North East England from 1828 to 1839

Ports and railways 1828 to 1839

One of the most remarkable North East events of the late 1820s was the birth of Middlesbrough. In 1829 Middlesbrough was a small riverside farm purchased by a Darlington businessman called Joseph Pease. Pease developed the farm into a town and coal port linked to the Stockton & Darlington Railway. During the next 70 years Middlesbrough would see one of the most extraordinary population explosions ever known in British history. Further north, the new town of Seaham Harbour was also born, Hartlepool was being transformed from a fishing community into one of Britain’s busiest ports. Meanwhile in Newcastle the region’s grandest streets were being constructed.

👈 1800-1828  | Timeline1840-1878 👉

Grey Street in the nineteenth century
Grey Street, Newcastle as it appeared in the late nineteenth century

Aug 2, 1828 – Middlesbrough surveyed

Darlington’s Quaker industrialist Joseph Pease has sailed up the River Tees to view the farmland site of Middlesbrough as the potential setting for a new port. This evening he records in his diary that he could see the day when “the bare fields will be covered with a busy multitude, and numerous vessels crowding to the banks denoting a busy seaport”. The intention is to build a new port called Port Darlington.

1828 – Clarence Railway go-ahead

The Clarence Railway gets permission to build a railway linking Port Clarence to Stockton and from there to Shildon and collieries further north. Port Clarence and the Clarence Railway are named after the Duke of Clarence who later becomes King William IV.

31 Oct, 1828 – Future inventor born

Joseph Swan, future pioneer of electric light is born at Pallion Hall near Sunderland.

Nov 28, 1828 – Harbour at Seaham

The first stone is laid for the new harbour at Seaham by the Marquess of Londonderry.

Harbour at Seaham viewed from the north
Harbour at Seaham viewed from the north © David Simpson

1829 – Middlesbrough born

Joseph Pease and Partners has bought the Middlesbrough farmland estate of William Chilton of Billingham from the tenant farmer John Whinfield Parrington. The land by the Tees will be used for the building of a new town. Middlesbrough currently has a population of only thirty people. The Stockton and Darlington Railway is currently being extended into Middlesbrough (it will reach it on December 27, 1830).

Old Town Hall, Middlesbrough
The Old Town Hall at the centre of a field is all that remains of the original town of Middlesbrough that was established by Joseph Pease © David Simpson

1829 – Steam ferry

A steam ferry service begins operating between South Shields and North Shields.

Shields Ferry viewed from South Shields
Today’s Shields Ferry as viewed from South Shields  © David Simpson

1829 – Rocket wins trial

George Stephenson’s Rocket is victorious at the Rainhill locomotive trials. A locomotive called Sans Pareil built by Timothy Hackworth, the Shildon-based Stockton and Darlington Railway engineer, is also entered for the trial but unfortunately breaks down. Hackworth will later become a successful locomotive builder in his own right.

June 26, 1830 – KING WILLIAM IV

William, Duke of Clarence, succeeds as King of Great Britain and Ireland following the death of his brother, King George IV. He is the first ruling monarch in the country not to be called George since 1714.

Aug 1830 – Colliery disaster at Jarrow

Forty-two lives are lost in a colliery explosion at Jarrow.

1830 – Losh Brothers soda

Losh brothers of Walker, a chemical business begin the manufacture of bleaching powder.

1830 – Second Tees short cut

A second short cut for the River Tees, this time of 1,100 yards (following an earlier one of 220 yards made at nearby Mandale in 1810) is created across a looping meander of the river. The short canal is made at Portrack near Stockton and stretches from Blue House Point to Newport. Until now Portrack has been situated on a hazardous meander of the Tees where large ships had to be tugged by men or horses towards the port of Stockton. This is called ‘racking’ and is the reason Port-rack acquired its name. The two cuts in the Tees have resulted in the creation of two isolated man-made ox-bow lakes to the north and south of the new course of the Tees. The Portrack lake is to the north of the river.

1831 – Middlesbrough population : 154

On August 22, 1830, John Richardson Chapman was the first child to be born in the new town of Middlesbrough but Middlesbrough’s population of 154 in the 1831 census is still tiny compared to the population of neighbouring Stockton on the north side of the river where 7,000 people live.

Stockton - Middlesbrough
Stockton was home to 7,000 people in 1831 when Middlesbrough was home to only 154 © David Simpson

1831 – Government reform : New MPs

The Northumbrian-born Government minister Earl Grey introduces a Government reform bill which creates many new MPs. Sunderland, Gateshead, South Shields and Tynemouth elect MPs for the first time.

Grey's Monument, Newcastle
Monument to Earl Grey, Newcastle © David Simpson.

1831 – Middlesbrough booms

In January William Fallows, who has organised the shipping of coal from Middlesbrough staiths, made the first shipment of coal in his ship called The Sunnyside. At the end of the year 151,000 tons of coal has been shipped from the new port.

1831 – Big plans for Hartlepool

The Hartlepool Dock and Railway Company has been established at the instigation of Christopher Tennant of Yarm and Rowland Burdon of Castle Eden. The two businessmen want to develop the old fishing community into a busy coal port.

1831 – Pottery production

Middlesbrough Pottery starts up.

July 25, 1831 – Seaham Coal

The first coal is shipped from Seaham Harbour by The Lord Seaham collier brig.

Seaham Harbour © David  Simpson ©

1831 – Cholera enters Sunderland

A major cholera epidemic sweeps the country after entering the country via the port of Sunderland. One of the first to die is the Sunderland naval hero Jack Crawford but the very first fatality in the country is a 12 year old girl who lived near the River Wear, called Izabella Hazard.

1831 – Benwell Tower

Benwell Tower is built in Tudoresque style to the west of Newcastle (in much later times it would feature prominently in a TV series called Byker Grove).

1831 – Anderson of Anderson Place

George Anderson, the owner of Anderson place, a prominent mansion in Newcastle has died. Around 1834 his house will be demolished and its land developed by builder Richard Grainger and architect John Dobson for the construction of some of Newcastle’s finest streets with the funding of the extraordinarily wealthy Town Clerk and Solicitor, John Clayton.

Richard Grainger

May 12, 1832 – Newcastle Journal

The Newcastle Journal newspaper is established, initially as a weekly newspaper published on Saturdays.

Jul 4, 1832 – Durham University

Durham University is established by Act of Parliament and will open in October 1833. It is the first recognised university to be established in England for six centuries, where up until now there had only been universities at Oxford and Cambridge.

1832 – Miners’ strike crushed

A coalfield strike organised by union leader Thomas Hepburn is crushed by the resolute mine owners after the miners struggle to survive without work.

Thomas Hepburn
Thomas Hepburn

1832 – Jobling’s Gibbet

The body of miner William Jobling of South Shields was left hanging in a cage over Jarrow slake where it was daily submerged by high tides. He had been hanged for his part in the attack on a 71 year old magistrate. The practice of gibbeting was outlawed in 1834.

The River Don enters the Tyne at Jarrow
The River Don enters the Tyne at Jarrow. The Nissan car distribution port (top right) occupies much of the site of the slake © David Simpson

1832 – Royal Arcade

This year has seen the completion of John Dobson’s fine Royal Arcade in the Mosley Street-Pilgrim Street area of Newcastle. It is built in similar style to the Royal Opera Arcade of John Nash in London (sadly, Dobson’s arcade will ultimately fall victim to Newcastle’s central motorway and Swan House development in the 1960s).

May 9, 1833 – Springwell pit disaster

Forty-seven lives are lost in a mine explosion at the Springwell B Pit near Gateshead.

1833 – Town Moor Racing

Newcastle’s Town Moor hosts the Northumberland Plate horserace.

1833 – Teesside’s first chemical works

Robert Wilson of Yarm begins manufacturing sulphuric acid and fertilisers at Urlay Nook, near Egglescliffe.

1833 – Friar’s Goose chimney

England’s tallest chimney has been completed at the Friar’s Goose alkali works near Gateshead to drive away the fumes of noxious hydrochloric acid. At this time Tyneside was the heart of the nation’s chemical works.

1833 – Monastery site discovered

A cemetery is discovered at Hartlepool. It is thought to be that of the Anglo-Saxon monastery of St Hilda.

View of the Headland at Old Hartlepool from Seaton Carew
View of the Headland at Old Hartlepool from Seaton Carew © David Simpson

1833 – Middlesbrough’s first ship

Mr Laing opens a shipyard in the newly-born town of Middlesbrough. The first ship launched is The Middlesbro.

1833 – Clarence Railway

The Clarence Railway opens. It is linked to Clarence Staithes at Billingham-on-Tees.

1834 – School of Medicine

The School of Medicine and Surgery has been established in Newcastle upon Tyne. It is initially situated near the south end of Pilgrim Street, though the college’s home here will be demolished to make way for the viaduct to Manors Station in 1851.

1834 – Windmill Hills

1834, Mckenzies’ History of Durham records that the Windmill Hills at Gateshead are studded with corn mills that “impart a lively and picturesque effect to the landscape”.

1834 – Surtees Society

The Surtees Society is established to continue the work of the Durham historian, Robert Surtees (1779-1834) through the publication of historical manuscripts relating to Northumberland, Durham and the North Riding of Yorkshire.

Jan 7, 1834 – Miller death tragedy

William Wren, the miller at Fulwell windmill near Sunderland is swept to his death while trying to repair a sail on the mill. The rope that secured him snapped and he clung to one of the sails but a strong gust of wind gave the sail three turns before flinging Wren to his death.

Fulwell windmill, Sunderland
Fulwell windmill, Sunderland © David Simpson

1834 – Middlesbrough ship launched

The Otnaburgh is launched by boat builder JG Holmes at Middlesbrough.

1835 – Hartlepool ships coal

Hartlepool Dock opens and starts shipping coal from its newly-deepened harbour at Old Hartlepool. The first vessel to do this is The Britannia owned by leading citizen and historian of Hartlepool, Sir Cuthbert Sharp.

1835 – Shipyard established

Thomas Richardson of Castle Eden and John Parkin of Sunderland establish a shipyard near the High Street in Old Hartlepool. The first ship built is The Castle Eden.

June 18, 1835 – Wallsend pit : 102 dead

The lives of 102 men and boys are taken in an explosion at Wallsend Colliery.

Excavated remains of Wallsend Colliery
Excavated remains of Wallsend Colliery’s B Pit near Segedunum Roman fort © David Simpson

Oct 1835 – Grainger Market

The indoor Grainger Market opens in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Jan 28, 1836 – Pit disaster at Hetton

Twenty-two lives are lost in a mine explosion at Hetton Downs Colliery, Hetton-le-Hole.

1836 – Locomotive works

Michael Longridge opens his own locomotive works at Bedlington. His first locomotive is modestly called Michael Longridge and built for the Stanhope and Tyne Railway.

1836 – Brandling Junction Railway

The Brandling Junction Railway opens at Felling.

1836 – Sunderland glass

James Hartley opens a glass works in Sunderland, the biggest in the country.

1836 – University gains Durham Castle

The remaining privileges and revenues held by the Prince Bishops of Durham are abolished. The Bishop of Durham’s castle at Durham is passed to the University of Durham (established in 1832) according to an agreement made by Bishop William Van MIldert. Van Mildert, who died on the 21st February 1936 at Auckland Castle, was technically the last ‘Prince Bishop’ of Durham.

Castle keep Durham.
Castle keep Durham © David Simpson

June 20, 1837 – QUEEN VICTORIA

Following the death of her uncle, King William IV, Queen Victoria ascends to the throne. The Victorian era commences and the Georgian era comes to a close. The Queen’s coronation will take place on June 28 in 1838.

1837 – Iron ore at Consett

Iron ore is found at Consett, creating the potential for a major industrial development here.

1837 – Hedworth’s Bath Tub

Sunderland’s North Dock opens to the north of the River Wear. It had been proposed to make a much larger dock to the south of the river but Hedworth Williamson MP who owned the land north of the river persuaded parliament that it should be built on his side of the Wear. The dock is soon seen as small and unsuitable and christened ‘Hedworth’s Bath Tub’.

Sunderland Marina
Sunderland Marina, formerly the North Dock © David Simpson

1837 – Vaux Breweries

Cuthbert Vaux opens his own brewery in Sunderland, although he had been a brewer in the town since 1806, initially working in partnership with a William Storey.

1837 – Washington Chemical Works

An alkali works is established in Washington which utilises the local supply of Magnesian limestone.

1837 – Hexham in Durham Diocese

The area known as Hexhamshire centred on the town of Hexham is transferred from the Diocese of York to the Diocese of Durham  for ecclesiastical purposes. The county of Northumberland is currently in the Diocese of Durham but Hexhamshire is a peculiarity as it only became part Northumberland in 1572, having previously been an independent liberty belonging to the Archbishops of York. See also 1071, 1100 and 1572.

Hexham Abbey
Hexham Abbey © David Simpson

1837 – Locomotive for Russia

Shildon-based engineer Timothy Hackworth provides the locomotive for the first public railway in Russia, though there had been an earlier industrial railway in that country.

1837 – More Hartlepool plans

Christopher Tennant gains an Act of Parliament for ‘The Great North of England Clarence and Hartlepool Junction Railway’. He has plans to further develop Hartlepool as a port.

1837 – Amble Harbour

A harbour is constructed at Amble in Northumberland. Amble will serve as a small coal port.

Harbour, river mouth Amble
Harbour, river mouth Amble © David Simpson

Sep 5, 1837 – Polish count

The tiny 3 feet 3 inches tall Polish ‘Count’ Joseph Boruwlaski, an entertainer and socialite has died in Durham at the grand old age of ninety seven.

Dec 6, 1837 – Pit disaster at Springwell

Twenty-seven lives are lost in a mine explosion at Springwell Colliery near Gateshead.

1838 – Middlesbrough’s first school

Middlesbrough’s first school opens in Stockton Street with 120 boys and 100 girls.

1838 – Railways expanding

The Stanhope and Tynedale Railway was completed in 1834 linking limestone mines near Stanhope in Weardale to South Shields via Hownes Gill near Consett. Recently, the Sunderland and Durham Railway opened in 1836 and this year Newcastle and Carlisle were linked by rail.

1838 – Ridsdale iron

Ridsdale village (in Redesdale, Northumberland), is built to house workers of an iron works and foundry founded by the Chesterhope Iron Company. In the 1840s Robert Stephenson will use Ridsdale iron to construct Newcastle’s High Level Bridge.

Remains of Ridsdale iron works
Remains of Ridsdale iron works © David Simpson

1838 – Ship engines from Hartlepool

The building of ships’ engines begins at Hartlepool.

1838 – Newcastle Theatre Royal

Newcastle’s new Theatre Royal opens in Grey Street. It is designed by architects John and Benjamin Green. There was an earlier Theatre Royal of 1788 in Mosley Street.

Theatre Royal, Grey Street, Newcastle
Theatre Royal, Grey Street, Newcastle © David Simpson

Sept 7, 1838 – Grace Darling rescue

Lighthouse keeper’s daughter Grace Darling rescues survivors from the wreck of The Forfarshire off the Farne Islands. Grace who resides in the lighthouse on the island of Longstone becomes famous overnight, receiving offers of marriage and even has a play written about her. Sadly, it is perhaps all too much for Grace and she will die of consumption in 1842.

The Farne Islands
The Farne Islands, showing the red and white lighthouse of Longstone in the distance on the right and the white lighthouse of Inner Farne © David Simpson

1839 – Newcastle development

From 1835 a new town centre is developed in Newcastle. Builder Richard Grainger and architect John Dobson build in grand classical style on the site of gardens that were formerly part of the Anderson Place country estate. Developments take place to the north and east of the existing, largely medieval town and include the Grainger Market, Royal Arcade, Grey Street, Grainger Street and Clayton Street. The developments are backed financially by the wealthy town clerk, John Clayton. They will reinforce Newcastle’s status as the region’s principal town.

1839 – Durham Report on Canada

John George Lambton, Earl of Durham and the new Governor General of Canada, compiles the Durham Report laying down the future of Canada as an independent country.

Radical Jack
John George Lambton, First Earl of Durham

28 Jun, 1839 – Pit tragedy

Fifty-one lives are lost in a mine explosion at St Hilda’s Colliery in South Shields.

1839 – Italy’s first locomotive

Italy’s first locomotive, The Bayard is manufactured at Bedlington Locomotive works. They also build the first locomotive to operate a passenger service in Holland this year.

1839 – Smith’s ship at North Shields

Smith & Co build a ship at North Shields called Kestrel, the first of more than 130 ships they will build here up until the 1890s when the firm will change their company name to Smith’s Dock Company Ltd.

1839 – Durham coal from Hartlepool

County Durham’s Cornforth and Garmondsway Moor Collieries begin shipping coal at Hartlepool. A new railway is built called the Stockton and Hartlepool Railway linking Hartlepool with the coalfield. Instigated by Christopher Tennant who died before its completion, the railway is taken over by Stockton solicitor, Ralph Ward Jackson who will go on to develop the town and port of West Hartlepool.

West Hartlepool viewed from the Headland of Old Hartlepool
West Hartlepool viewed from the Headland of Old Hartlepool © David Simpson

👈 1800-1828 | 1840-1878 👉


Coal Mining and Railways | Shipbuilding | Chemicals and Glass 

Home |

North East England History and Culture