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The Age of Iron 1840AD - 1878AD

Small scale Iron-making had been Important since, ancient times and was mined in the Dales from at least the 12th Century in simple blast furnaces called Bloomeries. It was often smelted at Stanhope and later at Tow Low and Tudhoe and was often found in mineral veins associated with lead mines. But then the Industrial Age began. The railways and shipbuilding caused the Iron Industry to grow. At first it was on Tyneside but that was soon eclipsed in the 18409 and 1850s by the great iron works at Middlesbrough and Consett.

1840 - IRONMASTERS (Newcastle)

John Vaughan, iron works manager at Walker on Tyne, and Henry BoIckow, a German accountant who has settled at Newcastle, become business partners. They aim to establish a new ironworks. Joseph Pease of Darlington sells them land at Middlesbrough. Meanwhile an iron works opens at Thornaby and last year another opened at Hartlepool.


Middlesbrough's first church is built. Its first school was built in 1838.

1841 - CONSETT IRON (Consett)

Consett Iron Works is established as the Derwent Iron Company. Iron ore was discovered here in 1837. Meanwhile iron rolling mills and puddling furnaces are founded by Vaughan and Bolckow at Middlesbrough using Scottish pig iron.

1841 - BAINBRIDGE STORE (Newcastle)

Weardale's Emerson Bainbridge establishes Bainbridge's general drapers in Market Street, Newcastle.

1842 - MORE IRON (North)

The Weardale Iron company is founded. Meanwhile blast furnaces are erected at Walker by Losh Wiison and Bell using Whitby iron ore.

1844 - GILKES AND WILSON (Middlesbrough)

Isaac Wilson and Edgar Gilkes take over the Tees engine works. The works will build iron railways. Meanwhile Bell Brothers take over a blast furnace at Wylam and Robert Stephenson builds an iron bridge over the Tees between Stockton and Thornaby replacing an earlier one used by the Stockton and Darlington Railway.


The County Durham districts of Bedlingtonshire, Norhamshire and Islandshire, become part of Northumberland.

1844 - PENSHAW MONUMENT (Penshaw)

Penshaw Monument is erected in honour of John George Lambton, Earl of Durham.

1845 - HACKWORTH WORKS (Shildon)

Timothy Hackworth establishes a locomotive works at Shildon.

1846 - BLAST FURNACES (County Durham)

Middlesbrough's Vaughan and BoIckow build blast furnaces at Witton, where there is a good supply of coking coal. Whitby iron stone is imported into Middlesbrough, transported to Witton, and returns to Middlesbrough as pig iron for processing in forges, foundries and rolling mills.

1846 - FARM DEMOLISHED (Middlesbrough)

The farm that was once the whole of Middlesbrough is demolished.

1847 - TYNESIDE WORKS (Elswick)

William G Armstrong establishes a factory making hydraulic machinery.

1847 - SEASIDE TRIPS (Coast)

Railways extended to the coast make the seaside a more accessible place of recreation. Railways reach Redcar in 1846 and Tynemouth this year. The London railway, which reached Newcastle in 1844, makes it to Berwick in 1847. Robert Stephenson's Royal Border Bridge is built.

1850 - ESTON IRON (Cleveland)

Iron is found in the Eston Hills near Middlesbrough by John Vaughan and will replace the use of Whitby ironstone.

1850 - ANCIENT FINDS (Weardale)

A Bronze Age discovery is made at Heathery Burn cave in Weardale. One of the earliest known wheels is discovered.

1851 - IRISH AND SCOTS (North-East)

Many workers have come to the North-East from Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Twenty per cent of Tyneside's population is Irish and another fifth Scottish. Sunderland has 4,000 Irish and 2,300 Scots, most of whom are employed mainly in the ship yards. Coalmining is also attracting outsiders.

1851 - MIDDLESBROUGH FURNACE (Middlesbrough)

The first blast furnace on Teesside is erected at Middlesbrough. The whole ironmaking process is now carried out here.

1853 - IRONMASTER MAYOR (Middlesbrough)

Henry Bolckow becomes the first mayor of Middlesbrough. A number of iron works are being established in the area and Darlington Forge has been established to serve the marine and electrical industry.

1853 - NEWCASTLE CHOLERA (Newcastle)

Cholera kills 1,500 people in Newcastle.

1854 October 6, - THE GREAT FIRE OF TYNESIDE (Newcastle)

At 1am a fire at a Gateshead worsted factory spread to an adjoining warehouse containing a lethal range of chemicals and 3,000 tons of brimstone. Crowds gathered along the Tyne and at 3.15am the building exploded, sending out "debris like flying fish". The explosion was heard as far away as Berwick and is said to have damaged houses in Shields. Miners at Sunderland came to the surface in alarm and the glow from the fire could be seen at Smeaton near Northallerton. Flying debris set alight ships and caused a second fire on the Newcastle side of the river which destroyed the medieval quayside buildings. Hundreds were made homeless and at least 50 died. Most bodies were incinerated and unidentifiable.

1854 - RAILWAYS AND IRON (North)

Expanding railways are important to the demand for iron. The London railway reached Gateshead in 1844, extended to Berwick in 1848. Iron railway bridges include Newcastle's High Level Bridge (1848) and Berwick's Royal Border Bridge. The NER is formed this year and gradually swallows up smaller railways. It also develops docks.

1855 - ARMSTRONG'S CANON (Newcastle)

William G Armstrong invents the first successful Breech loading canon.


Practically all London's water piping is presently made of Teesside cast iron. Meanwhile Liverpool's Bernhard Samuelson provides land for an iron works at South Bank and a new community develops here.

1856 - SHEFFIELD THREAT (England)

The Bessemer Steel making process is developed, a setback for Middlesbrough as local iron ore is unsuitable. Steel is in demand and Sheffield with its existing industry dominates the market for a time.


Durham railway station and viaduct are built.

1858 - FAMOUS BRIDGE REPLACED (Sunderland)

Sunderland's 18th Century iron bridge is extensively modified by Robert Stephenson. The bridge resembles the famous iron bridge of Coalbrookdale in Shropshire and is the most famous feature of Sunderland.

1860 - STOCKTON IRON (Stockton)

Malleable iron works of the South Durham Steel and Iron Company are opened by Christopher Furness. There are 32 blast furnaces in Middlesbrough over the Tees.

1862 - DARLINGTON WORKS (Darlington)

Darlington Railway Locomotive Works in North Road is established.

1862 - BLAYDON RACES SONG (Newcastle)

Music Hall is popular and Geordie Ridley is one of the leading entertainers. Tyneside's 'National Anthem' The Blaydon Races is first sung by Ridley at Balmbra's Music Hall in Newcastle.


Henry Isaac Rowntree acquires the cocoa and chocolate side of the business from York Tea Dealer William Tuke & Son. Tukes have been selling cocoa as a sideline since 1785.

1862 - INFANT HERCULES (Middlesbrough)

Gladstone describes Middlesbrough as "an infant Hercules" during a visit.


Derwent Iron Company becomes Consett Iron Company Ltd.


Sunderland-born 'Railway King' George Hudson dies. He played a very important part in developing the Northern railway network most of which converges on York.

1866 - HEAD WRIGHTSON (Thornaby)

Engineer Thomas Wrightson, who trained at William Armstrong's Tyneside engineering works, teams up with the Teesside engineering company Head Ashby & Co. Head's firm started in 1840 as a Thornaby foundry.

1867 - HARTLEPOOL TREASURE (Hartlepool)

A hoard of Spanish silver dollars is revealed beneath the sands at Seaton Carew following a heavy storm.

1868 - SALTBURN BY THE SEA (Saltburn)

The railway reached Saltburn in 1860 and the Zetland Hotel was built to accommodate tourists. Saltburn is developed as a resort by Henry Pease of Darlington and a pleasure pier is built.

1869 - BOWES MUSEUM (Barnard Castle)

John Bowes starts the Bowes Museum. It is completed in 1892.

1871 - ENGINEER'S STRIKE (North-East)

Northern engineers strike over working hours. The Tyneside works of Armstrong and Hawthorn are badly affected but Robert Stephenson's locomotive works is not. Managers at Charles Palmer's in Jarrow persuade employees to continue working, promising to acc ept deals negotiated by strikers at other factories.


Durham University acquires Newcastle School of Medicine and the Newcastle College of Science.

1873 March 24, - MARY ANN COTTON (Durham)

Mary Ann Cotton is hanged at Durham Jail for poisoning her son Charles at West Auckland. She is said to be responsible for 21 deaths including her mother, three husbands, one lover and a number of children, including her own.

1873 - LEAZES PARK (Newcastle)

Newcastle's Leazes Park opens. Many public parks are opening in the region's towns.


Middlesbrough is the number one iron town in England. One third of the nation's output originates here and is exported all over the world. About 95 blast furnaces now exist in the town. Meanwhile Palmer's of Jarrow is presently obtaining royalties for Cl eveland coast iron mining.

1875 - DORMAN LONG (Middlesbrough)

Arthur Dorman and Albert de Lande Long establish an iron works and will play a part in converting Teesside's iron works to steel-making. Meanwhile Bolckow and Vaughan open a Bessemer steel plant at Eston helping Middlesbrough compete with Sheffield. High grade iron ore has to be imported from Spain as local ore is unsuitable.

1876 - SWING BRIDGE (Newcastle)

Newcastle's Swing Bridge is built by Armstrong, replacing the stone bridge of 1781. It allows ships to move downstream.


A football club (Middlesbrough FC) has been formed by cricketers on Teesside.

1878 - CLEVELAND BRIDGE (Darlington)

Cleveland Bridge Engineering Company Ltd is established at Darlington.

1878 - BOLCKOW DIES (Middlesbrough)

Ironmaster Henry Bolckow dies. He was Middlesbrough's first mayor and MP in 1868.

1878 - HANCOCK MUSEUM (Newcastle)

The Hancock Natural History Museum opens.


A football club has been formed by teachers on Wearside.

1879 - NEW STEEL MAKING METHODS (Middlesbrough)

New steel-making methods enabling the use of Teesside ore are a great boon to Middlesbrough's industry.


York Chocolate manufacturers Rowntree & Co diversify into gums and pastilles.

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