Nineteenth Century New Towns 1828 to 1839

New Towns of the North East 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. 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.

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

Aug 2 1828 – Pease surveys Middlesbrough

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”.

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.

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 2021

1829 – Middlesbrough is 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 30 people. The Stockton and Darlington Railway is currently being extended into Middlesbrough (it will reach it on December 27, 1830).

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

1829 – Steam ferry

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

June 26 1830 – KING WILLIAM IV

William, Duke of Clarence, succeeds as king following the death of his brother, King George IV

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.

Aug 22 1830 Middlesbrough’s first child

John Richardson Chapman is the first child to be born in the new town of Middlesbrough.

1830 – Second Tees short cut

A second cut of 1,100 yards has been made across a loop in the River Tees. This canal has been made at Portrack near Stockton and stretches from Blue House Point to Newport. Portrack is situated on a hazardous meander on 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 ox-bow lakes

1831 – Middlesbrough’s population is 154

Middlesbrough’s population is 154, tiny compared to the population of neighbouring Stockton on the north side of the river where 7,000 people live.

Grey's Monument, Newcastle
Monument to Earl Grey, Newcastle : Photo © 2015 David Simpson.

1831 – New members under government reforms

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.

1831 – Middlesbrough booms

In January William Fallows, who has organised the shipping of coal from Middlesbrough staithes, 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.

Seaham Harbour Photo David Simpson © 2018

July 25 1831 – Seaham Coal

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

1831 – Cholera enters country at 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 was 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).

Richard Grainger

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.

Thomas Hepburn
Thomas Hepburn

1832 – Miners’ strike crushed

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

William Jobling

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.

May 9 1833 – Colliery disaster at Springwell

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. 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.

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

Newcastle School of Medicine is established.

1834 – Windmill Hills

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

Fulwell windmill, Sunderland
Fulwell windmill, Sunderland. Photo © David Simpson

Jan 7 1834 – Miller killed in freak accident

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.

1834 – Middlesbrough ship launched

The Otnaburgh is launched by boat builder JG Holmes.

1835 – Hartlepool ships coal

Hartlepool Dock opens and starts shipping coal from its newly-deepened harbour. 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.

Excavated remains of Wallsend Colliery
Excavated remains of Wallsend Colliery’s B Pit near Segedunum Roman fort. Photo © David Simpson 2018

June 18 1835 – Wallsend Colliery : 102 dead

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

Jan 28 1836 – Colliery disaster at Hetton

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

1836 – Bedlington locos

Michael Longridge opens a locomotive works at Bedlington.

1836 – Brandling Junction Railway

The Brandling Junction Railway opens at Felling.

1836 – Sunderland glass

James Hartley opens a glass works in Sunderland.

Durham Castle north wing
Durham Castle north wing – part of Durham University. Photo David Simpson

1836 – Durham University gain 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.

June 20 1837 – QUEEN VICTORIA

Following the death of her uncle, King William IV, Queen Victoria ascends to the throne. The Victorian age 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.

Sir Hedworth Williamson
Sir Hedworth Williamson
Sunderland Marina
Sunderland Marina, formerly North Dock or  ‘Hedworth’s Bath Tub’ Photo © David Simpson

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’.

Dec 6 1837 – Colliery disaster at Springwell

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

1837 – Washington Chemical Works

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

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.

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. Photo © David Simpson 2015

Sept 7 1838 – The 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.

1838 – Middlesbrough’s first school

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

1838 – Railways expand

The Stanhope and Tynedale Railway is completed in 1834 linking Weardale, Consett and South Shields. The Sunderland and Durham Railway opens in 1836. Newcastle and Carlisle are linked by rail in 1838.

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

Grey Street
Grey Street : Photo © 2015 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.

Radical Jack
John George Lambton, First Earl of Durham

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.

28 Jun 1839 – Colliery disaster at South Shields

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 – 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.

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