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The Early Twentieth Century and World War One 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

1901 January 22, - END OF AN ERA (Britain)

Queen Victoria dies at her home on the Isle of Wight. She is succeeded by her son Edward VII.

1901 January 22, - KING EDWARD VII (Britain)

Edward VII succeeds Victoria as King of Britain.

1901 - STEPHENSON WORKS MOVE (Darlington and Newcastle)

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

1901 - TOWN POPULATIONS (North-East)

91,302 people live in Middlesbrough. Seventy years ago it was little more than a farm inhabited by 25 people. The population of Newcastle is over 215,328; Sunderland's population is 146,077.

1901 - 100,000 MINERS (Durham and Northumberland)

100,000 coal miners work in the Durham coalfield and a further 37,000 are employed in the Northumberland coalfield.

1903 - HUGH MACKAY CARPETS (Durham City)

Hugh Mackay begins manufacturing carpets in Durham City.

1903 - NEWCASTLE SMALLPOX (Newcastle)

A smallpox epidemic hits Newcastle.

1903 - CEREBOS BUYS SALT WORKS (Hartlepool)

Cerebos buys the Greatham salt works near Billingham.


The Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company of Darlington builds the Victoria Falls Bridge in Africa.

1905 - LEAD COMPANY LEAVE TEESDALE (Middleton-in-Teesdale)

The London Lead Company has ceased operating in Teesdale.

1906 - DOXFORD SHIPS (Sunderland)

Doxford's is thought to be the world's busiest shipbuilders building an average of one ship every two weeks in this year.

October 14, 1906 - WINGATE DISASTER (Wingate, County Durham)

Twenty-four men were killed in an explosion at Wingate Colliery.

February 20, 1908 - GLEBE DISASTER (Washington)

Fourteen men were killed in an explosion at Washington Glebe Colliery.

1909 February 16, - STANLEY DISASTER (West Stanley, County Durham)

168 men are killed in an explosion at Burn Pit Colliery, West Stanley. 59 of the deaths were boys aged under 20. There were 36 survivors.


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

1910 May 6, - GEORGE IV (England)

George V is the new King of England.

1910 - SMITH'S DOCK ESTABLISHED (Middlesbrough)

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

January 17, 1911 - TRANSPORTER BRIDGE OPENS (Middlesbrough)

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 (Durham and Northumberland)

152,000 coal miners work in the Durham coalfield and a further 54,000 are employed in the Northumberland coalfield.


The Northumbrian-born social reformer WT Stead dies on board the Titanic. Stead was one of the first editors of The Northern Echo in Darlington.


North-East-born suffragette Emily Davison is killed after throwing herself in front of the King's horse during the Derby. Emily is campaigning for women's rights.

1914 August 4, - WAR BREAKS OUT (Europe)

Britain declares war on Germany. Thousands of miners and other workers from across the North-East join up. On Tyneside thousands of men join battalions of either the Durham Light Infantry or Northumberland Fusiliers. Many Teessiders join the North Yorkshire regiment of the Green Howards.


German battleships have bombarded Hartlepool. 112 civilians and nine soldiers have been killed. 340 buildings have been 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 BOON (North-East)

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.

October 23, 1915 - MINERS' HALL OPENED (Durham City)

A new Durham Miners' Hall opens at Redhills. The building replaces the Old Miners' Hall in North Road.


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.

November 27, 1916 - ZEPPELIN SHOT DOWN (Hartlepool)

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

1918 November 11, - ARMISTICE DECLARED (Europe)

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 - CHEMICAL WORKS (Billingham)

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)

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


World War One History Links

“Defending the Tyne” : recalls life of a WW1 gunner at Trow Rocks Battery in South Shields:  Defending the Tyne

First World War Centenary at Newcastle University: First World War Centenary

North East War Memorials Project 

Northumbria World War One Commemoration Project 

Zeppelin raids on the North East in WW1 Zeppelin raids from a site focusing primarily on World War Two.


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