To add photos please click here Add Photos!


Middlesbrough is a large town situated on the south bank of the River Tees, with the Tees Estuary to the northeast and the North York Moors National Park to the south; it differs from the other Teesside districts as the borough is almost entirely urbanised, thus making it the largest town, in terms of area, but the smallest district; it was originally part of the North Riding of Yorkshire, but in 1968 the town became the centre of the County Borough of Teesside, which was absorbed by the non-metropolitan county of Cleveland in 1974; however, in 1996 Cleveland was abolished and Middlesbrough became a unitary authority, within the ceremonial county of North Yorkshire.

One of the earliest recorded spelling of its name is Mydilsburgh; the element '-burgh' comes from the Old English burh (meaning 'fort'), which denotes an ancient fort or settlement of pre-Anglian origin; the spelling brough sets Middlesbrough apart from other English towns, which typically use the spelling borough; it is not known if Mydil was someone's name or just a reference to its position, as in the middle of Durham and Whitby; the burgh, though, may well have included a monastic cell and was probably situated on the elevated land where the Victorian church of St Hilda's, demolished in 1969, was later built.

In 686 a monastic cell was consecrated by St. Cuthbert at the request of St. Hilda, Abbess of Whitby and in 1119 Robert Bruce, 1st Lord of Cleveland and Annandale, granted and confirmed the church of St. Hilda of Middleburg to Whitby; up until its closure during the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1537, the church was maintained by 12 Benedictine monks, many of whom became vicars or rectors of various places in Cleveland; the importance of the early church at “Middleburg”, later known as Middlesbrough Priory, is indicated by the fact that in 1452 it possessed four altars.

The Middlesbrough area was settled by many Vikings and may have the highest density of Scandinavian parish names in Britain, place names with the suffix by are abundant in the area such as Thornaby, Ormesby, Stainsby, Lackenby, Maltby and Tollesby which were once viking villages called Thormad, Orm, Steinn, Hlakkande, Malti and Toll; Lazenby was a village belonging to a Leysingr, a freeman; Normanby, a Norseman's village and Danby, a Dane's village; the name Mydilsburgh dates back to Anglian times around 400 to 1000 AD, whilst many of the aforementioned villages appear in the Domesday Book of 1086.

In 1801 Middlesbrough was an hamlet with a population of just 25 people living in four farmhouses; during the latter half of the 19th century, however, it experienced a growth unparalleled in England; development began with the purchase of the farm in 1829 by a group of Quaker businessmen, headed by Joseph Pease the Darlington industrialist, who saw the possibilities of Middlesbrough becoming a port for the transport of northeast coal; it began with four streets leading into the market square and was facilitated by an 1830 extension of the Stockton and Darlington Railway to the site, which all but erased the logistical obstacles to ongoing development of the town; before this, the shipment of coal had been problematic owing to the shallow waters around Stockton-on-Tees; the opening of the Clarence Railway, in 1833, which shared some of the Stockton and Darlington Railway's track, also provided stimulus for the growth of Port Clarence on the opposite side of the river to Middlesbrough.

Another great leap forward took place, with the discovery of ironstone in the Eston Hills and in 1841 Henry Bolckow formed a partnership with John Vaughan and started an iron foundry and rolling mill at Vulcan Street in the town; it was Vaughan who realised the economic potential of the local ironstone deposits; Pig iron production rose tenfold between 1851 and 1856; the importance of the area to the developing iron and steel trade gave it the nickname Ironopolis.

From 1840 to 1842 the civil engineer George Turnbull built Middlesbrough Dock which was then bought by the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company; when Prime Minister William Gladstone visited the town, he stood under the roof of the original 1846 town hall and famously dubbed Middlesbrough 'an infant Hercules' in 'England's enterprise'.

World War II Events:

Middlesbrough has the distinction of being the first major British town and industrial target to be bombed during the Second World War; the Luftwaffe first visited the town on the 25th May 1940 when a lone bomber dropped 13 bombs between South Bank Road and the South Steel Plant; one of the bombs fell on the South Bank football ground making a large crater in the pitch; the bomber was forced to leave after RAF night fighters were scrambled to intercept; two months after the first bombing Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited the town to meet the public and inspect the coastal defences.

German bombers often flew over Eston Hills in an effort to reach targets further inland, such as Manchester and on the 30th March 1941 a Junkers Ju 88 was shot down, over Middlesbrough, by two Spitfires of No. 41 Squadron, piloted by Tony Lovell and Archie Winskill; the aircraft dived into the ground at Barnaby Moor, Eston; the engines and most of the airframe being entirely buried upon impact; and on the 5th December 1941 a Spitfire of No. 122 Squadron, piloted by Sgt Hutton, crashed into rising ground near Mill Farm, Upsall, on the lower slopes of Eston Hills.; visibility had been poor due to bad weather and low cloud, which may have been the cause of the crash.

On the 15th January 1942, minutes after being hit by gunfire from a merchant ship anchored off Hartlepool, a Dornier Do 217 collided with the cable of a barrage balloon over the River Tees; the blazing bomber plummeted onto the railway sidings in South Bank leaving a crater twelve feet deep; in 1997 the remains of the Dornier were unearthed by a group of workers clearing land for redevelopment; the remains were put on display for a short while at Kirkleatham museum; and on the 4th August 1942 a lone Dornier Do 217 picked its way through the barrage balloons and dropped a stick of bombs onto the railway station; one bomb caused serious damage to the Victorian glass and steel roof; a train, also in the station at the time of attack, was badly damaged; luckily there were no passengers aboard.

By the end of the war over 200 buildings had been destroyed within the Middlesbrough area; areas of early and mid-Victorian housing were demolished and much of central Middlesbrough was redeveloped and heavy industry was relocated to areas of land better suited to the needs of modern technology and Middlesbrough began to take on a completely different look.

Marton, now officially Marton-in-Cleveland, is a dormitory suburb of Middlesbrough, within the ceremonial county of North Yorkshire; it was expanded from the 1950s onwards , around and beyond a tiny village of the same name, due to renovation in the Middlesbrough area after WWII; originally, the parish of Marton extended down to the River Tees; but, with the expansion of Middlesbrough, the parish became progressively smaller, but it still boasts Stewart Park, a large public park, which was built in 1928.

The famous explorer and navigator Captain James Cook was born to James and Grace Cook in a clay built cottage in the village of East Marton in 1728 and he lived for a short time in the village, until the family moved to Great Ayton; the tiny community of Marton, Queensland, Australia, upstream from Cooktown on the banks of the Endeavour River, was named after James Cook's birthplace in remembrance of his 7 week stay in the region in 1770.

In 1853, the Middlesbrough ironmaster H. W. F. Bolckow bought the land that is now the Stewart Park and he built a new hall, which served as a museum until it was destroyed by fire in 1960; the site is now home to the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, which opened in 1978; in addition to viewing a large collection of Cook related objects, tourists can view a granite urn on the site of the original Cook cottage.

Captain Cook was baptised in the 12th century Norman built St. Cuthbert's Church; his name can still be seen in the church register and the church is now ornamented with a stained-glass window commemorating Cook.

Famous People: Captain James Cook.



Go back.