North East England in the 1990s

North East England in the 1990s

Angel of the North
Angel of the North :  now a universally recognised icon and a symbol of Tyneside and the North

The last ten years of the ‘second millennium’ saw the closure of the Durham coalfield’s last coal mine, ending an era of at least 800 years. A new football stadium was built in its place, one of many modern developments of the 1990s. The developments were to rejuvenate the region and its economy and were mostly concentrated in the old riverside areas of the Tyne, Wear and Tees which had once been at the forefront of the old heavily industrialised economy. Today the major industries that dominated the North East throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have declined or disappeared, leaving the region to adjust to new technologies, new forms of employment and a new way of life.

👈 1970-1989  | Timeline21st Century 👉

1990 – National Garden Festival

The National Garden Festival is held at Gateshead. Its site stretches from the River Tyne towards Dunston and includes the Dunston Coal Staiths which are reputedly the world’s largest wooden structure. The festival is designed to regenerate derelict industrial land for future use.

National Garden Festival logo and Dunston Staithes
National Garden Festival logo and Dunston Staiths. Photo of the staiths © David Simpson 2017

April 1990 – University Japanese link

The Teikyo University of Japan at Durham has been established. Students from Japan can now study for a year alongside students of Durham University.

1990 – Teesside Park

Work on the development of a shopping and leisure complex at Teesside Park near Thornaby is under way.

1990 – Royal Quays

The Royal Quays development opens at North Shields in and around the former Albert Edward Dock. It features shopping, housing, parks and a water park development.

1990 – Newcastle law courts

The imposing Newcastle law courts are completed on the Quayside. For Crown Court cases it will supersede the earlier moot hall of 1812 near Newcastle castle. It is built with red sandstone from Dumfriesshire in Scotland.

Law courts, Newcastle
Law courts, Newcastle © David Simpson 2021

1990 – Sunderland promoted

Sunderland Football Club are promoted from Division Two to Division One in curious circumstances. After defeating Newcastle United (who had finished third, with Sunderland finishing sixth) in a two-leg play-off semi-final, Sunderland played Swindon Town (who had finished fourth) in the final at Wembley where they were defeated 1-0. However, during the season, Swindon had been charged with 36 breaches of league regulations and a hearing to decide their fate scheduled before the final was postponed after further irregularities came to light. Swindon were stripped of the promotion and so remained in the second tier. The events highlighted the dangers of rule-breaking and the absurdity of the play-off system. Though undoubtedly creating excitement, the play-offs, introduced in 1987, restrict automatic promotion to two rather than three teams, leaving runners up with the potentially lucrative reward of a Wembley ‘cup final’.

Nov 1990 – Thatcher resigns, Major is PM

Margaret Thatcher resigns as Prime Minister on November 22, following challenges to her leadership. The Conservative party elect John Major as their new leader on November 28.

Dec 1990 – Electricity privatised

The assets of the North Eastern Electricity Board (NEEB), a company responsible for supply and distribution of electricity across the region were transferred to a new company called Northern Electricity plc earlier this year. The new company was privatised this month. The company will be acquired by an American corporation in 1996 and in 2001 under a government act the supply and distribution arms of the business will be separated with supply transferring to a company called NPower which was subsequently acquired by a German company called RWE.

1991 – Sunderland relegated

Sunderland Football Club are relegated from Division One to Division Two after one season in the top-tier league.

July 1991 – Dawdon Colliery closes

Dawdon Colliery at Seaham closes. The colliery, which stands close to the coast was opened in 1907 and employed more than 3,800 men at its peak in the 1920s.

Blast Beach, Seaham
Blast Beach, Seaham near the former site of Dawdon Colliery. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Nov 1991 – Murton and Hawthorn closed

Murton Colliery in east Durham has closed. The linked Hawthorn ‘Combined’ Mine will also close. Hawthorn, which was the site of a coke works up until 1985, had drawn coal from the workings of collieries at Eppleton (closed 1986) and Elemore (closed 1974).

1991 – Neptune returns

The statue of King Neptune is placed once again in Durham Market Place after many years absence. He was first situated in the market place in 1729, symbolising an ambitious plan, which never saw fruition, to turn Durham into a sea port. He was removed to the city’s Wharton Park in 1923.

St Nicholas church and statue of Neptune, Durham
St Nicholas church and statue of Neptune, Durham © David Simpson 2021

Feb, 1992 – Keegan Newcastle’s manager

Kevin Keegan is appointed the new manager of Newcastle United Football Club by Sir John Hall, creating much euphoria and excitement across Tyneside.

April 9, 1992 – Conservatives win election

The Conservatives, now under the leadership of John Major win yet another election. In the North East, the only change from the 1987 election is in Darlington where Labour’s Alan Milburn ousts the Conservative MP, Michael Fallon. With the exception of Liberal Democrat, Alan Beith’s Berwick constituency and the Conservative seats of Tynemouth, Hexham and Stockton South, the North East remains solidly Labour. North Yorkshire of course, remains a Conservative stronghold.

1992 – Premier League Boro

Middlesbrough FC are promoted from Division Two (where they finished second) into the Premier League, which is the new name for the top tier league following the restructuring of the Football League. They are the first North East club to play in the new league and one of only three clubs in history to be promoted from Division Two to the Premier League; the others being Division Two champions Ipswich Town and play-off winners, Blackburn Rovers.

1992 – Sunderland celebrates city status

Sunderland gains city status. The last town in the North East to gain city status was Newcastle upon Tyne in 1882.

The River Wear at Sunderland
The River Wear at Sunderland Photo © David Simpson

1992 – New Universities

Three new universities are created in the North East. In Middlesbrough, Teesside Polytechnic becomes the University of Teesside.  At the same time Newcastle Polytechnic becomes Northumbria University and Sunderland Polytechnic becomes the University of Sunderland. They join the existing universities of Durham and Newcastle in delivering first class education. At Durham, the actor, Sir Peter Ustinov succeeds Dame Margot Fonteyn as the university’s new chancellor.

New universities

1992 – First Class cricket at Durham

Durham County Cricket Club has joined the first class county cricket league.

1992 – James Herriot football club president

The Sunderland-born novelist and vet, Alf Wight who writes under the name James Herriot becomes the Life President of his beloved Sunderland Football Club (a role he serves up until his death in 1995).

May 7 1993 – Easington Colliery closes

Easington Colliery in east Durham has closed with the loss of 1,400 jobs. The colliery, which opened in 1899, was the site of a major disaster in 1951 that claimed the lives of 83 miners.

Easington Colliery nature reserve
Easington Colliery nature reserve on the site of the colliery © David Simpson 2018

1993 – Cathedral celebrates 900 years

Durham Cathedral is celebrating its 900th anniversary. The construction of the cathedral was commenced in the year 1093 by the Prince Bishop, William St Carileph.

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral © David Simpson 2021

May 1993 – Westoe Colliery closes

Westoe Colliery at South Shields has closed. The closure of Westoe, which opened in 1909, brings an end to centuries of coal mining on Tyneside.

1993 – Newcastle in Premier,  Boro exit

Newcastle United, under their manager Kevin Keegan, are promoted to the Premier League, which is now in its second season. Middlesbrough, however are relegated from the Premier League after playing one season in the league’s inaugural year.

June 4, 1993 – Vane Tempest closes

The Vane Tempest Colliery at Seaham which first opened in 1926 is closed. Taking its name from the family who had developed Seaham Harbour in the nineteenth century (the Marquess of Londonderry’s family name) Vane Tempest Colliery was the last remaining pit in the town of Seaham.

Glass Beach near Seaham Hall
The coast at Seaham © David Simpson 2018

Dec 10, 1993 – Coalfield’s last colliery

Wearmouth Colliery at the mouth of the River Wear in Sunderland, the last colliery in the County Durham coalfield, has closed, signalling the end of a centuries old era not just on Wearside but in the land between the Tyne and Tees. The Wearmouth Colliery had been one of the biggest and most important collieries in the Durham coalfield as well as being a significant employer and hugely important feature of Sunderland’s heritage, history and culture.

North East colliery closures in the 1990s
North East colliery closures in the 1990s © David Simpson and Tangled Worm 2021

1994 – Lynemouth Colliery closes

Lynemouth Colliery, in Northumberland, closes. The nearby Ellington Colliery becomes the last remaining colliery in the North East.

Site of Lynemouth Colliery.
Site of Lynemouth Colliery. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1994 – Sculptor chosen for Gateshead site

Sculptor Antony Gormley is selected to create an iconic landmark on a prominent former colliery site near Gateshead.

July 1994 – Hartlepool Historic Quay

Hartlepool’s historic quay opens. The reconstruction by Teesside Development Corporation portrays an eighteenth century seaport and it brings Britain’s maritime heritage to life.

Royal Navy Museum and the mast of Trincomalee, Hartlepool
Royal Navy Museum and the mast of Trincomalee, Hartlepool. Photo © David Simpson 2018

July 21, 1994 – Blair is Labour leader

The Durham-raised MP for Sedgefield, Tony Blair is elected Labour leader by his party, following the recent death of John Smith.

Feb 1995 – Tees flooding

Flooding on the Tees at Neasham, Croft and Hurworth causes hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage to houses.

1995 – Boro promoted

Middlesbrough Football Club are promoted to the Premier League where they will be playing in a brand new stadium.

April 22, 1995 – Tees Barrage opens

The £50m Tees barrage opens at Stockton. It has created a ten-mile stretch of clean water from Worsall near Yarm to Stockton and has enabled the creation of a white water course for canoeists. An international competition marks the opening.

The Tees Barrage.
The Tees Barrage. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Aug 26, 1995 – Riverside Stadium opens

After 92 years at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough FC play their first game at the new all-seater Riverside Stadium which is situated alongside the old Middlesbrough Dock. Boro defeat Chelsea 2-0 with the first goal at the new stadium coming from Craig Hignett.

Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough FC
Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough FC © 2021 David Simpson

1995 – Durham 1,000 years old

Durham is 1,000 years old. It was in the late summer of 995AD that the monks carrying the coffin of St Cuthbert established a settlement at ‘Dun Holm’ as the final resting place for their saint.

Durham Cathedral above the rooftops of Hild and Bede
Durham Cathedral above the rooftops of Hild and Bede College. © 2017 David Simpson

1995 – Millennium window

A new ‘Millennium Window’, installed in Durham Cathedral, celebrates the 1000th anniversary of the settlement of the monks of St Cuthbert and includes scenes depicting more recent eras of the region.

Detail from the Millennium window in Durham Cathedral
Detail from the Millennium window in Durham Cathedral © David Simpson 2022

Nov 1995 – Newcastle Arena

The Newcastle Arena, a major music, concert and sports venue opens to the west of the city centre near the Redheugh Bridge.

Jan 1996 – Our Friends in the North

North East screenwriter Peter Flannery’s nine-part BBC tv drama Our Friends in the North broadcast from January to March becomes one of the most memorable TV productions of the 1990s. It features the story of four friends in Newcastle upon Tyne set over a period from 1964 to 1995 based on stories of real life events and people. Local government and police corruption and the 1984-85 miners’ strike are amongst the themes covered in a drama that made household names of actors Christopher Ecclestone, Daniel Craig, Mark Strong and the North East’s own Gina McKee.

Apr 1, 1996 – Cleveland abolished

The County of Cleveland is abolished and replaced by the four unitary local authorities of Redcar and Cleveland, Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees and Hartlepool. For ceremonial purposes the traditional historic counties of Durham and North Yorkshire will represent the two sides of the Tees. The Lord Lieutenant of Durham becomes the monarch’s representative north of the river and the Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire on the south side. This creates a unique situation for the split Borough of Stockton-on-Tees which though mostly north of the Tees and historically in County Durham encompasses places south of the Tees that were historically in Yorkshire, most notably Yarm. So the borough is represented by two Lord Lieutenants according to which side of the river you are on. Strangely, there is still a Lord Lieutenant of ‘Tyne and Wear’, despite the abolition of that county in 1986.

The Victoria Bridge, Stockton
The Victoria Bridge links Stockton (right) to Thornaby-on-Tees (left) Signs on the bridge differentiate between the historic counties of Durham and Yorkshire though both sides are still within the Borough of Stockton-on-Tees © David Simpson 2021

1996 – Northumbrian Water extend coverage

Northumbrian Water Limited merge with a company called North East Water that covers the Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and South Shields areas. Northumbrian Water is now responsible for water supply and sewage treatment across the whole of the North East region except for Hartlepool which has its own water company.

1996 – Christ church gallery

Christ Church, historically the parish church of West Hartlepool, becomes an art gallery after restoration. It is a very elegant and charming focal point for the town centre.

Christchurch, Hartlepool
Christ church, Hartlepool © David Simpson 2022

1996 – Sunderland in Premier League

Sunderland Football Club are promoted from the second tier ‘Division One’ into the Premier League for the first time. Although the club has spent most of its history in the top tier of English football, this is their first time in the new Premier League.

Jan 1997 – Keegan resigns

Kevin Keegan resigns as manager of Newcastle United Football Club. Keegan had successfully gained promotion for the club to the Premier League in 1993 and has subsequently secured 6th, 3rd, 6th and 2nd place in three seasons in the league with the help of the firing power of Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand. Keegan will be replaced (after one game under Terry McDermott) by Kenny Dalglish – and the club will once again finish the season in second place.

Apr 6, 1997 – Boro in League Cup final

Middlesbrough Football Club play in the League Cup final for the first time in their history. They draw 1-1 with Leicester City at Wembley before suffering defeat in the replay at Hillsborough in Sheffield on April 16.

May 1, 1997 – Tony Blair becomes PM

Tony Blair, the Labour MP for Sedgefield, who grew up in the North East, is elected Prime Minister by a landslide in today’s general election. In the campaign, Blair had branded his politics ‘New Labour’. He will reside in Downing Street and occasionally at his home in Trimdon Colliery, County Durham. The new Prime Minister was born in Scotland but grew up in Durham City and at nearby High Shincliffe. He was educated at the Durham Chorister School in the shadow of Durham Cathedral, two years apart from a younger fellow pupil, the actor, Rowan Atkinson, noted for his Blackadder and Mr Bean portrayals. Following the election there are only two non-Labour MPs remaining in the region, namely the Conservative, Peter Atkinson in Hexham and Liberal Democrat Alan Beith in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Seats gained by Labour from the Conservatives include Tynemouth and Stockton South. Labour’s Ashok Kumar is elected for the new seat called ‘Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland’ and the nearby seat of Scarborough and Whitby in North Yorkshire is also claimed from the Conservatives by Labour.

Sedgefield
Sedgefield © David Simpson 2018

1997 – Sunderland and Boro down

Sunderland Football Club are relegated after only one season in the Premier League, putting a dampener on a celebration of their soon-to-open new stadium planned for next season. Middlesbrough’s extraordinary season ends with two cup final appearances and a relegation from the Premier League. It leaves Newcastle United, who finished in second place behind Manchester United, as the region’s only representatives in the top tier.

1997 – Brick Train

The ‘brick train’ sculpture is unveiled alongside the A66 to the east of Darlington. A commemoration of Darlington’s railway heritage, the sculpture by David Mach depicts a life-size depiction of the famous record-breaking steam locomotive Mallard completely built from red bricks.

1997 – Alnwick Garden

The redevelopment and landscaping of the estate gardens at Alnwick Castle is instigated by the Duchess of Northumberland.

May 17 1997 – Boro in FA Cup final

Middlesbrough Football Club play in an FA Cup final for the first time in their history. They are defeated 2-0 by Chelsea at Wembley. Just over a month ago, the recently relegated Middlesbrough were defeated in the League Cup Final.

July 30, 1997 – Stadium of Light opens

The first match is played at Sunderland Football Club’s new stadium. Named the Stadium of Light, the ground stands on the site of the Wearmouth Colliery –  the last colliery in the centuries old Durham coalfield. Sunderland’s first match is a friendly against Ajax of Amsterdam which ends 0-0. The first league match on August 15, sees a 3-1 victory over Manchester City and the stadium’s first goal comes from Niall Quinn. Sunderland had moved into their new stadium after 99 years at Roker Park.

Stadium of Light
Stadium of Light Photo © 2015 David Simpson

Aug 31, 1997 – People’s Princess

Speaking from outside Trimdon church in County Durham, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair announces the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales whom he describes as ‘The People’s Princess’.

Commemorative stone Trimdon church
Commemorative stone outside Trimdon church. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Feb 15, 1998 – Angel of the North

The Gateshead Angel of the North sculpture is erected. Designed by sculptor Antony Gormley, it weighs 300 tonnes and was built by Hartlepool Steel Fabrications. It rapidly becomes one of the best-known landmarks in the country and an undoubted symbol of the North.

Angel of the North
Angel of the North Photo © 2017 David Simpson.

April 1998 – North East MPs dominate

Several North East Members of Parliament occupy dominant positions in British government under the leadership of Prime Minister, Tony Blair. They include Durham University graduate and Redcar MP, Mo Mowlam,  the Northern Ireland Secretary who this month helped secure the milestone Good Friday Agreement in the Northern Ireland peace process. Other key figures in government include North Tyneside MP Stephen Byers, the Minister for Schools and the County Durham-raised Alan Milburn, the MP for Darlington who becomes Chief Secretary to the Treasury from December and later Secretary of State for Health. Arguably, the most prominent and influential figure in the cabinet is the colourful media-savvy Minister Without Portfolio, Peter Mandelson, the MP for Hartlepool. Remarkably, even the leader of the opposition, the Conservative party leader William Hague is MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire, a constituency bordering both Mr Milburn’s Darlington constituency and the Sedgefield constituency of the Prime Minister.

1998 – Boro promoted

Middlesbrough are promoted back into the Premier League from which they were relegated in their extraordinarily eventful season last year.

June 11, 1998 – Farewell Dame Catherine

Fans mourn the passing of South Tyneside novelist Dame Catherine Cookson DBE who is the author of more than 100 novels. Her sales have topped 100 million. Cookson, whose novels are set in the region, was born at Tyne Dock and returned to the region for much of the later part of her life.

1998 – Middlesbrough Cathedral

Middlesbrough’s Roman Catholic cathedral, commenced in 1985 is consecrated. It is situated at Coulby Newham. The Catholic diocese of Middlesbrough stretches from the Tees all the way down to Hull.

Roman Catholic Cathedral, Middlesbrough
Roman Catholic Cathedral, Middlesbrough © David Simpson 2021

1998 – Whole new street for Durham

The new Prince Bishops Shopping Centre (later renamed Prince Bishops Place) has been built at the heart of Durham City on land formerly occupied by a multi-storey car park. It is an open air shopping centre that takes the form of a v-shaped street called High Street that links the north end of the market place to Saddler Street.

High Street, Prince Bishops Place, Durham
High Street, Prince Bishops Place, Durham, here featuring a temporary art installation of colourful umbrellas © David Simpson 2021

1998 – Sunderland Minster

St Michael’s church in Sunderland becomes Sunderland Minster to represent the city’s recent gaining of city status.

Sunderland Minster
Sunderland Minster © David Simpson

1998 – National Glass Centre

The National Glass Centre, a visitor attraction focused on glass and glass making has opened in Sunderland. The city was chosen as the site for the centre because of its history of glass making.

National Glass Centre, Sunderland
National Glass Centre, Sunderland © David Simpson 2015

1999 – Mayfair demolished

Newcastle’s famous music venue, the Mayfair Ballroom in Newgate Street opened for the last time in August this year and was subsequently demolished. The venue has been located here since 1961 and in 1968 the London-based band that subsequently became Led Zeppelin performed their first UK gig here. Much of the Newgate Street area is to be redeveloped as a centre for leisure and entertainment that hub that will be called The Gate.

1999 – Vaux Brewery closes

Vaux Brewery in Sunderland closes. The firm, famed for its Double Maxim brown ale has been brewing in Sunderland since 1837 although its founder Cuthbert Vaux was brewing in the town from as early as 1806.

1999 – Sunderland promoted

Sunderland are promoted to the Premier League where their new stadium can now play host to top tier league games.

👈 1970-1989 | 21st Century 👉

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