Light, leisure, football : 1878-1900
One of the most important developments in the history of modern life took place in the North East – the evolution of electric light. The most important figure was Sunderland-born Joseph Wilson Swan, inventor of the first practical light bulb. His developments would result in the widespread use of electric light throughout the world. Indeed, Newcastle was one of the first towns to be lit by electricity. Furthermore, Cragside in Northumberland was one of the first houses to be lit with electric light and a light bulb factory at Benwell was the first in the world. The region was witnessing the birth of modern times. The late Victorian Age was certainly a period of great change and development. It was a period of booming industry; rapidly expanding towns and increasing travel; tourism and leisure. This too, was an era that saw the emergence of the region’s new sporting passion: Association Football.
1878 – Swan develops lamp
Joseph Wilson Swan of Sunderland, who was born at Pallion Hall in 1828, develops a successful incandescent electric lamp. Swan has been working on this project since the 1850s. Much of his experimentation and development of the lamp had taken place in the extensive conservatory of his Gateshead home of Underhill, where he resided from 1869-1883. It will become the first house in the world to be wired for domestic electric lighting.
1878 – Cragside lit by electricity
Sir William Armstrong installs a small hydro electric plant on his estate for generating electric light in his picture gallery at Cragside. Using lakes in the grounds, Cragside is the first house in the world to be lit by electricity generated from water power. The arc lights he uses are not yet suitable for mass production and are unlikely to replace gas lighting.
1878 – Sweet factory at Chester-le-Street
A Mr Lucock establishes a factory for making sweets at Chester-le-Street.
1878 – Bardon Mill pottery
A pottery is established at Bardon Mill near the South Tyne by William Reay and Robert Errington. Sewerage pipes are a main feature of the business.
Dec 18, 1878 – Swan demonstrates lamp at Newcastle
Joseph Swan demonstrates his incandescent electric light bulb to an audience at the Newcastle Chemical Society, but it burns out after only a few minutes.
1878 – Cleveland Bridge
Cleveland Bridge Engineering Company Ltd is established at Darlington. The company will achieve fame as a builder of many great bridges throughout the world.
1878 – Bolckow dies
Ironmaster Henry Bolckow dies. He was Middlesbrough’s first mayor and its first MP in 1868. With his business partner John Vaughan, Bolckow had instigated the development and rapid growth of the town through the establishment of the iron industry.
Jan 19, 1879 – Swan demonstrates lamp at Sunderland
Joseph Swan demonstrates his incandescent electric light bulb during a lecture to an audience at the Athenaeum in Fawcett Street, Sunderland.
1879 – Swan Hunter Shipbuilding
The Wallsend shipbuilder Charles Sheridan Swan dies in an accident during a trip from Calais to Dover. His widow goes into partnership with a Sunderland shipbuilder called George Burton Hunter. Swan Hunter will become the most famous name in North East shipbuilding.
1879 – Linthorpe Pottery
The award-winning but short-lived Linthorpe Pottery is established by noted designer and Orientalist, Christopher Dresser in Linthorpe, Middlesbrough.
1879 – Ex-US President visits Sunderland
Former US President Ullyses Grant visits Sunderland and opens the Central Museum with its winter gardens and neighbouring Library.
1879 – Sunderland railway bridge
A railway bridge is built across the River Wear alongside the famous Wearmouth Bridge.
1879 – New Steel methods
A new steel-making method (the Gilchrist-Thomas process), developed in 1877, is adopted on Teesside. This new process enables the use of local Cleveland iron ore that has a high phosphorous content and is a great boost to Middlesbrough’s steel industry. Ore had previously been imported from Spain.
1879 – Gums and pastilles from York
York chocolate manufacturers Rowntree & Co diversify into gums and pastilles.
Oct 1879 – Sunderland Football Club formed
A meeting of teachers at the British Day School (now the Norfolk Hotel) in the Sunniside area of Sunderland sees the formation of Sunderland AFC, ‘the Sunderland and District Teachers Association Football Club’, headed by Scottish schoolmaster James Allan, the club’s founder, who will also play for the club. The club play at Blue House Field, in the Hendon area of Sunderland.
Dec 1879 – Edison demonstrates lamps
American inventor Thomas Edison demonstrates an electric lamp similar to that pioneered by Joseph Swan.
Dec 1879 – Salvation Army Band
Consett becomes the first town in the world to form a Salvation Army Band.
1880 – Skinningrove Steelworks
A steelworks is established at Skinningrove on the Cleveland coast.
1880 – Last wooden ship
Sunderland builds its last wooden ship. By this time iron ships have long since taken over from Sunderland’s original wooden shipbuilding trade.
1880 – Fish Market
The Fish Market building opens on Newcastle quayside.
Sep 8, 1880 – Seaham pit kills 164 men
One hundred and sixty-four lives are lost in a mine explosion at Seaham Colliery on the County Durham coast. The explosion also took the lives of 181 pit ponies. Eleven years ago the colliery had suffered a similar explosion.
Oct 20, 1880 – Swan replaces gas with electricity
Joseph Swan once again demonstrates his incandescent electric light bulb, this time at the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society. In front of an eminent audience, he has 70 gas jets turned down and their light immediately replaced by 20 electric bulbs.
1880 – Swan lamps at Cragside
Sir William Armstrong has installed Swan’s light bulbs in his house at Cragside near Rothbury in Northumberland.
1880 – Edison threatens to sue Swan
Thomas Edison has threatened to take Joseph Swan to court over an alleged infringement of patent in the development of a successful electrical light bulb, but it becomes clear that the two inventors have coincidentally made their developments at the same time.
1881 – Northumberland Plate at Gosforth
The Northumberland Plate horse race, previously held on the Town Moor is held at Gosforth Park.
1881 – Benwell lamps
A company is formed at Benwell for the manufacture of Joseph Swan’s newly-patented electric lamps. It is thought to be the world’s first light bulb factory.
Mar 23, 1882 – Fenwick Store Newcastle
John James Fenwick, born at Richmond in North Yorkshire and known as ‘JJ’ opens the Fenwick store in Newcastle’s Northumberland Street. Northumberland Street was described at this time as “quiet and unpretentious”.
June 3, 1882 – Newcastle becomes a city
The town of Newcastle becomes a city and the church of St Nicholas becomes a cathedral. The Anglican diocese of Newcastle came into being on May 23, covering Newcastle and the county of Northumberland which had formed the northern part of the Diocese of Durham.
Feb 16, 1882 – Trimdon Grange Colliery disaster
Seventy-four lives are lost in a mine explosion at Trimdon Grange. The tragedy will become the subject of a song by Tommy Armstrong the pitman poet of Tanfield Lea. It begins:
Let us not think of tomorrow,
Lest we disappointed be;
All our joys may turn to sorrow,
As we all may daily see.
Today we may be strong and healthy,
But how soon there comes a change
As we may learn from the explosion.
That has been at Trimdon Grange.
Apr 18, 1882 – Tudhoe Colliery disaster
Thirty-seven lives are lost in a mine explosion at Tudhoe near Spennymoor in County Durham.
1882 – Boro move to Linthorpe Road
1882 – Salt works
Bell Brothers establish a salt works at Port Clarence. They will be purchased by Brunner Mond in 1890.
1883 – Edison-Swan founded
The Edison & Swan United Electric Light Company is formed. The American inventor Thomas Edison has teamed up with Tyneside industrialist Swan after at first accusing Swan of copyright infringement. Both men developed an electric light at around the same time.
1883 – Newcastle electric works
JH Holmes opens an electrical works at Portland Road Newcastle.
1883 – New home for Dame Allan’s Schools
The new Dame Allan’s Schoolbuilding opens in College Street, Newcastle. The school, founded in 1705 was originally located near St Nicholas church and its other previous homes have been Manor Chare, Carliol Square, Rosemary Lane and Hanover Square. The school will relocate to Fenham in 1935.
1883 – Armstrong gives Jesmond Dene to Newcastle
Lord Armstrong has given Jesmond Dene to the new city of Newcastle. It was part of his town centre estate.
Jun 16, 1883 – Theatre disaster : 183 children dead
183 children die of suffocation at the Victoria Hall Theatre in Sunderland during a crush. About 2,000 youngsters attended this well-advertised variety performance event for children at the theatre which stood near Mowbray Park. The tragedy came about after the performers began throwing toys to the children in the lower tier of the theatre. Excited children in the upper gallery tried to make their way down the narrow stairway but were trapped by a door at the foot of the stairs that could only open inwards. Most of the children who died were around 7 to 8 years old, though the youngest were two girls aged three. 114 boys and 69 girls died in this unimaginable tragedy and over twenty families lost more than one child. One family lost four children.
1883 – Sunderland AFC move north of river
Sunderland Association Football Club move grounds to Horatio Street, Roker to the north of the River Wear for the beginning of the 1883-84 season. Since their foundation in 1879 they have played at three different grounds, all to the south of the River Wear: Blue House Field Hendon (1879-81), The Cedars Hendon (1881-82) and The Grove, Ashbrooke (1882-83).
1884 – Life Brigade
The Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade is established.
1884 – Electrical switch
J.H Holmes of Newcastle has manufactured the first quick break electrical switch.
1884 – Hancock Museum
The naturalists Albany and John Hancock open the Hancock Museum in Newcastle.
1884 – Marks and Spencer
Michael Marks opens a Penny Bazzar in Leeds, with everything priced at one penny. Marks, a Lithuanian Jew who had entered the country via Stockton-on-Tees, later establishes a partnership with a Mr Spencer in Wigan.
1884 – Saltburn Funicular
A funicular railway is opened that transports visitors back and forth from Saltburn town at the top of the cliff to the pier and beach below.
1884 – First steam turbine
Charles Algernon Parsons has patented the first steam turbine on Tyneside. Parsons, born in Ireland in 1854, is the youngest son of the Earl of Rosse and is a keen inventor. He currently works as a junior partner in the Tyneside firm of Clarke Chapman. Turbines allow wide-scale generation of electricity and Parsons will come to be known as ‘the man who invented the twentieth century’.
1884 – Albert Edward Dock
The Albert Edward Dock is established at North Shields. It will much later become the Royal Quays development.
1884 – Steel Ships by Swan Hunter
Swan Hunter shipbuilders of Wallsend commence building steel ships.
1884 – South Gare lighthouse
South Gare lighthouse, on the end of the South Gare at the mouth of the River Tees opens.
1884 – Cragside complete
Cragside House, with it vast estate near Rothbury has been completed by Norman Shaw for Lord Armstrong.
Mar 2, 1885 – Colliery disaster at Usworth
Forty-two lives are lost in a mine explosion at Usworth Colliery near Washington.
1885 – Berwick loses special status
Special references to Berwick upon Tweed in Acts of Parliament are abolished. For centuries Berwick had been specifically referred to in acts relating to the United Kingdom.
1885 – Roker pier
The construction of Roker Pier at the mouth of the River Wear commences and will serve as a breakwater to aid the navigation of ships into the river mouth. A second pier to the south will also be commenced but never completed due to the interruption of the First World War. Parts of the earlier piers, completed around 1750 remain in place and will come to be known as the Old North and South Piers.
1886 – West End move to St James’ Park
Newcastle West End Football Club (established by a local cricket club in 1882) move to their new home ground at St James’ Park. The Club Secretary, Tom Watson is instrumental in securing this site as a home venue for the team.
1886 – Sunderland AFC, Newcastle Road
Sunderland Association Football Club, who turned professional last year, move to a new football ground at Newcastle Road in the Monkwearmouth area of the town. The club, founded in 1879, has been located on this north side of the River Wear since 1883, playing at Horatio Street, Roker (1883-84) and Abbs Field, Fulwell (1884-86). Newcastle Road will be associated with their most successful spell.
1886 – Hawthorn Leslie
Leslie’s shipyard at Hebburn combines with the locomotive works of R & W Hawthorn of St Peter’s Newcastle.
Dec 2, 1886 – Elemore Colliery disaster
Twenty-eight lives are lost in a mine explosion at Elemore Colliery near Hetton-le-Hole.
1887 – College of Medicine moves
The University of Durham’s School of Medicine in Newcastle upon Tyne moves into a new building in Northumberland Road after its earlier leased premises off Neville Street were acquired by the North Eastern Railway. The University’s College of Science, whose neighbouring premises were also bought by the NER is relocating to land in the Barras Bridge area.
1887 – Darlington station
Bank Top station opens and becomes Darlington’s main station.
1888 – Sunderland Albion FC
On March 13, James Allan, who was the founder of Sunderland AFC back in 1879, falls out with the club and sets up a new club called Sunderland Albion FC. Albion play their matches at Hendon, south of the Wear where Sunderland AFC had once played. The original Sunderland are elected to the Football League while Albion join the ‘Football Alliance’ with teams like Nottingham Forest and Newton Heath (Manchester United).
Jan 1889 – Sunderland defeat Albion
In December 1888 and January 1889, brand new football club, Sunderland Albion play the original Sunderland in two ‘friendly’ games. Albion lose 2-0 and 3-2.
1889 – ‘The Nops’ : Ironopolis FC
A new, professional football club called Middlesbrough Ironopolis is formed in Middlesbrough by members of Middlesbrough FC after differences emerge in the club over whether they should turn professional. The new club, nicknamed ‘The Nops’ play at the Paradise Ground on the Ayresome Grange Estate. After the breakaway, Middlesbrough FC also decide to turn professional.
1889 – Parsons opens Heaton works
Parsons has opened his own works at Heaton, Newcastle for the manufacture of turbines.
1889 – Light company registered
The Newcastle and District Electric Light Company has been registered.
1889 – Hawks closes
Hawks or ‘Haaks’ engineering works closes in Gateshead (the Baltic Flour Mill will be built later on the site).
1890 – Fatfield Bridge
Fatfield Bridge (or Penshaw Bridge) is built across the River Wear near Washington. Nearby is the enigmatic site of Worm Hill, associated with the ancient legend of the Lambton Worm.
1890 – Arts and Crafts church at Jesmond
St George’s in Osborne Road, the impressive ‘arts and crafts’ church has been built at Jesmond.
1890 – Forth Banks power station
Newcastle’s Forth Banks Power Station has started work.
1890 – Sunderland join the league
Sunderland football club join the Football League of which there is currently only one division.
1891 – Smith’s Dock
The North Shields firm of Smith & Co has seen rapid growth of its business under the control of Eustace Smith who took control in the early 1880s. This year the firm is renamed the Smiths Dock Company Ltd .
1891 – Newcastle clubs lose to Albion
Sunderland Albion (the ‘other’ club in Sunderland) defeat Newcastle East End FC 3-0 at Heaton and Newcastle West End FC 3-0 at St James’ Park in two successive rounds of the FA Cup.
1892 – Sunderland champions, rivals disband
Sunderland AFC, managed by Newcastle-born Tom Watson, are Football League champions for the first time. It signals the demise of same-town rivals, Sunderland Albion, who they defeat in two friendlies during April. Sunderland Albion lose their ‘away’ game to Sunderland 6-0 and their home game 8-0. In August, Albion concede the ultimate defeat and disband.
1892 – ‘Nops’ and ‘Boro’ join forces
It’s all happening in North East football. Rival clubs Middlesbrough FC and Middlesbrough Ironopolis FC form an alliance to make a joint application to join the Football League but are turned down. The two clubs split again and Middlesbrough FC revert to amateur status.
Dec 1892 – Newcastle United FC
Newcastle United Football Club comes into being after Newcastle club East End FC’s recent move to St James’ Park, the former home of recently disbanded West End FC. The East End club, originally of Byker and established by Stanley Cricket Club there in 1881, had moved to Heaton in 1886. West End FC was also established by a cricket club (in 1882) and set up home at St James’ Park in May, 1886. ‘United’ is an appropriate term for a club that now represents both the eastern and western parts of the city. Newcastle United currently play in the Northern League.
1893 – Dunston Staiths
The North Eastern Railway’s Dunston Coal Staiths commence operation on the banks of the Tyne near Gateshead. The operation of a staith is straightforward. Trains laden with wagons of coal make their way along the length of the staith where the coal is offloaded via chutes into coal ships berthed alongside. Groups of men called ‘Teemers’ control the pouring of the coal into the ships, while men called ‘Trimmers’ keep the levels of coal even and stable within the vessels. It is dangerous work.
1893 – Sunderland champions again
Sunderland FC are champions for the second consecutive season. There are now two divisions in the league. Manchester club Newton Heath (Manchester United) finish bottom of Division One. Birmingham’s Small Heath (Birmingham City) are Division Two champions.
1893 – Newcastle United join Football League
Northern League side, Newcastle United join the Football League in Division Two at the start of the 1893-1894 season along with Woolwich Arsenal and Liverpool. Also joining Division Two is the Northern League side, Middlesbrough Ironopolis who had finished in first place in that league with Newcastle United as runners up. There are fifteen teams in Division Two and sixteen teams in Division One. Liverpool’s first ever league game in their history is away to Ironopolis at Middlesbrough which Liverpool win 0-2. Division Two of the Football League was established last season. North East club, Sunderland already play in Division One.
1894 – Ironopolis disband
After one season in Division Two of the Football League, Middlesbrough Ironopolis, who finished fourth from bottom are financially struggling and resign from the league. They subsequently disband. Newcastle United finish fourth, narrowly missing a chance of promotion. Liverpool are promoted as champions of Division Two. Meanwhile, in Division One, Sunderland finish second behind champions, Aston Villa.
1894 – Greatham Salt
1894 – Turbine Company
The Marine Steam Turbine Company is set up by Charles Parsons at Wallsend.
1894 – Armstrong buys Bamburgh Castle
Lord Armstrong has purchased Bamburgh Castle. Armstrong will carry out much renovation and restoration at the castle.
1894 – Rutherford College
The new Rutherford Memorial College in Newcastle’s Bath Lane, opens as a development from the earlier School of Science and Art founded by Dr John Hunter Rutherford in the city’s Corporation Street. Back in 1871, Dr Rutherford had previously established an elementary school in Bath Lane.
Sept 1894 – Game of three halves
Sunderland AFC play a ‘game of three halves’ in the opening home game of the 1894-95 season against Derby County. A reserve referee is used after appointed referee, Tom Kirkham, fails to arrive. At half time Sunderland are winning 3-0 when Kirkham turns up and offers Derby County the chance to restart the game, which they accept. It prolongs the agony for Derby as Sunderland win the game 8-0 or 11-0 if you include goals from the first of the three halves.
1894 – J Barbour & Sons
A new company called J Barbour & Sons, is established in South Shields at Number 5 Market Place, They initially specialise in importing oilcloth for fishermen.
1895 – Sunderland AFC champions again
Sunderland AFC are the Football League Division One champions for the third time. Last year they were runners up. Liverpool finish bottom and are relegated in their first season in Division One. Newcastle finish in tenth place in Division Two.
1895 – Burt Hall
Burt Hall is built in Northumberland Road, Newcastle upon Tyne for the Northumberland Miners’ Association. It is named from Thomas Burt, former general secretary of the association who was also an MP. He was the first former miner to become a Member of Parliament when he was elected to represent Morpeth in 1874.
1895 – Old Shire Hall
The Old Shire Hall is built in Durham as the home for Durham County Council.
1896 – Watson moves to Liverpool
Newcastle-born Tom Watson, the manager of Sunderland AFC whose team have been described by football league founder William McGregor as ‘The Team of All Talents’ leaves Sunderland to manage Liverpool. Watson, who was previously General Manager of Newcastle West End FC (for whom he was instrumental in the move to St James’ Park) also held that post at Newcastle East End. He will now establish Liverpool as a force in English football.
1896 – Women at University
The first women students are admitted to Durham University.
1896 – M&S ‘Penny Bazzar’
A Marks and Spencers ‘Penny Bazzar’ store opens in Newcastle’s Grainger Market.
Apr 13, 1896 – Colliery disaster at Willington
Twenty lives are lost in a mine explosion at the Brancepeth A Pit, near Willington, County Durham.
1897 – Tunstall Reservoir
The beautiful Tunstall Reservoir, two miles north of Wolsingham is in Weardale is constructed.
1897 – Armstrong Whitworth works
Armstrong’s works become Armstrong Whitworth & Co. The company achieves prominence in the manufacture of arms.
1897 – Middlesbrough Empire
Middlesbrough Empire opens as a ‘Palace of Varieties’ music hall.
1897 – Turbinia demonstration
The Turbinia vessel is demonstrated at the naval review at Spithead near the Isle of Wight. The Turbinia was built by the Wallsend steel firm of Brown and Hood for the engineer, Charles Algernon Parsons. Parsons more or less gate crashes the event with his vessel running circles around the naval fleet in a demonstration of its speed and agility which can’t fail to impress all those present.
1898 – Smallpox
Smallpox is spreading throughout the North. It kills 202 people in Middlesbrough.
1898 – Electricity comes to town
Electric lighting is introduced to many towns in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This year, electric lighting came to Middlesbrough. Electric trams are also beginning to replace horse drawn trams in North East towns.
1898 – St Mary’s Lighthouse
A lighthouse is completed on St Mary’s Island near Whitley Bay. It was commenced in 1896.
1898 – Newcastle United in top tier
After finishing in second place in Division Two, Newcastle United are promoted to the top tier of English football for the first time in their history. The St James’ Park club, established in 1892 joined the Football League in 1893 and have finally reached the top-flight after five seasons in Division Two.
1898 – Sunderland move to Roker Park
Sunderland AFC move from their Newcastle Road Ground where they have played since 1886, winning three league titles, to a new ground at Roker Park. The ground opens on September 10 with a 1-0 victory over Liverpool in front of a 30,000 crowd.
1899 – Co-operative wholesale
A large red brick co-operative wholesale building opens in Newcastle. Much later it will become the home of the Discovery Museum.
1899 – Boro join the league
Middlesbrough football club reverts to professional status once again and joins Division Two of the Football League.
1899 – Easington Colliery
Easington Colliery opens near the Durham coast. By the end of the following century the pits near the Durham and Northumberland coast will form the dominant mining area of the region.
1899 – Middlesbrough Town Hall
Middlesbrough Town Hall opens. It supersedes an earlier much smaller town hall close to the riverside area.
Aug 15, 1900 – Police chase
The world’s first pursuit of a criminal by motor car takes place at Newcastle. A car is borrowed by a policeman who orders the driver to chase a drunken horse-rider. The chase lasts one mile.