North East England 1920-1938
Coal-mining reached a peak in 1923 with 170,000 miners employed in the Durham coalfield alone but many industries in the North East experienced hard times in the 1920s and 1930s. Demand for industrial products was fading and the Great War had provided only a temporary boost. In 1926 places like Middlesbrough had unemployment rates of 45 per cent. A worse situation was found at Jarrow in 1936 with 80 per cent unemployment. The men of that town set out on their famous hunger march to London. However, other industries still had their part to play. One of the North East’s great achievements of this era was the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia and the similar iconic landmark of the Tyne Bridge. New industries like plastics at Billingham were also beginning to emerge.
1920 – Public transport
Since 1900 new forms of public transport have become common place throughout the region. Motor buses and trams now serve the major North East towns.
1920 – Walker Colliery closes
1920 – Seal Sands
The Tees Conservancy Act instigates the extensive reclamation of Seal Sands at the mouth of the Tees.
1921 – Colliery closures
Nov 15, 1922 – Election places Liberals third
The Conservative party under Andrew Bonar Law secure a majority in the general election which for the first time sees the Liberals pushed into third place in British politics. It brings an end to the term of Liberal Prime Minister, David Lloyd George who had led a coalition government of National Liberals and Conservatives since 1918. In 1922 the Liberal party’s only gain in the region is from the Conservatives in Hartlepool (‘the Hartlepools’) though the Liberals retain the seat of Middlesbrough West. However, the Liberals lose the seat of Middlesbrough East to the Conservatives. Since the 1918 election, the Liberal movement has been divided between the Liberal party and the National Liberal party which supports coalition. A candidate for the National Liberal party gains the seat of Berwick upon Tweed from the Liberals in this 1922 election but the National Liberals lose the seat of South Shields to a Liberal party candidate. The seats of Blaydon, Jarrow, Newcastle East and Newcastle West all switch from National Liberal to Labour and the seats of Spennymoor, Seaham and Consett switch from Liberal to Labour. The National Liberals hold on to the seat of Stockton-on-Tees.
Nov 15, 1922 – Labour dominates the region
The Labour party had already gained significant ground in the region in the election of 1918, building on the earlier election of 1910. In 1922 they became the dominant party in the North East for the first time. In addition to the seats gained from the Liberals and National Liberals (see above), Labour hold on to the seats of Bishop Auckland, Chester-le-Street, Houghton-le-Spring and Morpeth which they had secured in the 1918 election, although they lose Barnard Castle to the Conservatives. Labour also gain the previously held Conservative seats of Gateshead, Sedgefield, Durham and Newcastle Central. The seat of Wallsend, held by a ‘Coalition Labour’ candidate in 1918 is now also Labour.
Nov 15, 1922 – Conservative holds
The Conservatives hold on to the seats of Hexham, Newcastle North, Cleveland, Darlington and one of the Sunderland constituencies. A second Sunderland constituency, previously held by the National Liberals also elects a Conservative MP.
1923 – Coal mining reaches peak
Coal-mining reaches a peak in County Durham, employing around 170,000 miners.
1923 – Witton Park Colliery closes
Witton Park Colliery near Witton-le-Wear closes.
1923 – Ammonia making at Billingham
The first manufacture of ammonia in Britain is undertaken at Billingham by Brunner Mond. The ammonia will be used in the production of ammonium sulphate fertilisers. The chemical works at Billingham will become part of the newly-formed Imperial Chemical Works Company (ICI).
Dec 6, 1923 – Another general election
Conservative Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law resigned in May after falling ill. His replacement, the Chancellor Stanley Baldwin calls a general election, ostensibly, to secure the country’s mandate for his leadership. It is a little over a year since the previous election and the Conservatives win the most seats but the combination of Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour seats and Herbert Asquith’s reunited Liberal party seats result in a hung parliament. Labour still maintained a significant hold in the North East in this election and Barnard Castle switches from Conservative to Labour. In the region, only the Sedgefield constituency switches from Labour to Conservative but Labour lose the Newcastle East, Newcastle West and Gateshead seats to the Liberals. The constituency of Middlesbrough East switches from Conservative to Liberal. Stockton-on-Tees, previously ‘National Liberal’ is now Liberal as the previously divided Liberal party is now united.
April 26, 1924 – Newcastle United win Cup
Newcastle United Football Club reach the FA Cup final for the sixth time in their history, defeating Aston Villa 2-0 at Wembley, in front of a rain-drenched crowd of over 91,000. Newcastle’s two goals come late in the game, from Scottish-born Neil Harris and County Durham’s Kelloe-born Stan Seymour in the 83rd and 85th minute. It is the second time in their history that Newcastle have won the FA Cup but this is their first appearance and victory in a Wembley final. Their previous cup win, in 1910, was played at Crystal Palace and followed by a replay at Goodison Park, Liverpool.
1924 – Boro relegated
Middlesbrough Football club are relegated from the first tier of English football to Division Two for the first time after playing in Division One for 18 seasons. There were no Football League games during the First World War.
1924 – Saltburn pier struck by ship
The 1,400 ft long Saltburn pier is struck by a ship called The Ovenberg during severe storms permanently shortening the pier.
1924 – Durham City collieries close
Durham Main (Crook Hall); Framwellgate Moor; Dryburn Grange (Caterhouse); Kepier Grange and Brasside collieries, all in Durham City are closed. Other collieries closing this year included Windlestone near Ferryhill and Shildon Colliery in County Durham. West Denton Colliery near Newcastle closed this year, coal having been mined in that area since at least the 1760s.
Oct 29, 1924 – Yet another general election
In January Labour party leader Ramsay MacDonald had formed a minority government as Prime Minister with some support from the Liberal party. Following a vote of no confidence in his government another general election is held in which the Conservatives under Stanley Baldwin secure a majority. In the North East Labour gain seats in Gateshead, Newcastle East, Newcastle West and Middlesbrough East from the Liberals but lose Barnard Castle to the Conservatives. The Liberals lose the seats of Stockton-on-Tees, the Hartlepools, Hexham and Cleveland to the Conservatives.
Mar 30, 1925 – Scotswood disaster
Thirty-eight lives are lost in a mine disaster at the Montagu Colliery at Scotswood near Newcastle after an inrush of water flooded the mine from the old Paradise pit.
1925 – Colliery closures
The Adelaide Colliery at Bishop Auckland closes. It was one of the collieries owned by Pease & Partners. Trimdon Colliery, which opened in the 1840s also closes as does Sunniside Colliery near Tow Law, which dates to 1867.
1925 – Hatton Gallery
The King Edward VII School at Armstrong College (part of Durham University and later Newcastle University) establishes the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne.
1925 – Royal Tweed Bridge
The Royal Tweed Bridge is built at Berwick.
1926 – General Strike
The General Strike brings industrial activity to a halt throughout the country. Miners are among those striking this year over wages and working hours. Male unemployment is high throughout the region (in Middlesbrough it is 45 per cent) particularly when compared to the national average of 14 per cent.
1926 – Soviet flag
During the General Strike, a local council office at Chopwell near Gateshead raised the Soviet flag of Russia in place of the Union Jack, reflecting their Communist leanings. The village is still home to a Marx and Lenin Terrace.
1926 – Colliery closures
Collieries closing this year included Friar’s Goose or ‘Tyne Main’ Colliery near Gateshead (which had operated since 1798); Waldridge Colliery near Chester-le-Street; St. Helen’s Colliery at St Helen’s Auckland; West Bitchburn Colliery near Howden-le-Wear; Cold Knott Colliery near Crook; Bebside (Horton Grange) near Blyth and Stublick Colliery near Langley in South Tynedale.
1926 – ICI
Britain’s four biggest chemical manufacturers including Brunner Mond merge to form Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd (ICI). The company will become a major influence in the Teesside town of Billingham.
1927 – City Hall
Newcastle’s City Hall opens, nearby developments also include the city baths.
1927 – Newcastle United Champions
Newcastle United become champions in the highest tier of English football, winning the First Division title with 56 points (there are 22 teams with two points for a win and one point for a draw). It is the fourth time they have won the title. Third-placed Sunderland finish on 49 points behind runners up Huddersfield Town on 51 points.
1927 – Boro promoted
Middlesbrough Football Club are promoted as champions of the Second Division. Middlesbrough forward George Camsell (born Framwellgate Moor), is the top scorer in the Second Division with an astonishing 59 goals that include nine hat-tricks.
1927 – Colliery closures
Collieries closing this year included Redheugh near Gateshead (which opened in 1872) on Tyneside. Also closing this year were Blackett Colliery near Haltwhistle; Chirm Colliery near Longhorsley and Fourstones Colliery near Hexham, all in Northumberland. County Durham collieries that closed included South Pontop near Annfield Plain; Carterthorne near Evenwood and Merrington Park Colliery (North Close) near Spennymoor.
1927 – Lucozade invented in Newcastle
Newcastle chemist, William Owen, based in the Barras Bridge area of the city invents the drink Lucozade which he initially calls Glucozade. The name is changed to Lucozade in 1929.
1928 – The Tyne Bridge
1928 – Anhydrite mined
Anhydrite, also known as dry gypsum, is used in the production of fertilisers. A 700ft deep anhydride mine now operates beneath Billingham. It consists of miles of grid-like subterranean streets.
1928 – Colliery closures
1928 – Armstrong Vickers merge
Armstrong’s factory at Elswick on Tyneside is forced to merge with Vickers of Sheffield. The factory has been unable to diversify since the end of the war.
1928 – Derwenthaugh Coke Works open
The Derwenthaugh Coke Works open near the banks of the River Derwent and Tyne near Blaydon.
1928 – Boro relegated
Middlesbrough Football Club are relegated from Division One after only one season in the top tier.
1928 – Flying Scotsman
The Flying Scotsman locomotive service begins operating on the LNER London-Edinburgh route.
1929 – Wearmouth Bridge
A new bridge is built across the River Wear in Sunderland. It is designed by Mott, Hay & Anderson.
1929 – Domestos invented at Byker
May 1929 – North East Coast Exhibition
The North East Coast Exhibition is held from May to October, 1929 at what will be called Exhibition Park in Newcastle. It showcases North East industry and enterprise.
May 30, 1929 – Prime Minister is Seaham MP
A general election is held which results in a hung parliament. The Labour party leader, Ramsay MacDonald, a Scotsman, represents the safe Labour seat of Seaham Harbour. MacDonald forms a minority government as Prime Minister at the beginning of June. Barnard Castle, Sedgefield, South Shields, Stockton-on-Tees, Darlington and the two Sunderland constituencies are among the seats taken by Labour while Newcastle East, previously a Labour seat, is won by the Liberals. Women aged from 21-29 had been allowed to vote in this election for the first time. In 1918, when women first received the vote, it only applied to women who were 30 and over.
1929 – Boro bounce back
Middlesbrough Football Club are promoted back into Division One following last season’s relegation from the top tier league.
1929 – Industrial Merger
Dorman Long of Middlesbrough absorbs neighbouring industrial giant Bolckow and Vaughan.
1929 – Colliery closures
Sept-Nov, 1929 – Wall Street Crash : the Great Depression
A Stock market crash in the United States will signal the beginning of an economic depression that will spread to Britain and other parts of the world during the 1930s. Industrial regions like the North East which are still recovering from the after-effects of the First World War will suffer greatly.
1930 – Shipyard closures
Nineteen shipyard closures in the region in the last decade result in the loss of thousands of jobs and contribute to heavy unemployment throughout the region.
1930 – Colliery closures
July 2, 1930 – Constantine College
Constantine Technical College is established in a purpose built building in Middlesbrough’s Borough Road. It is funded by a bequest made by shipping magnate, Joseph Constantine in 1916. The college, which was opened by Edward Prince of Wales (later, briefly Edward VIII) will grow and evolve and later become the foundation of Teesside Polytechnic in 1969 and later Teesside University in 1992.
1931 – Jarrow unemployment
About 80 per cent of Jarrow’s workforce is unemployed. This is partly because of a slump in demand caused by the end of the war, and the huge number of unemployed men returning from military service as well as the economic challenges of the Great Depression.
1931 – Cowboy Earl
George Montagu Bennet, seventh Earl of Tankerville dies at Chillingham Castle. Known as the ‘Singing Earl’, he had been a Christian Revival Baptist singer, circus clown and a cowboy in America.
Oct 27, 1931 – National Government
A challenging budgetary crisis in August caused by the Great Depression and differences of opinion within the minority Labour government causes Prime Minister and Seaham MP, Ramsay MacDonald to offer his resignation. He is persuaded to remain as Prime Minister by the king who encourages MacDonald to stay on as leader and form an all-party ‘National Government’. A general election is held in which the National candidates conclusively win with MacDonald continuing as Prime Minister. Some Labour party members are uncomfortable with MacDonald’s alliance with rival parties.
1931 – Felling Colliery Closes
Felling Colliery near Gateshead (opened 1779) also known as ‘Brandling Main’, closed this year. It was the site of the mine explosion of 1812 that claimed 92 lives. The event spurred on the development of the miners’ safety lamp. Other closures in 1931 included Mount Moor Colliery at Springwell near Gateshead which had opened before 1826; Byers Green Colliery (1841) near Spennymoor; Page Bank Colliery near Spennymoor; Ludworth Colliery near Durham (1837); Longframlington Colliery in Northumberland and Ridsdale Colliery in Redesdale.
Feb 9, 1932 – Shrove Tuesday football ends
Chester-le-Street’s anarchic annual Shrove Tuesday football game is played for the last time due to the damage to shops in the main street, which hosts the game. The event is thought to have medieval roots. A similar tradition continues at Sedgefield and Alnwick.
Apr 23, 1932 – Newcastle United win FA Cup
Newcastle United Football Club win the FA Cup final at Wembley, defeating Arsenal 2-1 in front of a crowd of 92,298. Arsenal take the lead in the first half but Newcastle reply in the 38th minute with a goal from their home town forward, the Newburn-born, Jack Allen. Allen would follow this up with a winning goal in the 72nd minute. This is Newcastle’s seventh appearance in an FA Cup final and the third time they have won it.
June 19, 1932 – Palmer launches last ship
The Palmer Shipyard launches its last ship at Jarrow – HMS Duchess.
1932 – Art Deco Co-op
The huge Art Deco style co-op building opens in Newgate Street in Newcastle upon Tyne designed by the CWS architect L.G Ekins who also undertook work in Manchester.
1932 – Sydney Harbour Bridge
1932 – Ravensworth Castle demolished
The impressive Ravensworth Castle near Gateshead is demolished.
1932 – 5,000 workers at Billingham
5,000 are employed by the chemical industry at Billingham.
1932 – Colliery closures
Bewicke Main Colliery near Birtley has closed. It was once owned by a man called Perkins from whom nearby Perkinsville was named. Blackhouse Colliery or Wash Houses Pit also at Birtley closes this year. Nearby, towards Washington, Springwell Colliery which dates back to 1826 closes. Other colliery closures are Eldon Colliery or ‘South Durham Colliery’ near Shildon; Willington (Sunnybrow) Colliery near Crook; Hebburn Colliery on Tyneside and Plenmeller Colliery near Haltwhistle in Northumberland.
Mar 8, 1933 – Over 70,000 at Derby game
A Wednesday evening football crowd of 75,118 turn up to watch Sunderland play Derby County in the Sixth Round replay of the FA Cup at the club’s Roker Park ground. With the stadium full and the crowd growing restless and spilling onto the pitch, the kick off was brought forward by quarter of an hour. Thousands were locked outside. Sunderland lose 1-0 leaving only the gate receipts as a cause for celebration. It is the biggest attendance at a football match in North East England and will for a long time be England’s biggest attendance for a mid week game (eclipsed by Tottenham Hotspur’s tenancy of Wembley Stadium for UEFA cup matches in 2016).
1933 – Hebburn workforce reduced
Hawthorn Leslie has reduced its workforce at Hebburn by about a fifth over the last two years. It now employs around 1,000 people. Many industrial firms have had to take similar actions. This year also saw the closure of Hebburn Colliery which dates back to 1792.
1933 – Shipyard closures
There were six shipyard closures in the region from 1931 to 1933 further increasing unemployment.
1933– Colliery closures
Collieries closing this year were East Stanley Colliery near Stanley and the Black Prince Colliery at Tow Law (opened 1846) both in County Durham and Bullocks Hall Colliery near Chevington, Northumberland.
Feb 28, 1934 – Bridge opening
The Duke and Duchess of York open the Newport Lifting Bridge across the River Tees on Teesside. It has been built by Dorman Long.
1934 – Newcastle Museum
The Municipal Museum of Science and Industry is established featuring many exhibits from the North East Coast Exhibition of 1929. It will later be known as the Discovery Museum.
1934 – Newcastle United relegated
Newcastle United are relegated after 32 seasons in Division One. It is their first ever relegation since joining the Football League in 1893. There were no Football League games during the First World War.
1934 – Pitmen painters
A group of miners in Ashington with a passion for painting attend painting classes and show extraordinary talent for portraying their environment. They come to be known as the Ashington Group. Some of their work can be seen at the Woodhorn museum.
Sep 1934 – Farewell Mauretania
The famed ship, RMS Mauretania built at Wallsend in 1906 makes her last journey. Heading from New York to Southampton, her fittings are sold off before she heads for Rosyth in Scotland for breaking up.
1934 – Colliery closures
Colliery closures this year include Earsdon Colliery near Whitley Bay; Frankland Colliery near Durham City; Gunnerton Colliery near Chollerton; Hargill Colliery near Witton-le-Wear; Longhirst Colliery near Ashington and Tindale (Woodhouse Close) Colliery near Bishop Auckland.
1935 – Plastics
A new chemical plant at Billingham makes oil and petrol from creosote and coal through a process called hydrogenation. The production of plastics was established last year.
1935 – Colliery closures
Collieries closing this year include Sherburn House near Durham; Moorsley near Hetton; North Biddick near Washington and Tudhoe near Spennymoor all in County Durham and Plashetts Colliery in North Tynedale, Northumberland. In later times the site of the Plashetts colliery and its associated village will disappear. They are somewhere deep below the waters of Kielder reservoir.
1935 – Eileen’s Ninety Eight Four
South Shields-born Eileen O’Shaughnessy writes a poem to celebrate her school’s fiftieth anniversary (Sunderland Church High School). Focusing on mind control in a police state, she entitles it End of the Century 1984. She will later marry the novelist, George Orwell, whose famed novel 1984, (published 1949) has a similar theme.
Nov 14, 1935 – Ex-PM loses Seaham seat
In June, Labour’s Seaham MP, and National Government coalition leader, Ramsay MacDonald stepped down as Prime Minister due to ill health and was succeeded by Stanley Baldwin, a Conservative. Baldwin holds a general election today and the National Government, now under his leadership, are once again winners. MacDonald, again standing as a ‘National’ Labour candidate at Seaham is ousted as Seaham MP by Emanuel Shinwell (known as Mannie Shinwell) who stood as a rival Labour candidate. Throughout the country, a number of Labour and Liberal party members successfully stood against the National candidates (who are perceived as dominated by the Conservatives).
1935 – Ellen Wilkinson MP
Jan 1936 – EDWARD VIII : Mrs Simpson crisis
King George V dies at home at Sandringham and is succeeded by his eldest son, Edward VIII. However, the yet-to-be-crowned king’s plan to marry American Mrs Wallis Simpson creates a constitutional crisis because not only is she a ‘commoner’ but she is already married and for the second time too, having divorced her first husband.
1936 – Sunderland Champions
Sunderland, who had finished second to Arsenal last season become champions in the highest tier of English football for the sixth time in their history, taking the First Division title. Middlesbrough finish fourteenth in the division while Newcastle United finish eighth in the Second Division. The goal scoring talents of local lads Bobby Gurney and Raich Carter contribute considerably to Sunderland’s title gain, although the division’s top scorer is West Bromwich Albion’s William ‘Ginger’ Richardson of Framwellgate Moor, Durham.
Oct 5-31, 1936 – Jarrow March
Two hundred unemployed men march 274 miles from Jarrow to London in protest about the recession that followed the recent closure of the town’s Palmer’s shipyard. Around 80 per cent of Jarrow’s workforce were employed at this yard. The route of the march took in 21 stops, including Chester-Street, Ferryhill, Darlington, Northallerton, Leeds, Barnsley, Leicester, Northampton and St Albans. At Leicester local bootmakers worked through the night to repair the marchers’ shoes. Jarrow MP, Ellen Wilkinson joined the marchers for some sections of the journey. A meeting was held in London’s Hyde Park and Wilkinson presented a box containing 11,000 signatures to parliament. The men, sadly, returned home having achieved little but a lasting place in the social history of the region and the hearts and minds of the people.
1936 – TVTE established
The Team Valley Trading Estate is established to encourage light industries in the region. It is recognition of the dangers of relying too heavily upon a small number of manufacturing industries which employ many people. The region had been designated a Special Area in the Special Areas Act of 1934.
1936 – Colliery closures
West Stanley Colliery, the scene of a tragic disaster in 1909 when 168 lives were lost, closes in March of this year. Other collieries closing in 1936 include Newfield near Chester-le-Street and Bishop Middleham near Ferryhill.
1937 – Scandinavian ferry
A regular ferry service commences from the mouth of the Tyne to Bergen and Oslo in Norway.
May 1, 1937 – Sunderland win FA Cup
Sunderland Football Club win the FA Cup for the first time in their history in their second appearance in the final. They defeat Preston North End 3-1 at Wembley. Preston had taken the lead just before half time but second half goals came from Sunderland-born lads Bobby Gurney and Raich Carter, who are both noted as prolific goal scorers. Sunderland’s third goal came from Yorkshireman, Eddie Burbanks near the end of the game.
May 12, 1937 – KING GEORGE VI
George VI is crowned at Westminster Abbey. In December last year his elder brother King Edward VIII – who was never crowned – abdicated because of his intention to marry American Mrs Wallis Simpson.
1936 – Colliery closures
1937 – Colleges merge
Newcastle’s Armstrong College merges with the School of Medicine in the city (Durham College of Medicine) to form King’s College, the Newcastle-based division of the University of Durham. The Medical School will abandon their home in Northumberland Road (the Sutherland Building) and relocate to a new site near the Armstrong College opposite the Royal Victoria Infirmary. Durham University is now recognised as a university with two divisions centred on Durham and Newcastle.
1937 – Cinema boom
Many cinemas are built in the region in the late 20s and 1930s, including three at Darlington, four at Gateshead, five in Sunderland and 15 in Newcastle. By 1939, Darlington has more cinema seats per head of population than any other town in Britain.
1938 – Colliery closures