Victory To Protect Middlesbrough’s Cultural Heritage


Members of Hands on Middlesbrough managed to gain a small victory regarding the mosaic at Scandinavian House, Church and Seaman’s Mission on Linthorpe Road.

Lloyds pharmacy on Linthorpe Road covered up the mosaic by an unknown artist, which according to some local artists depicts the searchlights during WWII, although it has also been said to represent the ships and dockyards on Teesside.

The mosaic has been a unique and beautiful part of our urban landscape since the 1960s. The pharmacy covered it up not realising its significance to the local community.

Hands on Middlesbrough members raised awareness and complained to Lloyds head office and Middlesbrough Council planning department. It was revealed that the pharmacy had not gained planning permission from the council and within days the advertisement was taken down and the mosaic returned to its former glory.

Shame the bins are often stood in front of it, but at least it is back and our cultural heritage has been preserved.


Apology from Pharmacy Chain, Teesside Gazette

Reopen Nature's World: Apple Picking Charity Event at Nature's World

On Saturday 27th September, Hands on Middlesbrough hosted an apple picking event in the heritage orchards of Nature’s World. Hundreds of apples were picked by Teesside Homeless Action Group and the public, to be used by the charity but some could be kept for apple crumbles, pies and cider!

Children walked around with big smiles on their faces, abandoned playgrounds now overgrown and for the first time since its closure in 2013, children’s laughter could be heard at Nature’s World. Over 50 people turned out to show they care and many more signed a petition to re-open it.


Some had come to visit memorial trees which had been purchased for loved ones, which since the closure they had not been able to access.

It was emotional event and most people wondered how it could have been left with no future plan to re-open it. The main concern for the public is that it will be sold to build more executive homes which very few people can afford. If this was to happen (although no plans have been put forward yet) we would lose one of Middlesbrough’s finest assets.

nature's world2

Instead, we could show how much it means to us and Middlesbrough Council could use it to promote its Beacon Status for tackling climate change, and show that it is dedicated to promoting green issues and sustainable living.

With enough community support, I think we could really turn things around for Nature’s World. It is Middlesbrough’s Secret Garden, people have forgotten about it but if the council  could re-open the land once a month (to start with) for volunteers to help maintain it and host children’s events this would give time to figure out how to raise the money to save it. Why just leave it to fall into further disrepair?

natur11 natur10

The residents of Middlesbrough (and the surrounding boroughs) do not want the risk of it being sold for housing development and so we need to show how much we care and we realise its potential.

Good to see all those beautiful apples going to a good cause, to be given to the homeless in Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland.


Please sign our petition to re-open Nature’s World

Look for our Facebook Page: Love Nature’s World

Gazette Article “Apple Pickers Support Fight to Reopen Middlesbrough’s Nature’s World”

An Interview with artist Máire McSorley

marie 4

In July & August 2013, two of Máire’s pieces were included in the Python Arts Festival exhibition at The Python Gallery. Her work is also hung on the walls of cafés including Relish Café on Redcar High Street. The exhibition ‘Colours of Teesside’ at the Heritage Gallery, Cargo Fleet in January of this year attracted nearly 100 people to the Preview evening, one of the largest gatherings at the gallery.

Her Current exhibition ‘Ahead – Art in Digital Media’ was previewed at The Python Gallery on 29th August 2014. A perfect setting to look at the impressionistic and occasionally abstract images of Middlesbrough.

Outside the light was fading and the vivid blue of the transporter bridge was a familiar and comforting sight. Reflected in the window of the Python Gallery, framed like one of the art works I was about to preview.

The transporter bridge, a desolate beauty in a once vibrant and industrial landscape.

marie mc 1

When viewing Máire’s work I felt the vibrancy and energy of a Middlesbrough built on iron and steel. Her art work is confident and celebrates the beauty of our remaining industrial landscape through her use of colour and light.

Máire’s current exhibition ‘Ahead – Art in Digital Media’, is at at the Python Gallery and the exhibition runs until 17th October. Don’t miss it.


Where you were born?

I was born in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, Ireland, emigrating to North Ormesby in the late 1950s as a child.

Where you studied?

I was at Teesside University in the late seventies studying Public Administration & Business Studies. My daughter Siobhán was a baby at the time and one of the first children in the newly opened University crèche (which we had a sit-in to establish!) Studying Public Administration gave me a great understanding of how government works at local & national level and how it could be used to improve people’s lives. I also qualified as a Political Agent & Election Organiser in the late seventies. In the eighties whilst my day job was organiser at Middlesbrough Law Centre, I did a post-graduate Management qualification, also at Teesside University.

What made you want to become a councillor? 

I would like to see a just & fair society where those who are vulnerable because of age, ill health or difference are supported and enabled by those who are more fortunate. I think the state at local & national level has an important role to play in this and so for me, becoming politically active in Middlesbrough as well as Regionally was a positive way to work towards that. My involvement in politics was a way of life from the age of 13 or 14 when I began to help my father in local residents association campaigns in Thorntree. I joined the Labour Party Young Socialists as soon as I was eligible – at age 16 or 17 and spent much of my spare time organising & campaigning. I was helping run local & general election campaigns at the age of 19.

Standing for election as a Councillor was a natural progression for me in working to achieve a better way of life for people in Middlesbrough. I worked probably 60 or 70 hours a week as a Councillor & a Political Agent from the age of 20 for about eight years. Both jobs were unpaid apart from a £14 a day maximum if one of my daily tasks was a council meeting. I was the second youngest Councillor ever elected in Middlesbrough on May 3rd 1979 when I was 22. (The youngest was my colleague Steve Gibson who was elected at the same time at the age of 21).

As an extension of my political beliefs I then helped set-up the town’s Law Centre providing free legal advice for those who couldn’t afford to pay solicitors. I was employed in organisational, developmental & management roles in Law Centres or Citizens Advice Bureaux in Middlesbrough & Oxford for the next 30 years.

Tell me a bit about what you miss about living in Middlesbrough?

I miss spending time with members of my family & friends who still live in Middlesbrough. I miss being able to jump in my car and be at the coast or on the moors in half an hour. Oxford is right in the centre of the country so a day trip to the coast isn’t really possible. And of course I miss the heart-warming familiarity of the area’s iconic views and structures.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I have made images & visual art regularly throughout my life – from the age of about 10, using a variety of media including pen & ink, watercolour & acrylic paint, charcoal & chalk and photography. I find the process of making art to be inspirational in itself as well as a meditation & often a refuge or therapy. I have a passion for strong & vibrant colour and aim to show hidden beauty in unexpected places. Many of the pieces I exhibited in my Colours of Teesside exhibition at the beginning of 2014 at The Heritage Gallery, Cargo Fleet reflect this. My recent abstract work currently on show at The Python is much more abstract & emotionally expressive and thus more personal. I find two things about my art fulfilling, the process of making it and communicating it successfully with the viewer. Studying other artists has also been inspirational and a significant influence on my work and on how my style has developed. The French Impressionists and Post Impressionists particularly Cezanne, Van Gogh & The Fauves; street photographers Robert Doisneau & Vivian Maier and Abstract artists Mondrian, Klee, Matisse amongst others.

Can you tell me how you use Digital Media to create your artwork?

Artists have been experimenting since the 1970’s with how computers could help create and present their work, and digital technologies are accepted as the new medium. My work sits within one branch of the New Media art movement. For the past 15 years or so I have incorporated digital tools; a camera, scanner & basic paint programmes into my art toolbox to create a traditional form of art – mounted and framed, and hanging on a wall. Having painted and been a very keen photographer throughout my life I now put the two together. When I use digital tools, I paint with pixels of colour instead of paint, use a mouse instead of a brush, a screen instead of a canvas and I use photographs as a resource rather like a sketchbook.

Do you think your work as a councillor has influenced the work you do as an artist?

I think my work as a councillor like my work in the legal advice sector both reflect what I want to achieve with my life – to improve quality of life for others through communicating and understanding others’ experiences. Art for me is a primary form for communicating emotion and experience.

Do you have a particular heritage site or space in Middlesbrough that has special significance to you?

Many, yes. All of which most Middlesbrough ex-pats would share! But I would single out the Dorman Long Tower, which is part of the Coke Ovens at Grangetown. My father, mother & myself were economic migrants from Ireland in the late fifties and my Dad’s job was building the Coke Ovens and then working there. My husband Robin and most male members of my family were/are steelworkers and my great great grandmother who also emigrated from Ireland around 1880 was one of the first residents of Grangetown.

I also love Albert Park – particularly the Linthorpe Road gate end, having visited every week as a child and lived close by in Clairville in 1970s & 80s. It is there (near Brian Clough’s statue) that we sited my father’s memorial bench in 2011. Dad was the first Irish Mayor of Middlesbrough in 1986/7. I also like Exchange Place. A tragedy the old Exchange building and so much of that lovely old Victorian part of town was demolished for the A66 all those years ago.

Having lived in a two-up two-down Middlesbrough street house for 8 years on my arrival in England and another 8 years immediately after my marriage, I be-moan the loss of so much of the old housing around Gresham.

Do you think it is important to protect our heritage and if so, how do you think we could do this?

Oh definitely, by raising awareness of what might be our heritage and thus enabling people to connect with their antecedents lives through writing, telling stories, making pictures & videos. All of these things also preserve our heritage. In this way there is more of a chance of people developing a sense of ownership of their own past, learning from it and valuing it. I’m a history addict and a few years ago was commissioned to write a book (with a local BBC journalist) about Irish people in Oxford over the past 50 years. The feedback was all about how people were reminded of their heritage and how the good stuff might be re-created or learned from. I’m currently 40,000 words into another book that links my own antecedents to events and places in Irish history and to events and places on Teesside since the turn of the last century. I am certainly strongly driven to connect with and celebrate symbols from our past.

Have a look at Máire’s website


Acklam Hall Archaeology


After speaking with a number of local historians and archaeologists, I have found out a lot of information about the archaeology at Acklam Hall. The land was cited in the Domesday Book and was the location of a medieval hall (likely to have been made from wood), a chapel and a medieval village (located on what was the Swedish Mission Field).

The broad ditch running from the North East corner of the moat field (near the electricity substation) down to Walton Avenue is a medieval fishpond, known locally as “the arty”.

All the years I have lived in Acklam, I never knew that “the arty” was a scheduled monument and a medieval fishpond. The fishpond is presumed to have been fed by water from the moat. The moat is located on the land to the North of Acklam Hall (the field next to St Mary’s Church).


The moat field was excavated in 1967 by Mr Zealand, then curator of the Dorman Museum. This wasn’t a professional excavation. There were a number of finds but it wasn’t properly written up. At the end of 2 weeks Mr. Zealand said it needed a professional assessment but this wasn’t followed up.It was then reported that the finds had been stolen.

It is very likely that the medieval manorial hall of Acklam would have stood on the moat field surrounded by the moat.


Middlesbrough Council gave permission for houses to be built on the Swedish Playing Field in the 1990s, despite strong opposition from residents and historians. Around the time Tees Archaeology became interested in the Acklam Hall site, based on the new light shed on the effigy and stones kept in the boiler house of St. Mary’s Church.

While they were examining these remains, the gentleman who lived at the bungalow on the Swedish playing field brought a large piece of pot that he had dug up whilst excavating his pond. This proved to be part of a 14th century vessel for carrying water.

Tees Archaeology commissioned a geophysical survey in 2000 of the moat field because it was felt to be at risk.

geophys 2010 geophys

In 2010, an application was accepted for 31 new homes to be built on the Swedish Mission Field. Middlesbrough Council stopped funding Tees Archaeology in 2010, despite being told that the Service carried out statutory investigations and held the Sites and Monuments Records that every local authority is required to keep and update. The records are still accessible on a database, yet the records do not get updated.

Imagine how many planning applications get passed every day. Middlesbrough’s local plan for 6,970 homes to be built within the next 15 years, surely it is essential that archaeology is protected and applications screened for possible archaeological significance.

This doesn’t mean the development will not go ahead it just ensures that checks are being carried out and our heritage is being protected and recorded as it should be.

The Swedish Mission Field Development Brief (2010) states:


To the south of the site the surrounding area is characterised by its green open nature, being laid out as sports pitches. The land to the east is characterised by the dense tree belt, West Wood, which separates the development site visually from the Grade I listed building, Acklam Hall. A requirement of any development of the Swedish Mission Field is that the setting of the listed building is preserved. As West Wood forms a visual barrier between the two sites it is considered unlikely that development of the Swedish Mission Field will impact upon the setting of Acklam Hall.

Regarding the importance of the conservation area:

The open area along the sites’s Church Lane frontage allows views of St Mary’s Church spire from the west which provide a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Acklam Hall Conservation Area.

Protecting Views and Character of the Conservation Area:

once the view of church accross west wood

The building line will also need to be set back sufficiently to maintain and protect views of St Mary’s Church along Church Lane from the west

The Developer Miller Homes, allocated £30,000 towards:

enhancement and maintenance of The Avenue of Trees Neighbourhood Park. Provision of public open space is not being sought within the development site itself. The occupiers of the housing will, however, increase the use made of the neighbourhood park. The developer contribution will assist in ensuring that Middlesbrough has a network of high quality open space.

I have spoken with some residents of the houses on the Swedish Mission Field, who bought their new home because it overlooked a dense wood. They bought their house because of the green open space, ideal to bring up their families. With the felling of over 200 mature trees at West Wood and the selling off of land at Acklam Hall for 56 executive homes, the high quality of open green space has been drastically reduced.

The Development Brief also identifies that the Swedish Mission Field is of moderate archaeological significance and work would need an archaeological investigation and work done should be accompanied by a watching brief, including substantial topsoil removal. Because of this the Council required the builders to employ an archaeologist before they developed the site. The builders employed an archaeologist from outside the area. The line of the medieval village was found to lie some distance back from Church Lane.

However, because this was a private excavation the results are not in the public domain.

It is interesting to see that this brief was written in 2010, and the council had already given preferred developer status to Acklam Hall Ltd in 2009, knowing that the Acklam Hall “conservation area” was to be sold off for house and a health village. The Acklam hall development is not mentioned in this development brief, but in reference to one objection raised by a member of the public suggesting that “contributions from the Swedish Mission Field developments should go towards the maintenance of West Wood, which is in a bad state of repair”

MBC comments that “future maintenance of trees in West Wood will be considered as part of development proposals for Acklam Hall”.

How sad it is that all this talk about protecting the conservation area, protecting views of the church, the importance of the trees of West Wood and archaeological significance does not actually offer any protection when all is said and done.

The second moat on the corner of Church Lane and St. Mary’s Walk is likely to have been discovered as part of the investigations of 1998 and the compilation of the Acklam CD in 2004.

The geophysical carried out by Tees Archaeology in 2000, shows a number of anomalies that would need further investigation, including what could possibly be a priests house located next to St Mary’s Church. No further work is to be carried out on the land to the North of Acklam Hall without being overseen by an archaeologist and a freedom of information request has been made by Hands on Middlesbrough for all archaeological findings to be made public.

conservation and management plan 2006

This is taken from the Acklam Hall Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan, April 2006. The areas in red show moderate archaeological significance. The areas in green show high archaeological significance.

Tees Archaeology noted that he development included a number of features of interest which can be described as ‘Heritage Assets’ as they have archaeological, historical and architectural interest:

  • Part of the medieval settlement of Acklam
  • The Moat of the medieval manorial settlement
  • The site of the medieval manorial settlement (within the area defined by the moat)
  • The kitchen garden to the north-west of Acklam Hall
  • The formal gardens to the east and west of Acklam Hall
  • The burial ground at St. Mary’ Church


The application requires a scheme of archaeological mitigation which may consist of a mixture of preservation in situ (e.g. rafted foundations that do not penetrate the moat) and archaeological recording in the areas identified above.  The archaeological mitigation should seek to involve the local community.

A)No demolition/development shall take place/commenceuntil a programme of archaeological work including a Written Scheme of Investigation has been submitted to and approved by the local planning authority in writing.  The scheme shall include an assessment of significance and research questions; and a programme and methodology of site investigation, recording and community engagement

  • The programme for post investigation assessment
  • Provision to be made for analysis of the site investigation and recording
  • Provision to be made for publication and dissemination of the analysis and records of the site investigation
  • Provision to be made for archive deposition of the analysis and records of the site investigation
  • Nomination of a competent person or persons/organisation to undertake the works set out within the Written Scheme of Investigation.

B) No demolition/development shall take place other than in accordance with the Written Scheme of Investigation approved under condition (A).

C) The development shall not be occupied until the site investigation and post investigation assessment has been completed in accordance with the programme set out in the Written Scheme of Investigation approved under condition (A) and the provision made for analysis,publication and dissemination of results and archive deposition has been secured’.

After putting in a FOI I found that the land to the North had removed large quantities of topsoil without a written scheme (as set out in planning conditions 28 & 29) and also it is my understanding that the site will be in future overseen by an archaeologist but no further investigations will be carried out unless anything is found. It is a shame as in the original excavations in the 1960s archaeology was found 15 inches below the surface.

Victorian Quarter – Celebrating our Victorian Heritage

Hello, my name is Sophie Rowney I was born in Middlesbrough in 1988. Most of my  family were also born in Middlesbrough and we all have no plans to leave.
I grew up in Tollesby which I thoroughly enjoyed, (when I have driven through recently I am sad to see all the local shops are closed, making it very quiet and ghost-like.)  I went to Green Lane Primary School which I thoroughly enjoyed and I still hold in high regard. I then continued on to Kings Manor Sports College  (no longer there – Oakfields is the new school for that area) I loved the area surrounding Kings Manor – The 16th Century Acklam Hall, The Avenue of Trees and the expanse of green spaces and wild life surrounding the school, I remember my older brother telling me he had went to Acklam Hall when it used to be part of Kings Manor and I’d be green with envy, jealous that he’d been able to study in such a beautiful, old and charasmatic place. Even at a young age, I was always sad to look out the school windows at the hall and see that it wasn’t being used. I remember for one Geography assignment we had to do a page on how Middlesbrough came into existence – once I started researching our geographical history and how we came to be, I was hooked, and have been ever since. Middlesbrough’s history is so vibrant and exciting and I feel a lot of it isn’t celebrated.
In 2007 I went to St Mary’s College and at this point I had decided that I wanted to get into journalism/Tv Drama so continued my studies at York St John University studying Film & Television. Living in York was wonderful, an extreme change to the industrial town of Middlesbrough. Everything with any historical interest is preserved, conserved and celebrated in York. By now I had built up a clear picture of just how many buildings and areas had been destroyed in Middlesbrough which I would have loved to see today: The Tram System, Big Wesley, The Odeon, The Royal Infirmary, The Royal Exchange, The Scientific Institute, The Grand Opera Theatre, to name but a few. I felt impelled to actively help change Middlesbrough’s fate for the better. Firstly I asked the council if I could become an official ambassador for Middlebrough, next I made an amateure documentary called ‘The Good, The Bad & The Boro’ for my final project at University, where I interviewed people from different walks of life and asked them frankly about what they thought about their home town. I also volunteered to clean up Albert Park. I completed 3 weeks work experience with the Press Office department of Middlesbrough Council and I actively promoted the town throughout my day to day life.
After finishing my degree in 2010, I worked on films and tv dramas in London, Manchester, Loughborough, Durham and Leeds, none of which were close to my beloved Middlebrough. Four years later, after working my way up to being a Location Assistant I chose to leave Film and Tv and reside back in Middlesbrough, working full time helping with the expansion of my family’s business – Concept; a home accessories, furniture, jewellery & gift boutique on Linthorpe Road. I’ve always admired where Concept is situated, it’s on the same strip as other great long-established business’ and restaurants and it’s a hop and skip away from Sacred Heart Church, Albert Park, Dorman Museum, War Memorial Wall and the Cenotaph. Not much has been destroyed in this area and this is eveident by the attractive Victorian terraces, museum, park and artchitecture still in tact and in use. It is one of the most inviting strips of Linthorpe Road and nearly all the business’ are ran by independents adding a great sense of community and character to the place. Some of the business’ here have been established for over 20 years which is fantastic for the area and is a welcome change to empty buildings and shutters.
So this is where it gets exciting.  After meeting an inspiring woman – Scarlet, at a public meeting about the housing development on Acklam Hall she introduced me to Hands on Middlesbrough – a fantastic group which gives the public a voice for Middlesbrough’s surviving heritage and a place to talk about ideas for regenerating the town.
The idea I had was that from Dermagraphix Tattoo shop up to Fellinis Restaurant and round to The Cenotaph, Albert Park, Museum and Sacred Heart Church, to be the ‘VICTORIAN QUARTER’ of Middlesbrough. A mini echo of the Victoria Quarter of Leeds, but a huge echo of the Middlesbrough’s very own Victorian past. With added Victorian touches such as Victorian flag signs (similar to the fabulous ones on Baker Street promoting their creative, vintage quarter), a Victorian Street Clock, Victorian sun shades over shops/business fronts of those who are interested, Victorian shop numbers and most prominently Victorian shop signs which would hang above each shop. Also Victorian street lamps and benches would be a beautiful feature, they are already in place around the Cenotaph but it would be great to continue this on to Linthorpe Road. Recently we found out that there will be a monument built near the Cenotaph celebrating the local hero that is Stanley Hollis for being decorated with the Victoria Cross so this is further great news for the area!
I have spoken to the lovely customers we get in Concept about the Victorian Quarter idea and they’ve been wonderfully supportive and have given great feedback. It would help tie in the Victorian section inside the Dorman Museum, the historical interest of the area, the local events and the mix of food, services and leisure on offer coupled with a unique setting of fantastic Victorian architecture. It’s a great place for locals and tourists to come and enjoy. Recently I have found out that the cafe in Dorman Museum closed, however I am thrilled to say there is interest from a new buiness looking to move in and open it as a Victorian-themed cafe which would tie in beautifully.
Below is a link and excerpt from an interesting article written in 2012 in the Evening Gazette about our heritage.
“However it was the town planners of the 1960s and 1970s who radically altered the Victorian town out of virtually all recognition, and many would say not for the better. Surely there could have been a better plan than driving a dual carriageway straight through the centre? This is why so many people lament the destruction of so much in the past few decades. Middlesbrough had a wonderful Victorian heritage but sadly much of it has now gone forever.”
So with this knowledge one of my ideas would be to promote and preserve this collection of Victorian buildings, as they are grouped together perfectly, there are other beautiful Victorian buildings in the town but none with such a vibrant mix and with each plot in use.
Some of the shops still have all of the Victorian shop frontage in tact, for example – The Antique and Fireplace shop and Bedroom Images. The tall Victorian terraces which line the street and Sacred Heart Church and Dorman Museum which matches in height and presence, make for great atmosphere. Along with free parking for clientele, I think it could be a great venture.
“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist.
If you have any feedback or any of your own ideas to put forward to this project, please email me –
Many thanks,

Acklam Hall Timeline

Postcard of Acklam Hall (circa 1913)

Postcard of Acklam Hall (circa 1913)

Acklam Hall Timeline

  • 1066-Manor was held by Siward, Earl of Northumberland (character in Macbeth)
  • 1086-5 entries in Domesday Book. Manor held by Hugh, Earl of Chester Later overlords-De Brus family; and descendants. Manor in hands of de Acklams
  • C 1230-Joan Boynton, daughter of Roger de Acklam, wife of Ingram de Boynton  inherited the hall. (The Boyntons were M.P.s High Sheriffs of Yorks; Estates in East Riding
  • 1637-Sir Matthew Boynton sold Acklam Grange to William Hustler, a wealthy Bridlington draper
  • C 1680-Sir William Hustler (grandson; knighted 1678; M.P.) built the present house; formal gardens; avenue of lime and fir trees (many of which blew down in 1829)
  • 1845-Attic storey and other additions by Thomas Hustler; rebuilt Acklam (St Mary’s) Church
  • 1912-Altered; new dining room and kitchens built
  • 1928-Sold to Middlesbrough Corporation for £11,500
  • 1935-Opened as Acklam Hall Boys’ Grammar School
  • 1951-Became a Grade I Listed Building
  • 1967-Acklam High School (Acklam Hall Boys’ Grammar School merged with Kirby Girls’ School to become the 13-18 non-selective, co-educational school)
  • C 1971-Flower Beds removed and modern annexes added to the front and either side of the hall
  • 1974-Acklam High School split to form Kings Manor (11-16 year olds) and Acklam Sixth Form College. The Kings Manor building was destroyed in a fire and was finally demolished in 1997 leaving the college as the sole occupant of the site
  • 1995-The hall and grounds remained in council ownership until 1995 when the hall and open spaces to the West and South were transferred to Middlesbrough College. Middlesbrough Council retained considerable ownership interest in the Acklam Hall complex including eastern courtyard buildings; walled garden; sports hall and playing field to the north; and woodland to the east.
  • 2007-Acklam Hall put up for open tender by Middlesbrough College and Middlesbrough Council
  • 2008-Middlesbrough college vacated the site and moved to Middlehaven
  • 2009-Acklam Hall LTD chosen as preferred developer
  • 2010-Acklam Hall ends up on the English Heritage at Risk List
  • 2014-Sale complete. Acklam Hall LTD owner of Hall and Grounds Building begins for 56 executive homes on the grounds of Acklam Hall.


Acklam Hall History

Photograph Taken by Clive Winwood

Photograph Taken by Clive Winwood


 Acklam Hall

Acklam Hall (circa 1683) is Middlesbrough’s only Grade I listed building. It was built in a Dutch Palladian style for Sir William Hustler (c.1658-1730) and has a number of beautiful architectural features. The hall is particularly noted for its heavily ornamented ceilings (similar to Holyrood Palace) which may have been done by the same craftsmen Halbert and/or Dunserfield as they came from south Edinburgh (c.1680), original painted pine open well staircase with ball & artichoke finials. Acklam Hall was given listed building status in 1951.

Politically William Hustler was a Whig, who in 1702 was elected to sit for Ripon.  He was responsible for establishing a number of charity schools in Wakefield and is regarded as one of the great patrons of such schools during this period. William Hustler died at Acklam on 20 August 1730, leaving Acklam Hall and the magnificent grounds to his wife. He was described in the Daily Post as ‘a gentleman of an unblemished character, and whose loss is extremely lamented by his county, to which he had retired some years before his death’.

The land surrounding the hall is of historical significance and interest. Not only is the Avenue of Trees part of the original 17th century formal gardens of Acklam Hall, the land to the North of the hall is where evidence of a medieval moat (10 meters deep) and a medieval village are located. The land on which the manor was built and its surrounding grounds are also mentioned in the Domesday Book. The monks of Whitby Abbey had maintained a property there, which after the Dissolution, had fallen into disrepair.

It is often hard to imagine that anything came before Bolckow & Vaughan discovered Iron Ore in Eston Hills. Middlesbrough became a product of Victorian enterprise, “an infant Hercules” and began to thrive and develop rapidly as a town. Its population growing from 25 people in 1801 to 90,000 by 1901. Acklam Hall and its grounds offer a rare glimpse into what it may have been like to live in Middlesbrough before industrialisation of the town. For the community of Acklam, the hall and its grounds have always been a little piece of calm in an otherwise hectic world.



Hands on Middlesbrough make National News

Hands on Middlesbrough were recently interviewed by The Independent about the plans for houses on the grounds of Acklam Hall, Middlesbrough’s only Grade I listed building.

The story also focused on Middlesbrough residents standing up against the “smoggie” stereotype to protect what makes Middlesbrough a special and desirable place to live.

According to dialectologist Vic Wood, the word “smoggy” or “smoggie” originated on the football terraces as a term of abuse towards Middlesbrough supporters from Sunderland fans. It is also in reference to Middlesbrough’s dominant petrochemical industry and pollution. Sociolinguists argue that the word “smoggie” has been reclaimed as an acceptable, even desirable slang label connected with a sense of regional identity. By embracing the word apparently it can bind a community together. My own personal view is that the word does nothing but promote a negative representation of Middlesbrough and its residents. The constant “smoggie” and “it’s grim up north” references about a town full of “chavs”-obese, lazy, alcoholic criminals who would sell their own mother for a chicken parmo and statistics that are quite frankly made-up (95% of the population don’t exercise!) just reinforces ignorance and prejudice towards a town on the “rust belt” which has its fair share of social and economic problems. Just like the word “Chav” as investigated by Owen Jones in his book Chavs: The demonization of the working class, “smoggie” is similar in how it is used to insult and ridicule people from Middlesbrough and allows a justification for widening inequality.

It is about time the residents of Middlesbrough stood up for themselves and rejected this rubbish.

Sometimes, even local media reinforce this stereotype. With articles about parmo hotdogs or some such thing making headlines. Its a shame to think that the things that make Middlesbrough a great place to live often go unnoticed. As residents of this town we perhaps need to say enough is enough with the derogatory comments about why we are “inferior” to the rest of the country and promote what is good about our town.

Enough with accepting that houses on every available green space is “the only game in town” or the “only option” to raise funds to restore a listed building. Middlesbrough Town Hall, which is only a Grade II* listed building recently applied for Heritage Lottery funding-would the decision makers in Middlesbrough council consider building 56 executive homes on the green space next to that to fund its restoration?

Places like Acklam Hall (circa 1683) left to fall into disrepair for years, so much so that in 2010 it ended up on the English Heritage At Risk List. That whole surrounding area of Devils Bridge, Avenue of Trees, Acklam Hall pond is beautiful green space, treasured by the local community. Sadly, Acklam Hall was regarded as a liability and not an asset, by Middlesbrough Council and Middlesbrough College, it would seem. Despite the hall’s historical significance and medieval archaeology, the high restoration costs meant that the council & college decided development of the site would be the best option.

If like me, you chose to stay in Middlesbrough, rather than “escaping” to pastures new (which most of my friends have done) then we need to make sure we don’t go along with the view that to live in Middlesbrough is to somehow underachieve. We need to be proud of our town and work together to protect what we have, while we still have it and create our own opportunities here. Forget attracting the wealthy in with executive homes. Let them stay in Ingleby Barwick or Great Ayton if they are happy there, think about what the people who live in Middlesbrough want. Seems to me a real issue for people is a continual disrespect or disregard for the towns heritage and green space.

click here for article