Light, Leisure and Football 1878-1900

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.

👈 1840-1878 | Timeline | 1901-1919 👉

Cragside near Rothbury, Northumberland © David Simpson

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.

Underhill, Gateshead
Underhill (now a care home), Gateshead © David Simpson

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.

Sir William Armstrong

1878 – Chester-le-sweet-treats

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.

Pottery, Bardon Mill
Pottery, Bardon Mill © David Simpson

Dec 18, 1878 – Swan 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.

Joseph Swan
Joseph Swan

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.

Henry Bolckow statue, Exchange Square, Middlesbrough
Henry Bolckow statue in Exchange Square, Middlesbrough © David Simpson

Jan 19, 1879 – Swan 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-President at Sunderland

Former US President Ullyses Grant visits Sunderland and opens the Central Museum with its winter gardens and neighbouring Library.

Sunderland Museum
Sunderland Museum © David Simpson

1879 – Sunderland railway bridge

A railway bridge is built across the River Wear alongside the famous Wearmouth Bridge.

Railway bridge, Sunderland
Railway bridge, Sunderland © David Simpson

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

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.

Sunderland AFC foundation plaque, Norfolk Street
Sunderland AFC foundation plaque, Norfolk Street © David Simpson

Dec 1879 – Edison 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.

Old Fish Market, Riverside music venue Newcastle
Old Fish Market, the riverside Newcastle © David Simpson

Sep 8, 1880 – Seaham pit : 164 dead

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 – Light at Lit and Phil

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.

Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle
Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne © David Simpson

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 threat to 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 – Gosforth Northumberland Plate

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

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 – The City of Newcastle

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.

St Nicholas Cathedral Newcastle
Cathedral of St Nicholas., Newcastle © David Simpson

Feb 16, 1882 – Trimdon Grange 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.

Trimdon Grange memorial, Kelloe
Trimdon Grange memorial at Kelloe churchyard © David Simpson

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

Middlesbrough Football Club move to a new ground at Linthorpe Road. Formed in 1876, the club had previously played at Archery Ground, Albert Park and at Breckon Hill, Longlands.

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’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.

Former Dame Allan's Chools building, College Street Newcastle
Former Dame Allan’s Chools building, College Street Newcastle © David Simpson

1883 – Jesmond Dene for the city

Lord Armstrong has given Jesmond Dene to the new city of Newcastle. It was part of his town centre estate.

Jesmond Dene, bridge and Armstrong's Banqueting House
Jesmond Dene, bridge and Armstrong’s Banqueting House © David Simpson

Jun 16, 1883 – Crush kills 183 children

A terrible tragedy occurs in North East England in which 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.

Memorial to the Victoria Hall tragedy Sunderland
Memorial to the Victoria Hall tragedy Mowbray Park  © David Simpson

1883 – Sunderland AFC move north

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.

Great North Museum, Newcastle
Great North Museum, Newcastle (formerly the Hancock Museum) © David Simpson

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.

Funicular railway, Saltburn
Funicular railway, Saltburn © David Simpson

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 – Swan Hunter steel ships

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.

South Gare lighthouse
South Gare lighthouse © David Simpson

1884 – Cragside complete

Cragside House, with it vast estate near Rothbury has been completed by Norman Shaw for Lord Armstrong.

Mar 2, 1885 – Usworth disaster

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.

Berwick upon Tweed and the Old Bridge
Berwick upon Tweed and the Old Bridge © David Simpson

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 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 at 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 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.

Sutherland Building and Trinity Building
Sutherland Building in Northumberland Road, Newcastle was home to Durham University’s School of Medicine from 1887 to 1937 © David Simpson

1887 – Darlington station

Bank Top station opens and becomes Darlington’s main station.

Darlington Bank Top Station
Darlington Bank Top Station © David Simpson

1887 – Sunderland AFC ‘Red and White’

Sunderland AFC adopt a team shirt featuring the famous red and white vertical stripes for the 1887-88 season. This season the shorts are white but will be superseded by dark shorts (usually black) starting in the 1888-1889 season (white shorts will be worn from 1961 to 1972). Before the 1887-88 season Sunderland had worn shirts of red and white halves with blue shorts. The team wore an all-blue kit at the time of their foundation. 

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).

Bllue Hpuse Field. Hendon, Sunderland
Sunderland Albion’s home ground was Blue House Field, Hendon which had been Sunderland AFC’s first ground © David Simpson

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.

May 1889 – Robson Boro manager

Durham-born Jack Robson is Middlesbrough FC’s first manager. He will later manager Crystal Palace (1905-1907); Brighton and Hove Albion (1908-1914) and Manchester United (194-1921).

1889 – Parsons opens Heaton works

Parsons has opened his own works at Heaton, Newcastle for the manufacture of turbines.

Aug 1889 – Watson Sunderland manager

Tynesider, Tom Watson, formerly of Newcastle West End and Newcastle East End FC becomes manager of Sunderland. He will be one of the most successful managers in the early history of football.

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.

Fatfield Bridge © David Simpson

1890 – Jesmond Arts and Crafts church

St George’s in Osborne Road, the impressive ‘arts and crafts’ church has been built at Jesmond.

St George's church, Jesmond
St George’s church, Jesmond © David Simpson

1890 – Forth Banks power station

Newcastle’s Forth Banks Power Station has started work.

1890 – Sunderland join league

Sunderland football club join the Football League of which there is currently only one division. Now professional, the club’s manager is Tom Watson, formerly of Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End football clubs.

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 champs : 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. The club’s first (unofficial) manager is Scotsman, Frank Watt, a former referee.

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.

Dunston Staithes and Tyne
Dunston Staithes and Tyne river basin  © David Simpson

1893 – Sunderland champions again

Sunderland AFC 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 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

The Greatham Salt and Brine Company is established by George Weddell. Greatham, which is near Hartlepool was noted for its salt back in medieval times.

1894 – Turbine Company

The Marine Steam Turbine Company is set up by Charles Parsons at Wallsend.

Charles Algernon Parsons

1894 – Armstrong’s Bamburgh Castle

Lord Armstrong has purchased Bamburgh Castle. Armstrong will carry out much renovation and restoration at the castle.

Bamburgh Castle sitting on its imposing whin sill crag
Bamburgh Castle sitting on its imposing whin sill crag © David Simpson

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.

1894 – NUFC are ‘Black and White’

Newcastle United adopt the famous black and white jersey for the 1894-95 season. At the time of their formation in 1892 they had played in red shirts and white shorts (knickerbockers) that were previously the colours of Newcastle East End FC in their final season. The East End and West End clubs that preceded Newcastle United wore a variety of team colours during their short lives. West End FC’s colours, for example, included various red and black strips (in halves, quarters and horizontal stripes). Newcastle East End FC’s colours included red and white halves and a blue shirt with white shorts.

Sept 1894 – SAFC : 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.

Company founder, John Barbour

1895 – Sunderland 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.

Former Old Shire Hall
Former Old Shire Hall (now Hotel Indigo) © David Simpson

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. Scotsman, Robert Campbell becomes Sunderland’s second manager.

Tom Watson

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.

Marks and Spencer Penny Bazaar, Grainger Market, Newcastle
Marks and Spencer Penny Bazaar, Grainger Market, Newcastle © David Simpson

Apr 13, 1896 – Willington disaster

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.

Tunstall Reservoir.
Tunstall Reservoir © David Simpson

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.

Middlesbrough Empire
Middlesbrough Empire © David Simpson

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.

Charles Algernon Parsons

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.

St Mary's Island near Whitley Bay.
St Mary’s Island near Whitley Bay © David Simpson

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 – Red Boro join the league

Middlesbrough Football Club, established in 1876 and managed by Jack Robson, revert to professional status once again and join Division Two of the Football League. The club will adopt a red jersey (with white shorts) for the first time. Red shirts become the established team colour for the club. In previous seasons Boro had most recently played in white shirts with blue shorts. Earlier Boro strips included an all blue kit at the time of their foundation; a shirt of blue and black horizontal stripes and even a shirt of green and red halves.

Aug, 1899 – Sunderland manager Mackie

Bob Campbell departs as Sunderland manager to manage Bristol City (he will later become the first manager of Bradford City). Campbell is succeeded at Sunderland by another Scotsman, Alex Mackie.

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.

Middlesbrough Town Hall
Middlesbrough Town Hall © David Simpson

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.

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