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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, colour television, 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 that some old ways had to be consigned to history. While oil refineries were opening at the mouth of the River Tees, the coalmines and railways were closing with huge consequences for the communities they supported.

1951 May 29, - 81 DIE IN EXPLOSION (Easington)

Eighty-one men are killed in an explosion at Easington Colliery.

1951 - CATEGORY D (County Durham)

Durham County Council publishes its Development Plan 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 haemorrhaging population. The Plan classified a third of the villages 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.

1952 - ANDY CAPP (Hartlepool)

Cartoon character Andy Capp is created by Hartlepool cartoonist Reg Smythe.

1953 June 2, - ELIZABETH II (London)

Queen Elizabeth II is crowned.

April 6, 1955 - PRIME MINISTER EDEN (Britain)

Anthony Eden, the new Prime Minister of Great Britain, was born at Windlestone Hall, County Durham, and is a member of a well-known Durham family.

1955 - THE PLACE TO BE (Peterlee)

Victor Pasmore, the internationally-renowned artist, joins the architectural team designing the new-town of Peterlee which is being built to replace the scattered Category D settlements that are expected to wither away. Peterlee is advertised as the place to be.

1959 January - TYNE TEES TELEVISION (Newcastle)

Tyne Tees Television begins broadcasting to the region.

1950s COLLIERY CLOSURES (Northumberland and Durham)

Collieries which have closed in Northumberland and Durham over the last decade include:

1960 - T DAN SMITH (North-East)

T Dan Smith is beginning a four year term as leader of Newcastle City Council. He begins demolishing slums and redesigning the city with the Eldon Square shopping complex at its centre, his aim being to drag Newcastle into the 20th Century. Later he head s the Northern Economic Planning Council and his influence spreads across the region. However, Smith's career ends in dishonour in 1974 when he is jailed for six years for corruption. He takes the former leader of Durham County Council Andrew Cunningham and architect John Poulson down with him.

1962 - OIL REPLACES COAL (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.

1962 - NEW DOCK (Middlesbrough)

Tees Dock opens, replacing the old Middlesbrough Dock further downstream.

1962 - NEW ICI PLANT (Teesside)

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

1963 - BEECHING AXE (Britain)

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, the disappearance of branch lines like the Darlington-to-Barnard Castle and the Northallerton-to-Ripon and the loss of thousands of jobs.


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 - NEW TOWNS (Killingworth)

Northumberland County Council begins the construction of Cramlington New Town. Last year Killingworth new town was begun and next year Washington will begin.

1965 - MOTORWAY OPENS (Darlington)

The Darlington bypass, following the route of the old Merrybent railway, is the first section of the new A1(M) motorway which will become the main road through the North-East.


Darlington railway workshops in 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 (Hartlepool)

The Hartlepool Order merges Old Hartlepool with West Hartlepool.

1966 - SLUM CLEARANCE (North-East)

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 - WORLD CUP (Britain)

Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough and Roker Park, Sunderland are venues for World Cup matches. England eventually defeat Germany 4-2 in the final at Wembley with a team which includes the Ashington-born brothers Jack and Bobby Charlton.

1966 - SHIPYARD CLOSURES (North-East)

Between 1960 and 1966 six shipyards closed in the region.

1967 October 19, - TYNE TUNNEL (Tyneside)

The Tyne Tunnel is officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen. Work started on the tunnel in 1961 and it is a continuation of the A1(M) motorway.

1967 - STEEL MERGER (Middlesbrough)

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

April 1968 - TEESSIDE CREATED (Teesside)

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

1968 - OIL REFINERIES AT TEESMOUTH (Middlesbrough)

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

1968 - DLI DISBANDS (Durham)

The Durham Light Infantry is disbanded.

1960s COLLIERY CLOSURES (Northumberland and Durham)

During the 1960s the Durham coalfield quickly declined, losing half of its workforce and half of its pits. When the Rising Sun Colliery at Wallsend closed in 1969, Tyneside had lost all its collieries on the north bank of the river. Pits in Northumberland and Durham that closed during the decade include:

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