead
Durham Rifle Volunteers Memorial, Saltwell Park Gateshead commemorates the fallen of the wars from 1900 to 1945 © David Simpson

1918 – 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.

Jan 23, 1919 – South Shields race riot

A riot breaks out in South Shields in which the town’s significant Yemeni seamen community is targeted as a scapegoat for some of the economic struggles for work associated with the end of the war. Members of the South Shields Yemeni community are British citizens and some served for Britain during the recent war, as they will also do in the Second World War.  At this time the colony of Aden in Yemen is governed as part of British India. A similar riot will also break out in South Shields in August 1930.

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.

SS Cretehawser,
SS Cretehawser, Sunderland © David Simpson

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

👈 Victorian era1920-1937 👉

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