North East England 1950s and 60s

North East England in the Fifties and Sixties 1950 to 1969

The 1950s and 1960s saw the advent of many things we now take for granted: rock ‘n’ roll, pop music, colour televisions, motorways, the contraceptive pill and concrete architecture. The Conservative Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan and former Stockton MP, claimed the British people “had never had it so good”. But the new days meant some old ways were to be consigned to history for many. While oil refineries were opening at the mouth of the River Tees to supply the booming petrochemical industry, coalmines and railways across the region were closing rapidly with huge consequences for the communities they supported.

👈 1939-1949 | Timeline1970-1989 👉

Gateway at Easington Colliery
Gateway at the site of Easington Colliery. An explosion at this colliery in 1951 claimed the lives of 81 men © David Simpson

Feb 23, 1950 – Labour win second term

The Labour party under Prime Minister, Clement Attlee is successfully elected to a second term in office but with a reduced lead. All the North East constituencies return Labour MPs except for Tynemouth, Newcastle North, Hexham and Berwick-upon-Tweed which elect Conservative MPs. Conservative, Winston Churchill, remains leader of the opposition.

June, 1950 – NE lads in World Cup

The England team take part in their first ever World Cup, which is held in Brazil and the squad includes a number of North East-born players. They include Ashington-born Jackie Milburn (of course, a Newcastle United player); South Bank-born, Middlesbrough FC player, Wilf Mannion; Newcastle-born Jimmy Mullen; Scarborough-born, Bill Nicholson and a Yorkshireman, Willie Watson who plays for Sunderland.

June 25, 1950 – Mortensen World Cup first

The distinction for England’s first ever goal in the FIFA World Cup falls to South Shields-born Blackpool centre forward, Stan Mortensen. Mortensen scored in the 39th minute of England’s first ever World Cup game which was a 2-0 victory over Chile on June 25. The second goal in the game also came from another North East lad, Teessider, Wilf Mannion. However, England fail to progress beyond the group stage after suffering 1-0 defeats to the United  States and Spain.

July 11, 1950 – Hetton Colliery closes

The famous Hetton Colliery (also known as Hetton Lyons Colliery) closes. Other colliery closures this year include Littleburn Colliery near Durham; Bryan’s Leap Colliery near Rowlands Gill and Woodside Colliery at Etherley near Bishop Auckland.

Oct, 1950 – £30,000 for a footballer

Sunderland Football Club break the British record for a transfer fee by signing Welsh international centre forward Trevor Ford for £30,000.

Apr 28, 1951 – Seymour back in charge

Newcastle United manager George Martin, who secured promotion for the club in 1948 departs and becomes manager of Aston Villa. He is succeeded by club director, Stan Seymour in his second spell as manager.

Apr 28, 1951 – Newcastle United win FA Cup

Newcastle United Football Club with Stan Seymour as manager defeat Blackpool 2-0 at Wembley in the FA Cup final with both goals from the Ashington-born Jackie Milburn.

1951 – Durham villages : ‘Category D’

Durham County Council published its Development Plan this year in which it addresses the problems of 350 scattered villages which have grown up around small mines. The mines were no longer economic and the villages were losing people. A third of the villages were classified as ‘Category D’ because the council felt there was no way of sustaining them in the future. These villages were to be left to die without economic assistance. Many of the villages will be thriving decades later. More villages were added to the list in a further addition to the plan in 1964.

Pity Me
Pity Me, a Durham pit village which once served the nearby collieries at Kimblesworth and Framwellgate Moor © 2004 David Simpson

May 29, 1951 – 83 dead at Easington

Eighty-one men are killed in an explosion at Easington Colliery. ‘Fire damp’ and coal dust were ignited as a result of sparks emitted from cutters used as picks that struck pyrites.

1951 – Colliery closures

Hilltop Harvey Colliery near Langley Park; Arn Gill Colliery near Copley; Hargill Hill Colliery, Howden-le-Wear; Hareshaw Head Colliery near Bellingham in North Tynedale; Gloria Colliery near Hartley in south east Northumberland; Harsondale near Langley in the South Tyne valley and Hedley Park Colliery near Prudhoe all close this year.

Langley Park in the Browney valley
Langley Park in the Browney valley © David Simpson

1951 – Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel

The Tyne pedestrian tunnel has opened. Work on the tunnel began in 1947, following approval of a plan submitted by Durham and Northumberland councils in 1937. The tunnel plans also included a traffic tunnel, but restrictions on post war capital expenditure have delayed the construction and development of the main traffic tunnel.

1951 – Greggs

The first Greggs bakery shop in the country opens in Gosforth High Street, Newcastle. The Gregg family have a long connection with baking. In 1937 John ‘Jack’ Robson Gregg established a bakery in Newcastle.

Oct 25, 1951 – Churchill back

Clement Attlee holds a snap general election designed to increase Labour’s majority but it backfires as the Conservatives gain more safe seats. Winston Churchill is once again the Prime Minister. In the North East, Darlington and Middlesbrough West are gained by the Conservatives.

1952 – Andy Capp

Cartoon character Andy Capp, a stereotypical depiction of a Northern working class male, is created by Hartlepool cartoonist Reg Smythe. The cartoon becomes a regular feature of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror newspapers from 1957.

Andy Capp sculpture at Old Hartlepool © David Simpson

May 3, 1952 – Newcastle retain FA Cup

Newcastle United Football Club reach the FA Cup final for the second year in a row and are once again the victors. This time they defeat Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley with a goal from Chile-born, George (Jorge) Robledo. It is the second cup final win for Newcastle United with Stan Seymour as manager. As a player, Seymour had also won the FA Cup in 1924 (and the league in 1926-27) with Newcastle United.

June, 1952 – Rowley Boro manager

Middlesbrough appoint Manchester-born Walter Rowley as their new manager. He was previously a player and then a manager with Bolton Wanderers. Rowley succeeds David Jack who had managed Middlesbrough for 270 games.

1952 – Colliery closes

Acomb Colliery near Hexham closes.

1953 – Pontop Pike

A prominent transmitter mast is built by the BBC on the top of Pontop Hill in north west Durham for the broadcasting of tv signals. It will broadcast the coronation of the new Queen, Elizabeth II. Many will buy TVs for the first time in order to view the grand event.

View from Pontop looking towards Pontop Hall farm © David Simpson


Queen Elizabeth II is crowned. Some North Easterners who could afford it, purchased televisions for the first time to view the event. Many towns and villages across the region hold street parties to celebrate the new Queen. Through her mother, the Queen is descended from the Bowes Lyon family who have strong historic connections to the region including coal owning links.

1953 – Colliery closure near Durham

New Brancepeth (Sleetburn) Colliery in the Deerness Valley near Durham closes.

1954 – Tyne collieries close

Axwell Park Colliery near Swalwell and Throckley Colliery, both to the west of Newcastle close this year.

1954 – Middlesbrough relegated

After 18 seasons in the top flight, Middlesbrough Football Club are relegated from Division One to Division Two. Middlesbrough had been promoted in 1929 but there were no football league games during the Second World War.

June, 1952 – Dennison Boro manager

Middlesbrough officially appoint the Amble-born, Bob Dennison as their manager despite him being unable to avoid relegation. Dennison had taken charge after previous Boro manager Walter Rowley had resigned due to ill-health in March. Dennison, who had previously managed Northampton Town was once a Newcastle United player though he only made 11 appearances for the club. Dennison will manage Middlesbrough for a club record of 381 games.

June 26, 1954 – England out to Uruguay

England won their group stage in the football World Cup after drawing 4-4 with Belgium and defeating hosts Switzerland 2-0. In the first of these games two goals came from the London-born Newcastle United player Ivor Broadis while England’s first goal in the Switzerland game came from Newcastle-born Jimmy Mullen. The England squad also included Wearsider Allenby Chilton and County Durham’s Pittington-born Harry Hooper though neither played in any of the games. England were finally knocked out by Uruguay in a game that finished 4-2 at St Jakob Park in Basel.

Dec, 1954 – Livingstone NUFC manager

Newcastle United appoint Scot, Doug Livingstone who has previously managed Belgium and the Republic of Ireland, as their manager. Stan Seymour has stepped aside to become Vice Chairman but will retain a role in picking the team.

1955 – Pop Art

The exhibition by London artist Richard Hamilton (1921-2011) entitled Man, Machine and Motion makes its debut at Newcastle’s Hatton Gallery and is hailed by many as the beginning of the Pop Art movement.

April 6, 1955 – Eden is PM

Anthony Eden is the new Conservative Prime Minister following the retirement of Winston Churchill. Eden was born at the Eden family seat of Windlestone Hall, County Durham, and is a member of a well-known Durham family. He calls a snap general election on May 26 which the Conservatives win. The party political representation in the North East remains the same as it did in 1951 except for Sunderland South where a Conservative who was elected in a by-election of 1953 retains the seat.

Anthony Eden

May 7, 1955 – Magpies win FA Cup

Newcastle United win the FA Cup for the sixth time, in their tenth cup final appearance, defeating Manchester City 3-1 in the final at Wembley. The Newcastle goals came from Ashington’s Jackie Milburn; Scotsman, Bobby Mitchell and Liverpool-born, George Hannah. Newcastle United reached the final after defeating Third Division York City 2-0 in a semi-final replay at Roker Park, in Sunderland, following a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough in Sheffield. Manchester City had defeated Sunderland in the other semi final at Villa Park, Birmingham. Newcastle United won the cup under the management of Doug Livingstone but he had little say in picking the team for the cup final. Stan Seymour and the Board of Directors picked Jackie Milburn to play against Livingstone’s wishes. Their choice seems to have been justified given that Milburn scored the opening goal in the first minute.

Jackie Milburn

Aug 1955 – Gateshead Stadium opens

Gateshead Stadium opens. In time it will come to be be renowned for its top class athletics.

1955 – Colliery closures

New Delaval Colliery near Blyth in Northumberland and Etherley Dene Colliery near Bishop Auckland close this year.

1955 – Ad Gefrin

The Royal Anglo-Saxon palace and town of Ad Gefrin associated with King Edwin of Northumbria is excavated near Wooler.

1955 – Peterlee the place to be

Victor Pasmore, the internationally-renowned artist, joins the architectural team designing the new-town of Peterlee which is being built to soak up populations from the scattered Category D settlements that are expected to wither away. Peterlee is advertised as ‘the place to be’. Peterlee is named from Peter Lee (1864-1935), a former miners’ leader and the one time leader of Britain’s first all Labour Council at Durham.

Peterlee town centre
Peterlee town centre © David Simpson

1956 – Blaydon Burn and Bildershaw

Blaydon Burn Colliery on Tyneside; Bildershaw Colliery near West Auckland; Newbottle Colliery (Neasham’s Main) near Houghton-le-Spring and Throckley Blucher Colliery west of Newcastle all close this year.

Jan 1956 – Seymour NUFC manager again

Club director Stan Seymour becomes manager of Newcastle United for the third time after the departure of Doug Livingstone to Fulham. It is thought Livingstone was frustrated by the interference of Vice Chairman, Seymour and the Newcastle directors in the picking of the team.

1957 – Colliery closure

Greencroft Tower Colliery near Annfield Plain and Urpeth Colliery near Beamish close this year.

1957 – Wear ‘half penny’ ferry service ends

A ferry service across the River Wear between Old Sunderland and Monkwearmouth ceases to operate. A ferry seems to have operated in this area since the time of Bede. From the 1700s through to 1957 it cost half a penny to cross the river by ferry here.

The River Wear at Sunderland © David Simpson

June 1957 – Sunderland football scandal

Scotsman, Bill Murray who has managed Sunderland AFC since April 1939 (512 games) resigns during an investigation into illegal payments for players. Players wages are presently capped at a very modest maximum limit despite big profits experienced by clubs receiving income from fanatical crowd attendances. Following a tip off from an anonymous ‘Mr Smith’ (perhaps a disgruntled player) an investigation takes place in which illegal payments to players at Sunderland are exposed. Despite suspicions that this is widespread across football, Sunderland AFC receive unprecedented league fines that may have a lasting legacy for the club. Chairman, Edward Ditchburn is suspended from any further involvement in football. The football maximum wage will be abolished in English football in 1961.

Aug 1957 – Sunderland’s English manager

Corbridge-born, Alan Brown, a former Huddersfield Town, Burnley and Notts County player who previously managed Burnley is appointed new Sunderland manager. Brown is only the second ever Englishman to manage Sunderland and the first in the twentieth century. The last Englishman to manage Sunderland was highly successful Tynesider, Tom Watson who was Sunderland’s first manager from 1889 to 1896. Brown, who is a Sunderland supporter is determined to stamp out corruption.

1958 – Sunderland relegated

Sunderland Football Club founded in 1879 are relegated for the first time in their history, after nearly seven decades and 58 seasons in the top tier. The club joined the league in 1890-91 when it was a single division and although a second division was added two years later Sunderland continued to play in the top flight. There were of course no league games during the war years. In the late 1940s and early 1950s the club has been noted for high expenditure on players and came to be known as ‘The Bank of England Club’, a nickname previously given to Arsenal in the 20s and 30s. Sunderland’s high price purchases included centre forwards, the Welsh international Trevor Ford, signed from Aston Villa in 1950 for £30,000 and Middlesbrough-born Don Revie signed from Manchester City in 1956 for £22,000. However ‘officially’ players see little personal benefit from such expenditure. Ironically, despite the big spending and despite finishing in third place in the top division in 1950, all the great North East football successes of the 1950s went to local rivals Newcastle United in the FA Cup.

June 17, 1958 – Mitten’s Magpies

Newcastle United Chairman William Mckeag, who is a solicitor and former MP for Durham City, replaces his boardroom rival Stan Seymour as manager of Newcastle United and appoints Mansfield Town manager, Charlie Mitten in his place. Results had been relatively poor during Seymour’s third spell as manager for the Magpies.

June 17, 1958 – Soviets beat England

England fail to progress beyond the group stage of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. The England group games included a goalless draw against Brazil and 2-2 score draws against the Soviet Union (‘Russia’) and Austria. Ripon-born Derek Kevan scored a goal in each of the score draws. The Soviets and England finished on equal points and goals so the decider was settled in a play-off in which England lost 1-0. The England squad for the 1962 World Cup campaign included North East lads, Bobby Charlton and Bobby Robson, Wheatley Hill-born Edward Hopkinson and Lingdale-born Bobby Smith. However, none of the squad members actually played for a North East club at the time of the tournament.

1958 – Colliery closures

South Shildon; Hamsteels near Esh Winning; West Brandon near Durham; Stagshaw Bank near Corbridge; Lambley in South Tynedale and Nelson Colliery near Cramlington are North East collieries that closed this year.

1958 – Blyth Power Station

The first part of Blyth Power Station (Station A) is built at Cambois near Blyth and will be followed by a second adjacent power station (B) in 1962.

Jan 1959 – Tyne Tees Television

Tyne Tees Television begins broadcasting to the region.

The old Tyne Tees Television logo



1959 – More mines close

The North East collieries closing this year were Castle Eden in east Durham; East Hedleyhope near Durham; Ouston near Pelton; Montagu Colliery (at Scotswood, Newcastle); New Hartley near Seaton Delaval in Northumberland; Blackhill at Unthank near Berwick; Ventners Hall near Greenhead and Ramshaw near West Auckland.

Oct 8, 1959 – Conservatives in again

The Conservatives under the leadership of former Stockton-on-Tees MP Harold Macmillan are once again elected. Macmillan had succeeded Anthony Eden as Prime Minister after Eden resigned following the Suez Crisis in 1957. In addition to the North East seats held by the Conservatives in the 1955 election, the Hartlepools and Newcastle East now have Conservative MPs. New Prime Minister Macmillan (who will become the 1st Earl of Stockton in 1984) had been MP for Stockton-on-Tees from 1924 to 1929 and again from 1931 to 1945. He is the MP for Bromley from 1945 to 1964.

1959 – Little Donkey

The Christmas song Little Donkey, by Sunderland songwriter Eric Boswell becomes a big Christmas hit with recordings by Gracie Fields and the Beverley Sisters.

1960 – ‘Mr Newcastle’ : T Dan Smith

T Dan Smith is beginning a four year term as leader of Newcastle City Council. He begins demolishing slums and redesigning the city with a new Eldon Square shopping complex at its centre. His aim is to drag Newcastle into the twentieth century. Later he heads the Northern Economic Planning Council and his influence spreads across the whole region.

Old Eldon Square.
Old Eldon Square from which the neighbouring shopping centre would be named © David Simpson

1960 – Colliery closures

Colliery closures this year are at Dinnington near Wide Open; Ushaw Moor, Durham; Seaton Delaval in Northumberland; Morwood Colliery near Bardon Mill and South Garesfield Colliery near Rowlands Gill.

1960 – Alzheimer’s discovery

Scientists at Newcastle University identify the biochemical causes of Alzheimer’s Disease.

1961 – Newcastle United relegated

Newcastle United FC are relegated from Division One to Division Two after 13 consecutive seasons in the top tier. The club’s last season in Division Two had been in the 1947-48 season.

1961 – Jarrow Vikings

Designed by Colin M Davidson, the Jarrow Viking sculptures are unveiled in the town.

Sculpture of Vikings in Jarrow town centre
Sculpture of Vikings in Jarrow town centre © David Simpson

1961 – Colliery closures

North East colliery closures this year are Malton Colliery near Lanchester; Westerton near Bishop Auckland; West Wylam (Prudhoe Main) near Stocksfield; North Seaton near Ashington and Hartford near Bedlington.

1961 – Sweet factory closes

The Horner’s sweet factory at Chester-le-Street, famed for its Dainty Dinah brand and huge factory chimney closes.

1962 – Barracks vacated

The Northumberland Fusiliers vacate the barracks near Newcastle’s Barrack Road.

1962 – Oil replaces coal at Billingham

Coke ovens at Billingham chemical works have been replaced by new plants utilising the Steam Naphtha process which uses crude oil. This is a much cheaper process for producing ammonia. It marks the beginning of the petro-chemical industry on Teesside.

Billingham Chemical Works pictured from the Newport Bridge
Billingham Chemical Works pictured from the Newport Bridge © David Simpson

1962 – Tees Dock

Tees Dock opens in Teesside’s commercial and industrial heartland and is much further downstream, closer to the river mouth than the old Middlesbrough dock at Middlehaven.

1962 – Sunderland Airport

An airport opens at Sunderland on the site of the former RAF Usworth near Washington.

June 1, 1962 – Joe Harvey at NUFC

Joe Harvey becomes the new Newcastle United manager. He succeeds Norman Smith who took over from Charlie Mitten after Mitten was dismissed in October last year during a run of poor results against a backdrop of board room squabbles involving Stan Seymour and former club Chairman, William Mckeag. Smith had formerly been an assistant manager to Stan Seymour at Newcastle. Yorkshireman Harvey is a former Newcastle United player (1945-1953) being their longest-serving club captain.

June 10, 1962 – Brazil knock England out

Brazil knock England out of the World Cup in a 3-1 defeat in the quarter finals in Chile. The England team features Ashington-born Bobby Charlton. The Brazil team did not include the injured Pelé for this game. In the earlier groups stages England had drawn with Bulgaria 0-0 and defeated Argentina 3-1 (including a goal from Charlton) and despite a 2-1 defeat to Hungary, they made it to the quarter final. As well as Charlton, the squad included fellow North East-born lads, Bobby Robson, Wearsider, Stan Anderson (a Sunderland player); Teessider Alan Peacock (a Middlesbrough player) and the Ashington-born Jimmy Adamson. Also in the squad was the Ripon-born Derek Kevan.

1962 – Colliery closures

Colliery closures this year were Randolph Colliery near Evenwood; Ravensworth Shop (Allerdean) near Lamesley; Victoria Garesfield near Rowlands Gill; Seghill near Cramlington; Barmoor near Morpeth; Gordon House near Cockfield; Horton Grange near Bebside, Blyth; Sleekburn near Bedlington; Tanfield Lea in north west Durham and at Wingate Grange in east Durham.

1962 – New ICI plant

ICI has purchased land at Seal Sands near the mouth of the Tees on which to develop a new chemical plant.

Jan 1963 – Raich Carter Boro boss

Raich Carter, the former Sunderland captain has been appointed manager of Middlesbrough. Born in the Hendon area of Sunderland, he captained his home club to a first tier league title in 1936 and an FA Cup win in 1937 as well as playing for Derby County in their FA Cup win of 1948. Carter has much experience as a manager, having previously managed Hull City, Cork Athletic, Leeds United and Mansfield Town.

1963 –  Beeching axe hits branch lines

A third of Britain’s railway tracks are to be dismantled. Dr Richard Beeching, chairman of the British Transport Commission, has decided. In the North East this means the closure of 95 stations and halts and the disappearance of branch lines and a loss of thousands of jobs.

Barter Books occupies the former Alnwick Railway Station.
Barter Books, a huge second hand books store now occupies the former Alnwick Railway Station which closed in 1968 © David Simpson

1963 – Newcastle University goes alone

Durham University’s King’s College, Newcastle, has become the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and will now be independent of the University of Durham.

1963 – Newcastle Development Plan

A detailed Newcastle Development Plan that has been formulated since the beginning of the decade is approved. It includes two city motorways (east and west) designed to draw through-traffic away from the heart of the city centre. Ultimately, only the eastern motorway will be built from the Swan House roundabout to Jesmond.

1963 – New towns

Northumberland County Council begins the construction of Cramlington New Town. Although Cramlington is not officially a government designated ‘new town’ it receives governmental approval. Last year Killingworth new town was begun and next year Washington will begin.

Killingworth Lake
Killingworth Lake © David Simpson

1963 – Colliery closures

Colliery closures this year were Addison Colliery at Ryton; Crookhall near Consett; Heworth near Gateshead; Roddymoor (Pease’s West) near Crook; Wooley also near Crook and Stargate Colliery (Towneley Main) near Ryton.

1963 – Kingsgate Bridge

Kingsgate Bridge, a footbridge designed by engineer Ove Arup opens across the River Wear beneath the cathedral in Durham City. It is Arup’s favourite work.

Kingsgate Bridge
Kingsgate Bridge © David Simpson

1964 – House of the Rising Sun

The House of the Rising Sun becomes a huge hit for North East band The Animals, featuring the vocals of Eric Burdon. It reaches number one in the UK and US charts.

Eric Burdon

1964 – Cleveland’s last ironstone mine

The North Skelton ironstone mine closes bringing an end to an industry that dominated much of the Cleveland coastal area and neighbouring moors. The industry gave rise to numerous mining communities – both towns and villages – across the district. Iron from East Cleveland supplied the industries of Tyne, Wear and Tees.

Spirit of East Cleveland : Ironstone miners sculpture by William Harling
Spirit of East Cleveland : Sculpture at Skelton recalling the iron stone mining industry of East Cleveland by William Harling © David Simpson

1964 – Colliery closures

Collieries closing this year were Hazlerigg Colliery near Dinnington,; Louisa Colliery at Stanley; Morrison Colliery at Annfield Plain; South Pelaw Colliery near Chester-le-Street and Watergate Colliery near Whickham.

1964 – Sunderland’s first promotion

Sunderland Football Club are promoted for the first time ever, six seasons after relegation from the top tier. The club, who were elected to the single division Football League back in 1890 played in the top tier until their first relegation in 1958. They now experience the first promotion in their history with a return to the top flight. Despite promotion Sunderland manager Alan Brown departs to manage Sheffield Wednesday later in the year. At Sunderland, Brown is succeeded by former Middlesbrough and England star, the Saltburn-born, George Hardwick as ‘caretaker manager’. Hardwick had previously managed Dutch club, PSV Eindhoven.

Oct 15, 1964 – Labour government

Labour, under the leadership of Yorkshireman Harold Wilson, win the general election. Newcastle East, Sunderland South, Darlington, the Hartlepools and Middlesbrough West all now have Labour MPs although Tynemouth, Newcastle North, Hexham and Berwick-upon-Tweed remain Conservative.

Dec 1964 – The Likely Lads

A popular new television situation comedy The Likely Lads filmed in black and white and set on Tyneside is launched on BBC 2. It features two working class lads, Terry Collier (James Bolam) and Bob Ferris (Rodney Bewes). Written by Dick Clement and Tynesider Ian La Frenais, a follow-up series in colour called Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? will air in 1973-74.

1965 – Gibside

The National Trust acquire the estate of Gibside Hall and its gardens near Whickham.

May 14, 1965 – Motorway at Darlington

The Darlington bypass, partly following the route of the old Merrybent railway near Low Coniscliffe becomes the first section of the new A1(M) motorway to open in the North East. It will become the primary road of the region. The first part of the A1(M) motorway to open had been the Doncaster bypass, which opened in 1961. A bridge across the River Tees for the motorway was recently completed in 1963 and is now in use. The newly opened section of the motorway includes Junction 56 at Barton near Scotch Corner and a motorway spur – the A66(M) – which links to Darlington at Junction 57, both of these being south of the Tees. Also opening to the north of the river in County Durham are Junction 58 linking to the Bishop Auckland-Corbridge A68 Road and Junction 59 at Newton Aycliffe.

1965 – Newcastle United promoted

Newcastle United football club under manger Joe Harvey, are promoted back into Division One from which they had been relegated in the 1960-61 season.

August 1965 – Scottish Sunderland boss

Scotland manager, Ian McColl becomes the manager of Sunderland. The Scot succeeds George Hardwick who had acted as a caretaker. McColl, a former Rangers captain, will sign Scottish star, Jim Baxter from his old club, though Baxter will fail to make an impact. McColl, who was manager of the Scotland national side for 27 games from 1960 to 1965 had one of the highest success rates for a Scotland manager, including victories over England at both Hampden and Wembley.

1965 – Mining ends at Harraton

Colliery closures this year included mines in the Harraton and Bournmoor (Lambton) areas where there has been mining since at least the eighteenth century. Other closures were at Shildon; Middlestone Moor near Spennymoor; Pelton near Chester-le-Street; Sherburn Hill near Durham; East Tanfield near Tantobie; West Thornley near Tow Law; Seaton Burn north of Newcastle and Stobswood near Widdrington, Northumberland.

1965 – Cyclist Sports Personality

County Durham-born champion cyclist, Tom Simpson is the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year (the sixth winner since its inception in 1958). He is also voted the Sports Journalists Association Sportsman of the Year and Daily Express Sportsman of the Year.

March 31, 1966 – Labour win snap election

Prime Minister, Harold Wilson calls a snap election and successfully increases his small majority in parliament. There are no changes in the party political representation in the North East constituencies.

1966 – Briggflats

Scotswood-born Basil Bunting’s acclaimed poem Briggflats, which is strongly influenced by northern dialect and history is published.

1966 – Darlington works closed

Darlington railway workshops in the town’s North Road close, a victim of the Beeching Axe. It ends an important industrial era in the town and means the loss of 2,150 jobs.

1966 – Hartlepools merge

An act of parliament called the Hartlepool Order merges Old Hartlepool with West Hartlepool. The two, formerly separate places are now simply known as Hartlepool.

Ship leaving the harbour, Old Hartlepool
Old Hartlepool harbour. West Hartlepool is just beyond the ships © David Simpson

1966 – Swan Hunter Group

The Swan Hunter Group of shipyards is formed from the merger of Swan Hunter, Wigham Richardson and Smiths Dock.

1966 – Slum clearances

Slum clearances and urban redevelopments take place in the region’s urban areas during the 1960s. Clearance of Cannon Street and Newport Road in Middlesbrough takes place in this year.

1966 – Boro down, Anderson in charge

Middlesbrough Football Club are relegated from Division Two to the third tier of English football. In February, Middlesbrough had parted company with their manager, Raich Carter after struggling this season. Carter was replaced by another former Sunderland legend, the Horden-born Stan Anderson in April of this year. As a player Anderson’s entire career was with the the North East’s three big clubs, making 402 appearances for Sunderland; 81 appearances for Newcastle United and 21 appearances for MIddlesbrough.

1966 – Byker Wall begun

Architect Ralph Erskine begins the construction of new housing called ‘the Byker Wall‘ to the east of Newcastle on the site of around 1,200 houses that were no longer suited to modern standards. The distinctive housing would be completed in the early 1970s.

Byker Wall
Byker Wall (top) © David Simpson

July 30, 1966 – England win World Cup

The nation celebrates as England defeat West Germany 4-2 in the World Cup final at Wembley with a team that includes the Ashington-born brothers Jack and Bobby Charlton. Also included in the squad was Gateshead-born Norman Hunter, though he did not play. None of the players in the England squad actually played for a North East club side at the time of the tournament. England’s Assistant Manager, supporting Alf Ramsey is the Middlesbrough born, Harold Shepherdson.

1966 – Ayresome and Roker World Cup

In the World Cup tournament, two North East football grounds served as venues for group stage games, playing host to Chile, Italy and the Communist countries of North Korea and the Soviet Union (Russia). The results of the games at Ayresome Park in Middlesbrough were: Soviet Union 3 North Korea 0 (July 12); Chile 1 North Korea 1 (July 15); North Korea 1 Italy 0 (July 19). The results  of the games at Roker Park, Sunderland were: Italy 2 Chile 0 (July 13); Soviet Union 1 Italy 0 (July 16); Soviet Union 2 Chile 1 (July 20).

1966 – More mines close

North East collieries closing this year were Barcus Close (Burnopfield); Beamish Mary; Choppington in Northumberland; Chopwell in Durham; Chilton; Dean and Chapter at Ferryhill; Clara Vale near Wylam; Greenside near Blaydon; North Tees at Winston; East Walbottle near Newcastle; Prestwick near Ponteland; North Bitchburn at Howden-le-Wear; Hauxley near Amble; Weetslade near Dudley; Lumley (where coal has been mined since medieval times); Ryhope near Sunderland; Algernon Colliery at Backworth; Waterhouses in the Deerness Valley near Durham and Witton Colliery at Sacriston.

1966 – Shipyard closures

Between 1960 and 1966 six shipyards closed in the region. Blyth’s last shipyard, owned by the Blyth Shipbuilding Company, closed this year.

Jan 5, 1967 – Gangland murder

The body of Angus Sibbet is found in the back of his Jaguar car beneath Pesspool Bridge near South Hetton. The murder is linked to criminal gangs in the region. Two men are later convicted.

1967 – Fish and Chips for Hendrix

The famed guitarist Jimi Hendrix sampled fish and and chips from a fish and chip shop in Tynemouth Front Street.

Tynemouth Town
The town of Tynemouth from the castle © David Simpson

1967 – Boro bounce back

Middlesbrough Football Club, relegated to Division Three last season are promoted back into Division Two, under the management of former Sunderland, Newcastle United and Middlesbrough player, Stan Anderson.

1967 – Derwent Reservoir

The three mile long Derwent Reservoir in the Derwent valley straddles the Pennine border of Northumberland and Durham and becomes the largest reservoir in the region. It will later be eclipsed by the massive Kielder Water reservoir in Northumberland.

The Derwent Reservoir near Blanchland
The Derwent Reservoir near Blanchland © David Simpson

Oct 19, 1967 – Tyne Tunnel

The Tyne Tunnel is officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen. Work started on the tunnel in 1961.

1967 – Steel merger

Dorman Long, South Durham Steel and Iron Company, Stewarts and Lloyds announce a £311m merged company which becomes part of the British Steel Corporation.

Nov 14, 1967 – Dr Martin Luther King

African-American civil rights spokesperson and Baptist Minister, Dr Martin Luther King Junior is awarded an Honorary degree by Newcastle University. Addressing a congregation at the university, Dr King spoke of how legislation could not change a man’s heart but that it could “restrain him from lynching me.” Sadly, less than five months later he would be assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

1967 – Mine closures continue

Collieries closing this year are Bowburn; Brancepeth at Willington; Chester Moor near Chester-le-Street; Deaf Hill at Trimdon Station; Kimblesworth near Sacriston; Leasingthone near Coundon; Newbiggin near Newbiggin-by-the-Sea; Newton Cap or ‘Toronto’ near Bishop Auckland; Thrislington (also called West Cornforth) and West Auckland in south west Durham.

Trimdon Station also known as Deaf Hill
Former pit village, Trimdon Station also known as Deaf Hill © David Simpson

Feb 1968 – Brown returns at Sunderland

Corbridge-born Alan Brown returns for his second stint as Sunderland football club manager. Brown had managed Sheffield Wednesday since leaving Sunderland in November 1964 and took them to the 1966 FA Cup final. He succeeds the sacked former Scotland manager Ian McColl at Sunderland who had failed to make an impact on Wearside.

1968 – Ethylene pipeline

A 138 mile long pipeline is constructed linking the chemical industries of Teesside with those at Runcorn in Cheshire for the transportation of ethylene.

1968 – King Olav opens Civic Centre

Newcastle Civic Centre, designed by George Kenyon, is opened by King Olav of Norway.

Newcastle Civic Centre
Newcastle Civic Centre © David Simpson

April 1968 – Teesside created

The County Borough of Teesside has been created uniting the Durham towns of Stockton and Billingham with the Yorkshire towns of Redcar, Thornaby and Middlesbrough.

1968 – Further pit closures

The collieries that ceased operating this year were Brandon and Brandon Pit House near Durham; Brusselton near West Auckland; Byermoor and Burnopfield near Tanfield; Esh (at Esh Winning); Hamsterley in north west Durham; Handenhold near Pelton; Mainsforth (near Ferryhill); Trimdon Grange and Tursdale Collieries in south east Durham;  Washington F Pit (which had opened back in 1777); Wheatley Hill in east Durham; Emma Colliery (Towneley) near Ryton and on the coast, Marsden Colliery also known as Whitburn Colliery. In Northumberland, North Walbottle at Westerhope, near Newcastle; Cambois Colliery near Blyth and Linton Colliery near Ashington were also closed.

The F Pit Washington
The F Pit Washington © David Simpson

1968 – Oil refineries at Teesmouth

In the past four years three oil refineries have been built at the mouth of the River Tees to supply the chemical industry.

Industry at the mouth of the River Tees
Boats and industry at the mouth of the River Tees © David Simpson

1968 – DLI disbands

The Durham Light Infantry is disbanded.

1969 – Eldon Square

Construction begins on Eldon Square, a new shopping centre in Newcastle.

Eldon Square
Eldon Square © David Simpson.

1969 – Polytechnics : Tyne, Tees, Wear

Newcastle Polytechnic is established from an amalgamation of Rutherford College of Technology (established 1880); the College of Art & Industrial Design and the Municipal College of Commerce. Sunderland Technical College (established 1901) becomes Sunderland Polytechnic while Constantine Technical College in Middlesbrough (established 1930), becomes Teesside Polytechnic. The three polytechnics will eventually become universities in 1992.

June 11, 1969 – NUFC Inter-Cities Fairs Cup

Newcastle United under manager Joe Harvey, win the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, defeating Hungarian side Újpesti Dózsa in a two leg final. Newcastle won the first leg at home 3-0 and the second leg in Budapest 3-2. Newcastle qualified for the competition in 1968 along with three other English teams, despite finishing tenth in the First Division. The qualification was due to a ‘one-city one-team’ rule. Only first division champions Manchester City and runners up, the second-placed Manchester United qualified for the prestigious European Cup. The other runners up teams included three London clubs and two Liverpool clubs and only one club from each city could qualify for the Fairs Cup. Despite the peculiar terms of qualification Newcastle performed outstandingly well, knocking out (amongst others) Feyenoord of Rotterdam in the first round, Spanish side Real  Zaragoza in round three and Glasgow Rangers in a heated two-leg semi final.

1969 – Swan House completed

Swan House,  situated within a roundabout of Newcastle’s central motorway (see 1963) off Pilgrim Street, just to the north of the Tyne Bridge is completed. There is perhaps no building so symbolic of the 1960s era in Newcastle upon Tyne. First planned in 1961, it was constructed from 1963 to 1969. Sadly, the construction of the roundabout and motorway resulted in the demolition of John  Dobson’s fine Royal Arcade of 1832 off nearby Mosley Street. The ground floor of Swan House included a poor replica of Dobson’s arcade but the isolated location resulted in the eventual removal of the imitation arcade. Swan House was renamed and rebranded with the new name ’55 Degrees North in 2002.

55° North
55° North © David Simpson

1969 – Apollo Pavilion

Victor Pasmore’s abstract concrete public art scupture called the Apollo Pavillion is completed at Peterlee during the summer of 1969. It is partly inspired by the recent Apollo 11 moon landings.

Apollo Pavilion, Peterlee
Apollo Pavilion, Peterlee © David Simpson

Sept 17, 1969 – Durham motorway

Durham sections of the A1(M) motorway open from Newton Aycliffe (Junction 59) to Chester-le-Street encompassing Junction 60 at Bradbury; 61 at Bowburn; 62 at Carrville and 63 at Chester-le-Street. The crossing of the Skerne Valley north of Aycliffe, the site of a post glacial lake, posed a geological challenge for the engineers.

1969 – End of the Rising Sun

The collieries to close this year were Crofton Mill (Blyth); Pegswood near Morpeth; Harton near South Shields; Craghead in County Durham and the Rising Sun Colliery at Wallsend. The closure of the Rising Sun Colliery signifies the demise of the last ever Tyneside colliery on the north side of the river.

North East colliery closures in the 1960s
North East colliery closures in the 1960s © David Simpson and Tangled Worm 2021

👈 1939-1949 | 1970-1989 👉

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