Yarm was, Stockton is, Middlesbrough will be

– An old North Eastern Proverb

Please note: Middlesbrough is no longer considered part of Yorkshire. However, it was originally part of the Three Yorkshire Ridings.

Middlesbrough is a town and industrial port that lies to the south of the River Tees. According to the 2011 census, it has a population of around 138,000.

Up until 1974, Middlesbrough was considered to be part of Yorkshire. The town is famous for being the most rapidly expanding town in the country due to its industry.

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The Transporter Bridge

The Transporter Bridge is one of the most famous Teesside landmarks and symbols of its industrial heritage. It’s located at Port Clarence.

In 1911, the bridge opened. It’s 260 metres long which makes it one of the longest transporter bridges in the world. In total, there are only eleven remaining crossings of this kind in the world and two of these can be found in the UK.


The gondola, which swings to each side, can carry 200 people, 9 cars or one minibus in two minutes to Port Clarence. There is also an accompanying visitor centre which has been upgraded.

The Transporter Bridge was featured on an episode of “Auf Wiedersehen Pet”. It was dismantled and taken across the Atlantic to be rebuilt at the Grand Canyon.

The Middlesbrough transporter gondola in 1931. Picture credit. Wikipedia public domain.
The Middlesbrough transporter gondola in 1931. Picture credit. Wikipedia public domain.

Museums & Galleries in Middlesbrough

In 1904, the Dorman Museum was established. It was named after industrialist Alfred Dorman and his son George. Originally, it started out as mainly a natural history museum. Since then, diverse artefacts have been added.

Visitors can explore eight permanent displays. These show archaeology found in the area, town archives, costumes, natural history, and botanical collections. There are also exhibitions and family events which take place throughout the year.

The Middlesbrough Institute for Modern Art, also known as (MIMA) opened in 2007. It’s one of the country’s leading galleries of its kind.

There are several exhibitions featuring works from many well known artists which includes David Hockney, Salvador Dali, and L.S Lowry. The gallery also hosts extensive displays of 20th century ceramics and jewellery. These is also a shop, cafe, and learning facilities.

Middlesbrough is also home to the Captain Cook birthplace museum in Marton. This opened in October 1978.

It charts the life of the famous explorer plus his contribution to world geography. The attraction hosts a number of displays showing artefacts from his several voyages to Australia, New Zealand, North America, and the Pacific Islands.

There are also exhibitions dedicated to the wildlife he would have seen and includes the Niu treasures from the Pacific which are on display. The museum also runs several related events and exhibitions throughout the year.

Parks in Middlesbrough

Surrounding the Captain Cook museum is Stewart Park, a 120-acre site which contains two lakes, arboretum, outdoor ball games, and nature trails. The greenspace has a long history and is said to be built on the lost village of East Marton.

Originally, the area belonged to a major industrialist and the first mayor of the town Henry Bolckow. He lived at Marton Hall and landscaped the park himself. It was eventually given to the people of Middlesbrough in 1928. 

Each year, the area hosts the annual Cleveland show. This features animal competitions, show jumping, bird of prey, stalls, and children’s entertainment.

Albert Park is a 30-hectare park located in the centre of the town. It opened in 1868 and has several facilities including a visitors centre, roller skate rink, cafe, tennis courts, and bowling green.

There are also several monuments across the park. These include one of the late Brian Clough, a South African war memorial, and a carving depicting Captain Cook’s voyages.

Albert Park also has other important features. There’s a fountain, lake, and a sundial which allows visitors to tell the time in London, New York, and Melbourne.

Ormesby Hall and Gardens is an 18th century mansion. For the past 400 years it has been the home of the Pennyman family. There is also a park, wildlife garden, and art collection. Visitors can also visit the Roseberry ceramics exhibition.

Theatres & Live Venues in Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough is home to two theatres. These are Middlesbrough Theatre, and Middlesbrough Little Theatre.

The largest of the two, Middlesbrough Theatre, takes its name after the town. In 1957 it was opened by Sir John Gielgud. Middlesbrough Theatre was opened in 1957 by Sir John Gielgud.It has a varied programme of plays, opera, comedy, and dance shows.

The Middlesbrough Little Theatre is a youth production group. It was founded in 2003 and stages various shows throughout the year at this smaller venue.

Built in 1897, The Empire is the town’s old music hall. After the variety shows ended in the 1960’s, it became derelict and was eventually bought in 1991. Since then it has hosted top name DJ’s and rock bands.

Another live venue is Doctor Browns which focuses on local talent. It’s here that live bands and comedians are featured throughout the week.

Middlesbrough town hall also puts on a range of live events. These include top comedians, musicians, and children’s shows.

Middlesbrough Nightlife

In the town centre there are also numerous bars, pubs, and clubs. These include The Keys, Kalinka, and The Basement. After a good night out in Middlesbrough, many people choose to enjoy a “parmo”. This is a local delicacy made of deep fried chicken which is covered with melted cheese.

Education in Middlesbrough

Teesside University was built in 1930. It was an institution which originated from the Constantine Technical College. In 1969, it expanded to become a polytechnic and then, in 1992, it achieved full university status and was renamed University of Teesside. The university changed its name again in 2009 to the current one, Teesside University.

Four years later, Teesside University had a total of 21,830 students studying a range of courses. The courses included traditional subjects along with art, engineering, computer animation, and forensic science to name a few.

In total, the institution has five research areas. These are digital media, technology, the arts, healthcare, and social issues.

Sport in Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough prides itself on football. The club was formed when the town’s cricket team wanted to stay fit throughout the winter months.

In 1889, the club made its debut in the football league. This was played alongside town rivals Middlesbrough Ironapolis which folded in 1894.

The team played their home games at Ayresome Park until 1995. Much like they’ve always done, they yo-yoed between the second and top tiers of English football.

In 1986, the club reached a crisis point. Current owner Steve Gibson, bought the football club with ten minutes to spare before it was due to fold.  The club soon recovered to become one of the founding clubs in the new 1992 Premier League. Three years later it relocated to the Riverside Stadium.

In 2006 they reached the UEFA cup final but lost 4-0 to Seville. Since being relegated from the Premier League in 2009, they have remained in the Championship ever since.

A new state of the art sports village opened in April 2015. It houses an athletics track, velodrome, gym, and sports hall amongst other facilities.

The statue of former player George Hardwick outside The Riverside stadium. PIcture credit: Peter Robinson geograph wikipedia creative commons.
The statue of former player George Hardwick outside The Riverside stadium. Picture credit: Peter Robinson geograph wikipedia creative commons.

Shopping in Middlesbrough

Shopping in Middlesbrough revolves around four main areas. These are The Cleveland Centre, Captain Cook Square, Hillstreet, and Dundas.

The Cleveland Centre is an indoor arcade and the largest shopping area in the town. It houses many top high street names and has recently undergone redevelopment.

Captain Cook Square is the newest shopping area housing twenty outlets around a central brick courtyard. The Hillstreet centre has a combination of major stores and independent retailers.

The Dundas is centrally located and offers a wide variety of shops complete with entertainment. Both Linthorpe and Corporation Road are pedestrianised streets which are also full of shops to explore.

Travelling In & Out of Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough is well linked to other places in Yorkshire. The A19 travels towards York and the A66 towards the A1. There’s also a link to the coastal towns of Whitby and Scarborough along the A171.

The town’s original railway station was constructed as part of Joseph Pease’s project. This was to create a new port and to build an extension to the existing Stockton to Darlington railway.

In 1877, William Peachy designed the current railway station. However, the roof was partly destroyed during the Second World War.

Middlesbrough Railway Station runs services to Darlington, Bishop Auckland, and Saltburn on the Tees Valley line. Further south, the Esk Valley line takes passengers to Whitby and the North York Moors while a half-hourly service runs to Sunderland and Newcastle.

The bus station is centrally located. It runs regular services to Redcar, Darlington, Scarborough, and Newcastle amongst others.

Despite only being part of Yorkshire for a short period of time, the town of Middlesbrough is still, arguably, a great place to visit. It prides itself on a strong work ethic, industry, and innovation.

History of Middlesbrough

The old Victorian Town Hall dates is part of the original port. Picture Credit: Anthony Winward.
The old Victorian Town Hall  was part of the original town centre. Picture Credit: Anthony Winward.wikipedia creative commons

Middlesbrough, out of all of the Yorkshire towns and cities, has one of the most unique histories of all. Especially when it comes to the Industrial Revolution.

This one event transformed a small farming hamlet by the River Tees into a major industrial port. It was the centre of the world’s iron, coal, and oil production.

Places such as Leeds and Bradford also underwent huge expansion during the 19th Century. However, they cannot compete with the scale of transformation Middlesbrough went through.

Middlesbrough has been described as “Britain’s oldest new town”. It has been manufactured solely by industrial entrepreneurs unlike many other places that have developed through religion or foreign invasion.

Priory in Middelsburg

The village of “Middelsburg” was recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book. It had a priory established by St Hilda of Whitby in 1119.

Like other priory’s in Yorkshire, this one also perished. Under the reign of Henry VIII, between 1536 to 1541 there was the dissolution of monasteries which led to the ruin of many religious buildings.

This was just one of several similar priory’s in the area of the Tees banks. Many of these were of Viking origin such as Ormesby, Maltby, and Tollesby. Nowadays, these places are suburbs of the town which has developed around them. 

A Small Population

Throughout the centuries, Middlesbrough never expanded beyond four farmhouses. In 1801 it had a population of just twenty-five people.

In those days, the main port was down the river at Stockton on Tees. This is where goods from the coalfields further north in County Durham were transported via the Stockton-Darlington railway.

Due to the sheer volume of traffic coming from the heartlands, this place proved to be too small to cope. Another port was needed to the south of the river and nearer to the sea.

Joseph Pease

In 1828, a Quaker banker and entrepreneur called Joseph Pease sailed down the Tees. He was looking to find a suitable location for this new port.

During his sailing, he came across four farmsteads surrounded by a “dismal swamp”. Joseph bought the land to build his new town and docks which he originally named “Port Darlington”.

Access for the boats and trains to carry the goods to this new port were expanded. Pease’s father, Edward, built the Stockton-Darlington railway and so an extension was made.

A town had to be built in order to house the workers. They then plied their trade at the new port and this became known as Middlesbrough.

The four farmsteads from the original village became what was then the town centre. Roads such as Cleveland Street, North Street, and Stockton Street formed a grid pattern around a main market square.

Traders and their families moved in, such as merchants, blacksmiths, innkeepers, and joiners. In 1851, the population grew to 7,600.

Discovery & Production of Iron Ore

Around this time, iron ore was first discovered. John Vaughan and Henry Bolckow found it in the Cleveland hills at nearby Eston.

Their timing was immaculate because in the 1850’s, the British rail network was being constructed. Iron was in huge demand to build the tracks which were to link each town and city.

The production of iron soon became Middlesbrough’s principle industry. They were in direct competition with Sheffield as the north’s chief supplier.

In 1875, the first Bessemer steel plant was built on Teesside by Vaughan and Bolckow. Their methods were perfected in order to use their local iron discoveries at Eston.

Soon the area became a chief exporter of this metal. This meant that railways, dungeons, and landmarks, such as Sydney Harbour Bridge, could trace their iron structures back to the hills around Middlesbrough.

Along with the original plans of extending the docks along the River Tees from Stockton, the wealth in this industry enabled the town to further expand. By 1900, the population reached 90,000.

Developing the Town

In the early part of the new century, several structures were built. One of these was the Transporter Bridge over the River Tees which opened in 1911.

In 1899, a new town hall was constructed. Middlesbrough continued to expand rapidly to the south of the river around Eston and surrounding villages. Another structure called the Dorman Long, also known as “Newport lifting bridge” opened in 1934. This was the first of its kind in England.

Middlebrough’s centre moved to the site of the new town hall around Corporation Street and the old Linthorpe Road. This follows the path of the ancient country route that connected the two villages when they were both farming settlements.

The original 1830’s old town is still there complete with its former civic quarters. It can be found in the northern suburbs of Middlesbrough.

Middlesbrough was an obvious target for the Germans, especially in the Second World War due to its munition making capabilities. By 1945, two hundred buildings had been destroyed by the Luftwaffe. The town had to be partially re-built.

Middlesbrough; from just four farms tomajor port in 150 years. Picture credit: Mick Garrat geograph wikipedia creative commons,
Middlesbrough; from just four farms to a major port in 150 years. Picture credit: Mick Garrat geograph wikipedia creative commons,

Trying New Things

In the second half of the 20th Century, industry declined throughout the country. This meant that Middlesbrough had to diversify into other sectors.

During the 1960’s, three oil refineries were established in the newly created Teesport. Chemical, gas, and potash industries are also present on the reclaimed Seal and Brian Sands making Teeside the third biggest port in the UK.

Changing Borders

The development of Middlesbrough from a farming village to a major industrial port has caused problems. More so amongst the political border authorities.

When the Ridings system was first mapped by the Vikings, it followed the natural course of the River Tees. This meant that anything to the south of its banks lay in Yorkshire.

At that time, Middlesbrough didn’t exist. When the area was developed and expanded, it eventually became part of its own area, Cleveland, in 1974.

In 1996, this was abolished and Boro became a unitary authority. This meant its administration covered the boundaries within the town and Teesside.

Therefore, because of this, Middlesbrough is no longer considered to be part of Yorkshire except for ceremonial purposes. Nowadays, it’s more associated with other places in the North East such as Newcastle and Sunderland.

Middlesbrough was originally manufactured by industrialists. It was designed to house workers for a new port that dwarfed its rivals and in turn became the major centre in the area. Since then, it has come a long way from the four farms which used to lie peacefully next to the river. 

Founder Joseph Pease’s notion in 1828 would most certainly come true. “The bare fields would be covered with a busy multitude with vessels crowding the banks of a busy seaport”.

Middlesbrough Trivia

Middlesbrough was originally four farmsteads set in a “dismal swamp” on the banks of the River Tees.

In 2006, Middlesbrough FC became one of the smallest towns in population to ever compete in a European Cup final

During the 1966 World Cup, the North Korean football team stayed in Middlesbrough and trained at the ICI chemical works. They beat Italy 1-0 at Ayresome park.

The Riverside stadium was the first modern stadium to be built after the Taylor Report in 1990 and was opened in 1995.

The Middlesbrough transporter bridge is one of only eleven of its kind remaining in the world.

Middlesbrough’s transporter bridge is the only place you can bungee jump off a bridge.

The clock on Middlehaven dock has four sides, but only three clock faces. This is because employers did not want their dockworkers to clock watch.

Captain Cook was killed by a mob of angry Hawaiians after a dispute over a broken mast on one of his ships.

The first motto adopted in Middlesbrough was “Erimus,” which means, “we will be.”

In 1801 the population of Middlesbrough was just 25, nowadays it is 140,000.