“Middlesbrough has no Archaeology”? The Unique Archaeology of Teesside by Spencer Carter

In this informal article, Spencer reviews the state of our built historic environment and archaeology in the Tees area. He uses selective examples to illustrate ‘a unique portfolio’: assets we cherish; archaeology and heritage at risk; some of the losses and ‘near-misses’ over the last generations. While heritage and archaeology are, generally, highly valued socially, culturally and economically, Spencer discusses some of the contradictions apparent today. These include threats to physical remains – the known and yet to be discovered – as well as to the archaeological profession itself. The piece concludes with some easy, practical steps that people can take to ensure their elected representatives know that our shared heritage is valued. Archaeology Matters!

A recommended reading list, much available online, and links to related resources are included at the end of the article.

FULL ARTICLE “Middlesbrough has no Archaeology”? The Unique Archaeology of Teesside by Spencer Carter

Questions on the Local Plan Issues Paper

The Local Plan is up for review and will set-out a vision for the future development of Middlesbrough in relation to housing, the economy, community facilities and infrastructure up to 2033. The Local Plan when adopted, will replace a number of existing planning policy documents, and provide a basis for determining planning applications within Middlesbrough.  Now is our chance to get involved and debate about how we want the town to change and develop.

Over the past year or so, I have seen the town change; Places such as Baker St/Bedford St/The Curve may be the heritage of the future worthy of protection. Some “sustainable developments” (whatever that is) have put heritage and natural habitats at risk and do not appear to support long term sustainability of the town. More houses, means more cars, more roads, more pollution. Cutting down trees and not maintaining existing trees means less good quality air to breathe. Some examples of neighbourhood “regeneration” appear to leave a big hole in the heart of the town and the hearts of some who once lived there. These are issues that need to be open for discussion, including the possible sale of assets for less than market value.

My hope for 2017 is that council and public can debate about planning issues without it becoming reduced to an argument about pro or anti- development, reactive nimbyism or caught up in a wave of political disputes. Effective consultation and engagement with the public will be beneficial for us all. The residents of Middlesbrough are experts about the places and spaces of value; not just in monetary terms but value to communities.

Going into the New Year is the chance for residents to have a say on the future development of the town. To get involved you can follow the link: http://consult.middlesbrough.gov.uk/portal and type in Local Plan into the search, or you can answer some or all of the questions which have been taken from the issues paper for you to look at easily. Responses can also be sent as a hard copy to:

Planning Policy, Middlesbrough Council, PO Box 504, Civic Centre, 1st Floor, Middlesbrough, TS1 9FY

Responses must be sent before 30th January 2017

Please take the time to comment on some of the issues raised. It is only by getting involved in the planning process and consulting each other, will we be able to bring about positive changes and help shape a town we can be proud of.


S1: How to deliver growth? Is growth the right strategy for Middlesbrough? If so what should it look like? If not how can we meet the future needs of the population in terms of housing, jobs, education and other key infrastructure needs?

And how we would deal with population growth? How can we deliver growth? How do we address the infrastructure and service needs and impacts associated with population growth?


S2: Should development be focused on greenfield locations. Should we be looking to deliver the majority of our development needs on greenfield sites? If so where? If not, what is the alternative to ensure we address the needs of our population?


S3: Should development be focused on key sites. Opportunities for development in Middlesbrough are limited given the tight geographical boundaries of the town. Should we be focusing future development on key locations? How should such locations be chosen?


S4: Brownfield v greenfield Should development be focused on brownfield sites? If so how will growth aspirations be met? Should brownfield sites be used to meet particular development needs? If so which? Can brownfield sites meet all of the town’s needs? If not how much land should be released for greenfield? How can we use greenfield sites to help deliver harder to develop brownfield ones?


S5: Should development be focused on the creation of self-contained sustainable communities/extensions. Would it be best to meet future housing needs by building new communities which can cater for all needs, housing, employment, schools, open space, community facilities etc? If so where?


S6: What role should regeneration sites play in meeting future needs Delivering regeneration is a key priority of the Councils. How can they be best utilised in meeting the town’s future needs? Should they be the focus for mixed used developments? Or should they be the focus of a particular type of development e.g housing, employment, education, commercial?


Strategic context – Housing Local Plan 2014

This plans for around 7000 new homes up to 2029, an annual requirement of 410 new homes a

year. This was based on the Council’s s aim to halt outmigration and to deliver population growth

through natural change (as a result of higher birth rates than death rates). The Local Plan was

based on a balance of housing on both greenfield and brownfield sites. Since the adoption of the

Housing Local Plan in November 2014 housebuilding has increased significantly with more than 1000 new homes being built.


Population Growth and Housing

H1: Housing numbers

Is the current housing requirement for Middlesbrough correct or does it need to be amended? Should the figure be higher to support economic growth if so by how much? Or should it be lower? If so why? If lower how can the needs of Middlesbrough’s population growth be met? What impacts will housing growth have on infrastructure needs?


H2: Affordable housing

How should the Local Plan deliver affordable housing? Should this be located on site within developments or off site to assist the delivery of regeneration? How much and what type of affordable housing should we be delivering?


H3: Students

Should we be catering for all student growth? How should student accommodation be provided as purpose built accommodation within the town centre or dispersed throughout the town?


H4: Gypsies and travellers

If a need for a new gypsy site is identified should this be accommodated on extension or expansion of existing sites or elsewhere within Middlesbrough. What criteria should be used to identify an alternative site if required?


H5: Regeneration sites

How can the Local Plan support the delivery of regeneration sites? Should the numbers of houses on

these sites stay the same or be reduced? Should other uses be considered?


H6: An ageing population

Should we be enabling older people to stay in their own homes, which potentially puts extra pressure on existing housing? Or should we be looking to meet the needs of older people through the provision of bungalows, retirement villages and extra care facilities? If so where should this provision be located?



Self and custom build housing

How should self and custom build housing be delivered? Should this be through the allocation of small parcels of land or should it be provided as part of the development of large sites?




E1: Employment land

What level of economic growth and how much employment land should we plan for?


E2: Employment sectors

Should we focus on employment growth on particular sectors? If so which sectors?


E3: Employment locations

Where should we focus development needed to meet our economic growth aspirations? For example in traditional employment locations such as Riverside Park or as part of mixed communities, the Town Centre?


E4: Average wages

How can the Local Plan secure well paid jobs and meaningful training for all?


E5: Middlehaven

How can Middlehaven contribute to Middlesbrough’s economic growth needs?


E6: Barriers to growth

What are the barriers to Middlesbrough achieving economic growth? How can the Local Plan address these, and facilitate growth? What are the infrastructure requirements?


E7: Higher education

What role should the University and Middlesbrough College have in driving forward and supporting economic growth? How can the Local Plan support their aspirations?


Town Centre


TC1 Role of the town centre

What should the role of the town centre be in the future? What uses should we be planning for? Are there

any uses which are lacking? Should the town centre be offering an increased leisure offer?


TC2 Town centre boundary

Is the current town centre boundary the right one? If it is not correct what should the boundary be and why?


TC3 Future role of Cannon Park

What should the future role of Cannon Park be? What uses would be suitable for this location and why?


TC4 Future Role of Linthorpe Road

What should be the future role of Linthorpe Road? What uses would be suitable for this location and why? How can Linthorpe Road continue to support the offer of the town centre?


TC5 Role of Middlehaven

How can the Local Plan enable the continued success of Middehaven? What should the focus of this area be going forward? In there a role for housing development at Middlehaven?


TC6 Role of Albert Road/Railway station

What should the future role of this area be?

What uses are suitable and why? How can the Local Plan enable the future development of this area?


TC7 Role of the University

How can the Local Plan enable the continued success of the University?


TC8 District, local and neighbourhood centres

How can the Local Plan support a network of vital and viable district, local and neighbourhood centres?


Infrastructure delivery

I1: Road infrastructure

What new road infrastructure should be provided to facilitate development? What are the implications of not delivering the necessary infrastructure upon meeting growth aspirations? Are there any key pinch-points that need to be addressed?


I2: Tees crossing

What impact would the provision of a second Tees crossing have upon Middlesbrough? Should the lack of the crossing restrict how much development can happen in Middlesbrough?



I3: Education

What are the education requirements arising out of any new developments?

How should these best be addressed, for example new schools, or extending existing ones? How can we use development to help support improving education attainment levels? How can we use education provision to help deliver successful place making?


I4: Middlesbrough railway station

What impacts will improved services have upon the town in terms of population and economic growth? How can we best utilise the railway station as a key gateway into the town? How can the Plan support the aspirations for the railway station?


I5: Connectivity

How can new developments best be integrated with existing communities?


I6: Infrastructure delivery

How should the delivery of infrastructure be linked to new development? How can we ensure that development is provided in a timely manner? How can we ensure that infrastructure is affordable and that it is funded adequately?


Green Infrastructure


G1: Green infrastructure and economic growth. How can green infrastructure be used to support

economic growth?


G2: Development and green infrastructure

How can new development improve access to open space and recreation?

How should green infrastructure be incorporated into new developments?

How can green infrastructure be used to create quality places?


G3: Delivery of green infrastructure

How should green infrastructure be delivered and maintained? What are the funding sources available to deliver quality infrastructure? And how can the Local Plan support its delivery?


G4: Enhancing open spaces

How can new development improve access to open space and recreation, and enhance the quality of available open space?


G5: Green Heart

What should the future role of the land between Acklam and Marton Roads, Ladgate Lane and Saltersgill/Tollesby be? What uses or mix of uses are appropriate? Is there potential for some development to realise its value as a recreational asset?


G6: Healthy living

How can green infrastructure be used to support healthy lifestyles and help improve people’s health?

What opportunities are there to create an extensive network of green routes comprising footpaths,

cycleways and linking Middlesbrough’s various communities?


G7: Playing pitches

Does Middlesbrough have enough playing pitches to meet its needs? Are they of the right quality? How can we improve the quality of pitches available?

Where and how should be pitches be provided e.g. in accessible hubs, or dispersed throughout the



Historic Environment


HE1: Historic environment strategy

What does a positive strategy look like? How can the Local Plan create a positive strategy for the historic environment?


HE2 : Protecting historic assets

What role can the Local Plan play in protecting and enhancing Middlesbrough’s historic assets? How

can we protect these historic asset in the future? Are there certain forms of development which should be limited or are inappropriate near to historic assets?


HE3 : Historic environment and economic growth

What should the role of the historic environment be in supporting and facilitating economic growth? How can we use economic growth to aid the preservation and conservation of our historic assets?


HE4: Historic environment and regeneration

What role can the historic environment play in regeneration?

Are there any opportunities for heritage–led regeneration in Middlesbrough?


The Duty to Cooperate

The duty to cooperate is a legal requirement of the Localism Act (2011). This requires Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) and other prescribed bodies to co-operate on strategic matters to maximise effectiveness in preparing Local Plans.

The duty to cooperate applies to LPAs, National Park authorities, County Councils and other public



DC1: Duty to Cooperate

What are the duty to cooperate issues that should be considered by the Local Plan? How should they be addressed?



Volunteer with HOM or FONW


Tees Valley Community Foundation has teamed up with Hands On Middlesbrough to provide funding for the Friends of Nature's World, in Acklam, Middlesbrough, to buy gardening tools to help in their conservation work at the site. Pictured, seated left, is Friends of Nature's World Chair, Scarlet Pink along with some of the project volunteers.

Photograph of Friends of Nature’s World, Courtesy of Tees Valley Community Foundation


Hands on Middlesbrough are always looking for volunteers to help on a variety of worthwhile community projects to protect, support and promote heritage and green space in Middlesbrough.

Friends of Nature’s World

If you would like to help Friends of Natures World restore the gardens and water features at (the formerly known as) Nature’s World site please register your interest with Middlesbrough Council which can be done online:


If you are a joiner with time on your hands, Friends of Nature’s World would like to recruit you to mend some of the fences too!

We have a mixed group of skills and abilities, some specialise in getting rid of brambles others are better with a paintbrush. We also have “experts” onsite who can share their knowledge of plants with us and occasionally we host free workshops for our volunteers so we can all improve our skills. 

If that doesn’t persuade you to join us, we also have a fantastic lady who makes soup for lunch in the winter and cakes in the summer!

Hands on Middlesbrough

For Hands on Middlesbrough Heritage projects we would like to recruit anyone interested in:

  • Local History
  • Archiving
  • Research
  • Middlesbrough’s historic buildings

We are also interested to recruit people who want to help us with:

  • Promotion
  • Community events

To get involved with our heritage projects please email:

 handsonmiddlesbroughfuture@gmail.com or use the “contact us” tab


HOM Response to the Mayor’s Vision 2025


Hands on Middlesbrough welcome the Mayor Budd’s promises to protect our historic buildings, to continue to hold One Planet Town Status and to promote Middlesbrough as a dementia friendly town.

However, the Mayor’s vision despite looking to the future, is in some respects short-sighted. It does not address how these promises will be actioned and by what process they will be carried out.

Hands on Middlesbrough is primarily concerned with the protection of Heritage and green spaces and we would like to request that the Mayor’s promises are at the heart of decision making within all council departments. This is a great opportunity for Middlesbrough council to set a good example now, by actively demonstrating a fair and green agenda, respect for our historic environment and respect for residents and the contribution they make to society.

Currently, a lot of energy is put into attracting people into Middlesbrough, and not enough to ensure that people with a variety of skills and abilities want to stay in the area.

A Fairer Society –A fair society is a society which treats people equally without favouritism or discrimination. In order for this to be carried out successfully, there needs to be:

  • A better understanding of the positive contribution that people make to the town in a variety of ways (e.g. volunteers) which should be encouraged and celebrated
  • Recognition that people invest financially and emotionally in their town, and both are of value
  • An understanding that “emotional responses” do not exist outside of rational thought but are intrinsically what connect people to their living environment and their community
  • A commitment from the council to accept that the developer isn’t always right and the business executive’s opinion is no more valuable than that of a shop assistant or a single mother
  • Fairness demonstrated by the council, in a variety of ways and adopted by all council departments as a core principle
  • A commitment to acknowledging, valuing and acting upon the concerns of local communities as part of a new effective and inclusive consultation process

Treating people fairly means showing them respect, being open and transparent and ensuring that information is easily accessible to all members of society. A good way to demonstrate fairness and respect is by doing so within the council chamber. As council meetings are now filmed, it can sometimes highlight to the general public a lack of respect for each other, hostility and a confrontational approach from some, to those with differing opinions. Fairness is something that should be embraced by all our representatives who have been elected to sit in the council chamber. They should speak to each other with respect, equally without favouritism or discrimination. This would be welcomed by the majority of the Middlesbrough population who are put off by the current in-fighting and political one-upmanship which by its very nature excludes members of the community. Exclusion leads to apathy, feelings of powerlessness and frustration by members of the community who often feel our representatives are not representing us.

Some ways in which the current processes inadvertently exclude people:

  • An ineffective community consultation process
  • Use of jargon throughout council departments (e.g. the planning department)
  • A confusing and cumbersome volunteer process
  • A hard to navigate council website
  • Failure to embrace social media as a means of communication
  • Dismissing “emotional” responses as “reactive” or “oppositional”
  • Political agendas effecting decision making
  • Exclusion of the general public and press to some council meetings
  • Dumbing down of important local key issues by simplistic press releases, soundbites and obvious publicity stunts

Hands on Middlesbrough believe that people should be encouraged to get involved in the council consultation process on a number of key issues, including the development and regeneration of the town and encouraged to contribute in positive ways to their living environment and community. By doing so, people will feel more connected to their surroundings and take responsibility for looking after their town, as they had a part in its development.

The volunteer process

The Council’s growing dependence on volunteers in the Borough across a host of disciplines will expand considerably by 2025. The Council should refine and perfect the use and support of volunteers starting now.

As Hands on Middlesbrough and Friends of Nature’s World volunteers, the majority of us have found the council volunteering process difficult and confusing. Many of us didn’t even receive a confirmation email when we registered and only a few were asked to provide documents for identification. We were then left to get on with “volunteering”, without knowing where to go for support, guidance or training. We were not given any guidance whatsoever, as to what we could or couldn’t do regarding maintenance onsite. On occasion, we heard from other volunteer groups that we may require a certificate to carry out certain tasks, but how we could access training still remains a mystery. Despite asking various council officers on a number of occasions, no-one seems to know the answer. Two years after our initial registration, we received a volunteer handbook and have yet to discover who is in charge of volunteers and who follows up on the application forms filled in online for new volunteers. The volunteer handbook is very basic and I would even go as far as saying a waste of paper.

Making the volunteer process easier and giving clear guidance, will help encourage people to take pride and responsibility for their living environment. It will encourage people young and old to work together, giving people the skills required to find work, contribute to their local community and feel a sense of achievement. Working as a volunteer has many benefits to health and wellbeing (in particular working outside).

Friends groups and community groups should be given support from the council, as we need these groups to ensure the town will thrive following further cuts to the council budget in the not too distant future.

Regenerating Priority Neighbourhoods

To regenerate priority neighbourhoods, improve the physical environment and support those that live within them to succeed means listening to what people actually want in their neighbourhood and not assuming that the council knows best.

For example, a work of art commissioned to enhance a dilapidated street may be a good idea, but people from the neighbourhood should always be consulted, regardless of whether it is in Gresham or Nunthorpe, and their views taken into consideration. Again it is about respect for people and the connection they have to their living environment and it is also about fairness. People should be encouraged to contribute to how they want their neighbourhood to develop and become part of the process. Support for neighbourhood plans should be readily available and there should be a move now towards community led development which will create a happier and fairer society by 2025 and help build stronger communities.

It is our view that community involvement is essential for a Fairer Society, and consultation on a range of issues, not as part of a tick box exercise but which demonstrate that the advice and comments of the community are going to be acted upon in some way. A fairer society means less jargon, information accessible to all and commitment encouragement to get involved with the town from the grassroots up.

A fairer society is based on reciprocal respect between council and individual and a desire to work together to benefit us all.

A Safer Middlesbrough

A dementia friendly town

As human beings we all need contact and connection with the outdoors, with fresh air and nature in all its various forms. A raft of evidence tells us what we intuitively know to be true: that activity and simply getting outdoors is good for us; and people with dementia are no different. The concept of a dementia friendly town is welcomed by our group, particularly if it acknowledges the importance of green space and our historic environment. It is also important that people are able to share their memories of the past with others in a safe and comfortable environment which will help tackle loneliness and isolation. To be a dementia friendly town is not just about car parking spaces and dementia friendly signs in the town centre, but should strive to be much more than that. It should recognise the emotional attachment that people have to their living environment, historic environment and green spaces. As the memory fades, these places of comfort are all the more important. It is these things which contribute to people feeling safe, secure and at home in their town and not only creates a dementia friendly town, but by default also helps create a friendly town.


Continuing to hold One Planet Living status    

Hands on Middlesbrough welcome the principles set out in One Planet Living and as a group we have noticed positive changes in our living environment and fully support schemes like the alley scheme and other initiatives ran by Middlesbrough Environment City and supported by Middlesbrough Council. However, by saying the council will continue to hold One Planet Living status does not ensure a meaningful commitment to those principles. Principles are often promoted but not adopted within council departments. For example, how does the increase in housing development on green space fit in with the one planet principle to protect green spaces and keep an eye on local planning applications? One Planet Living highlights the importance of natural habitats and wildlife; how does authorising the felling of hundreds of mature trees during bird nesting season fit in with these principles? How are tree “protection” orders, birds on amber and red conservation lists and bat roosting areas so easily overlooked to make way for a “sustainable development”. What is a sustainable development anyway, and how can it override anything with so called “protection”? Sustainable is used far too often as a way of justifying things that are in fact not sustainable. Saying you are going to give local people jobs, does not mean carting in a bus load from Newcastle. How is that sustainable? Unless the principles of One Planet Living are adopted throughout Middlesbrough council, then it is nothing but publicity without a genuine desire to change things. One planet living describes one of the most important expressions is found in preserving, reviving and promoting past local food traditions and culture into the future and celebrating together as a community. The preservation of culture and heritage is essential to how we connect to the place we live. Preserving the past is not resistant to change for the future, but should be a priority to maintain as it forms part of our identity as a town and our identity as residents.

A Stronger Middlesbrough

Protecting our historic buildings

Hands on Middlesbrough would like to thank Mayor Budd for publicly acknowledging the importance of protecting our historic buildings. While we do have some fantastic new buildings emerging in the town, which will no doubt become the heritage of the future, for the time being it is our historic buildings which are becoming at risk due to the cost of maintaining them and the problems finding alternative uses for such impressive and often large Victorian buildings. It is not just our Victorian heritage that needs protecting, but our cultural heritage and historic environment.

Planning applications are continually approved for a variety of historic sites, without first being screened by an archaeologist, the conservation officer works part-time and no one seems to know who our Heritage Champion is or what their role actually involves. Hopefully, these concerns will be addressed in the near future, as once heritage is gone it is gone, and we lose the opportunity to connect to our town’s past.

It is also important that records of findings on sites of historic significance are accessible to the public free of charge.

It should be a priority within the council to look for new uses for our historic buildings and it is also important that our council hold accountable those who do not look after a Grade Listed building.

For example, Acklam Hall sadly fell into “extreme disrepair” and ending up on the Heritage at Risk register. While there is no specific duty on property owners to maintain their buildings in a good state of repair (although it is clearly in their interests to do so) the Local Planning Authority does have powers to take action if it considered that a historic building has deteriorated to the extent that its future preservation may be at risk.

The Local Planning authority has the following powers:

  • Under section 54 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 the Local Planning Authority may serve a notice requesting that the owner to undertake those works considered necessarily for the preservation of the property. If the owner fails to carry these works, the authority has permission to execute the works and to recover the cost of these works from the owner(s).


  • Under section 48 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 the Local Authority may serve a repairs notice on the owner. This notice will specify the works which the Authority considers reasonably necessary for the proper preservation of the building. This is not restricted to urgent works.


  • If the work hasn’t taken place two months after the repairs notice has been served, the authority can start compulsory purchase order proceedings (under This is under Section 47 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990).

Middlesbrough Council has a responsibility and a duty of care to protect Listed Heritage and hold accountable those who put heritage at risk.

Recently, an article 4 was placed on The Crown, which apparently offered some protection against demolition. I hope the executive is planning on distributing more of these protection orders between now and 2025, as we have a number of buildings that are worthy of them. It is also a way of showing commitment to this principle to protect our historic buildings and gives some relevance to the Local List and the term “conservation area”.

Finally, as a group we would like to repeat our request for Middlesbrough council to set up a diverse and enthusiastic advisory board of individuals to be consulted directly on a range of issues. We have been told previously that the council does not have sufficient funds to action this, but I live in hope that things may change between now and 2025.

Albert Park and Owld ‘Enry by Victor Wood

 Environment and Heritage

There has to be more to a town than just houses, retail outlets and their concomitant carparks. Each preserved green space within the town is an oasis a place of relief in what, otherwise, would be a homogenised urban landscape

Also for a town to be a community, to have a sense of self identity, it has to cherish its heritage and honour the people and be aware of historical events which have shaped its character.

Without these green spaces and a sense of heritage a town is, indeed, just a ‘desert with windows’

In Middlesbrough we have a beautiful green space which has so many pleasant associations for so many people and that is Albert Park. In addition, this park is closely associated with a man who possibly played the most important part in making Middlesbrough what it is.


Four generations in Albert Park

My daughter, My two Grandsons, My Mother, Myself

vic wood albert pk 1

Albert Park will always have a special place in my heart as, no doubt, it has in the hearts of many other Middlesbroughians. It was a place to go. A place we never got tired of. It had a recreation ground, a roller skating rink, a boating lake. For me, a kid from the garden-less, flagstoned terraces at the Newport end of Cannon Street, it had , above all, ‘proper green grass’. Not the coarse stringy stuff which we knew on “Cooper Common “or the even courser dull coloured variety where Billingham Beck joined the River  Tees   but, proper soft, green grass, the sort you could nestle your face in.

Although I live a little way out of Middlesbrough now I still visit the Park a few times each year. It’s almost a ‘pilgrimage’. Having taken my own children. I now take my grandchildren. It has such happy childhood memories for me that, half a century on, a stroll through Albert Park on a sunny afternoon can still chase away the blues.

I was delighted to read recently my daughter posting on FaceBook about her run in Albert Park

“Achieved my dream of taking 10mins off my first ever Parkrun time!! Especially lovely to be in Albert Park a place of many happy memories with several generations of the Fox Wood family”

I would add she drives all the way from Easington, County Durham to take her exercise in Albert park

 A Place of Happy Associations

Mention Albert Park and, more often than not, a happy association will be recounted. This is the sort of place it was, and, hopefully still is.

Ralph Davison

Ralph Davison was the Chief Constable of Middlesbrough from 1956 and then led the Teesside Constabulary which took over from 1968. In 1974 this force too was subsumed into the larger Cleveland Constabulary headed by Ralph Davison until his retirement in 1976. (Thus he was the last Chief Constable of Middlesbrough, the only Chief Constable of Teesside and the first Chief Constable of Cleveland.)

When he was serving with the Liverpool Police Force he regularly came home to visit his mother who was in North Ormesby Hospital and was greatly taken by Joyce Smith. who was nursing her. A stroll through Albert Park was the ideal opportunity to proffer the engagement ring to Joyce, which was accepted.

Clare Rymer

Clare’s story is typical of the warm memories associated with this veritable oasis of greenery.

My grandfather, Henry Rymer, was born in the house at the front of Albert Park as his father, also Henry, was Park Curator. I loved as a child listening to all the stories granddad told me about how really it was his back garden. He met my grandmother there whilst she was out walking one day. He took her to the greenhouses and presented her with an orchid they were growing. She must have been impressed as she married him!

Terry Greenberg

Terry grew up in Midlesbrough in the 1920s and 30s

Albert Park was a wonderful place for us. There was the playground, with its slides and swings, plenty of grass for rounders and meeting kids from other schools. You could watch tennis, bowls and putting. Early Sunday morning, my father would call me to go for a walk with him to the Park, he swinging his fancy walking stick (which I used later, with less style, when I was wounded in the leg). On Sunday afternoons, those of the age would parade in their Sunday best to those sitting on the benches near the main entrance.

Fishing for tiddlers in the Park lake was a favourite pastime. Sometimes, we stretched too far out and fell in the water. Some were lucky enough to have good toy yachts and toy motor boats. My yacht was always flopping on its side, so I had difficulty in retrieving it.

Those who could afford it would take a ride on the rowing boats at the back of Albert Park across from Park Vale Road. There was a huge, open area with plenty of goalposts. Every patch was free for the taking by whoever got there first. Of course, there were a few tiffs here and there. On Saturdays, we would watch the big local lads. I remember one star called Bozomato. On Sundays, a group of us, all shapes and sizes, would arrive with a full size football. The big local lads would turn up in their best Sunday suits and caps and kick a ball around, as if they weren’t supposed to be doing it.

Near the main entrance was the Dorman Museum. I liked the exhibits of flies, with warnings of the sickness they could bring. The stuffed animals were awesome.

On the wall near the Park entrance were the names of those who fell during World War I. We found there, the name of my mother’s cousin, David Smollan.

Dorman Memorial Museum

Terry’s mention of the Dorman Museum also resonates because, for many of us, the museum and the park went together. You never visited one without visiting the other. In the main foyer there was a stuffed lion forever eating a zebra . Also, like Terry, many of us would find the name of a family member lost in the First World War in my case my great uncle, Thomas William Fox.

The third attraction forever associated with a trip to the park for me was Forbes Bakery on the corner of Parliament Road and Linthorpe Road. Part of the ritual, when returning home along Parliament Road , was smelling the bread being baked wafting out the ventilators.

Old Pals Reunited in the Only Appropriate Place

So when two of us who grew up in adjoining streets off Cannon Street in the 1940s and 50s decided to meet up again where could the venue be? It could not be in our home area. It is long gone. The A66 runs over the top of it. Of course it had to be in the Dorman Museum followed by a stroll through the Park to talk over old times.

victor wood albert pk2

‘Owld ‘Enry

In May 2005, taking photos in the park I was somewhat disconcerted to hear a youngish man say to his child, ”Eeh, looka that fella’s ‘ead in a cage.” I was a bit more gratified to hear a later older passerby comment affectionately, ”Ah…There’s owld ‘Enry”.

Indeed it is ‘owld ‘Enry or, to be more exact, a bust of Henry William Ferdinand Bolckow placed now behind a protective wire grid. It is close to the main entrance of the Park because it was Bolckow who gave the Park to Middlesbrough.

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 Henry Bolckow

Henry Bolckow was a born on December 6th, 1806 in Sulten a small town in North Germany. not far from Rostock, a port on the Baltic coast. At the age of fifteen he went to work in a shipping office in Rostock where he made friends with a colleague, Christian Allhusen. Christian had a brother in the corn business in Newcastle-U-Tyne and he left Rostock to work there. He sent a letter back to Henry Bolckow along the lines of ‘this is the place to be if you want to earn a bob or two.’

So Henry went off to Newcastle where he did indeed make a bob or two having risen to the position of junior partner in the Allhusen Company. In Newcastle he met John Vaughan manager of the Walker Iron Works . They became firm friends and married sisters. It may have been this connection which brought them together

Bolckow had the capital and Vaughan had the expertise and together the two decided to venture into the iron trade. The place they chose for their new business was Middlesbrough which was ideally placed on a river with a railway connection close to the Durham coalfield and limestone deposits in Cleveland. So in 1840 a small iron works was built in Vulcan Street. Although they would not have realised it at the time, Bolckow and Vaughan were probably the saviours of the new town of Middlesbrough which was a mere decade old.

The Birth of Industrial Teesside

If Teesside were to celebrate a collective ‘birthday’ then it would have to be September 27th because it was on this date in 1825 that the Stockton and Darlington Railway opened. This was the beginning of industrial Teesside. Originally the railway had been built to transport coal from the mines of South West Durham to sell in Darlington, Stockton and North Yorkshire. The export potential of the Tees was soon exploited and coal was shipped out to further destinations.

The Vision of Joseph Pease

A Darlington Quaker, Joseph Pease, realised that extending the railway further down-river, where the water was deeper, would enable bigger ships to be used. The place selected was Middlesbrough probably the least significant hamlet on the River Tees. There seems to be some disagreement as to whether the Stockton-Darlington was the world’s first railway. It all seems to depend on the wording used…first railway or first public railway. However it is indisputable that Middlesbrough was the world’s first ever ‘railway town’ i.e. a town built specifically because of a new railway. The extension of the line to Middlesbrough was completed on 27th December 1830 and the first coals were loaded at the staithes on the 31st January 1831

At first the new town of Middlesbrough prospered. However, its economic success was short lived. Middlesbrough had captured the coal trade from Stockton because of better port facilities but, within a decade, was now losing it by the same logic as a rival company had constructed a railway to Hartlepool on the coast. In 1841 the Stockton & Darlington carried 460,000 tons of coal but the Hartlepool Dock and Railway Company carried 615,000 tons. Joseph Pease could foresee the town he had founded had a bleak future unless it diversified into new industries. He played an influential role in bringing Bolckow and Vaughan to the town.

Eston Ore

I took this photo (May 2005) looking south from the centre of what was the original town of Middlesbrough built in the 1830s. As you can see, sadly, nothing of it is left. (The ‘town centre’ of Middlesbrough shifted about mile south more than a century ago.)

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Initially Bolckow & Vaughan did not produce iron . They imported pig iron from Scotland and, when they did decide to build their own blast furnace, it was at Witton Park in Durham not at Middlesbrough. The intention was to use the iron deposits found in the coal seams of the local mines. When these proved inadequate ore from Grosmont near Whitby was used. Transporting this ore via Whitby up the coast and the Tees to Middlesbrough, then by railway to Witton Park and then back to Middlesbrough as pig iron. proved costly. So Bolckow and Vaughan commissioned geologist John Marley to look for ore in the hills nearer Middlesbrough. John Marley and John Vaughan discovered a solid rock of bare ironstone 16 feet thick in the Eston Hills. Thereafter the growth of Middlesbrough and indeed Teesside was phenomenal .and Henry Bolckow was the major figure in the new town. He was the first mayor and the first M.P.

Henry Bolckow’s   Gift to the People of Middlesbrough

Albert Park was bought by Henry Bolckow for the people of Middlesbrough. Legal considerations required it to be purchased in the name of Middlesbrough Corporation in its capacity as the Board of Health for the town but it was Bolckow who paid for the land and the cost of the construction and landscaping. The Park was officially opened on August 11th, 1869 by H.R.H. Prince Arthur, the youngest son of Queen Victoria. It had been suggested that the Park be named ‘Bolckow Park’ but he declined the honour and, instead,it was decided to name it for Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband. (It was noted that Albert was a ‘fellow Prussian’ )

Commemorating Henry Bolckow

Perhaps it would have been better if Albert Park it had been named Bolckow Park because then, at least, the name would have had some familiarity for the people of Middlesbrough. As it is, there is precious little commemoration to bring him to the modern citizen’s attention. A statue was commissioned. This was erected by the Royal Exchange where, at that time Marton Road met Wilson Street creating a triangular area. In 1925 this triangular area became the station for Middlesbrough Corporation buses and the statue was removed to Albert Park. In 1985 the bus station was closed and the Royal Exchange building demolished. The A66 required part of the area. Exchange Square was constructed out of what had been left. The Council decided to move the statue back to Exchange Square diagonally opposite the railway station.

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How to Protect Local Heritage and Green Space

exchange building

Exchange Buildings by Clive Winward

Protect Heritage

In the UK, we are able to protect heritage in the following ways:

  • Identify & Designate Heritage via Historic England
  • Protect it through the planning system

Historic England and the Local Authority, have a statutory duty to protect the best examples of our historic environment.


AckHallCW4The Avenue of Trees by Clive Winward

Historic England are “the public body that champions and protects England’s historic places”.

One way, that we can protect heritage locally, is by applying to Historic England to designate our heritage. Designation is the term given to the practices of listing buildings, scheduling monuments, registering parks, gardens and battlefields, and protecting wreck sites. These are collectively known as designated assets. Designation allows us to highlight what is significant about an asset and help to make sure that any future changes made to it do not result in the loss of its significance.

If you would like to know more about how to list, schedule or register a site, please look at the links taken from www.historicengland.org.uk shown below:

Historic England What is Designation & Listing

Historic England How to List a Building or Site

Historic England Advice on Neighbourhood Plans

Historic England Advice on Planning

However, the final decision is made by centralised government and recommendations (which are based on national significance) are passed to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

rest park4

Occasionally, heritage of significance to local people, may not be regarded as worthy of designation (e.g. The William Henry Thomas Memorial, Whinney Banks Rest Garden) or meet the criteria set out by Historic England (The Avenue of Trees). In some cases, as with the medieval moated site at Acklam Hall, despite being regarded as of National Importance (following a site inspection by Historic England), pre-existing planning permission meant that it could not be scheduled as a monument.

With this in mind, how do we take responsibility for supporting and protecting our heritage?

  • Join local history groups societies, or organisations
  • Use our public Listed Buildings
  • Get involved with local events celebrating heritage
  • Inform Historic England of Heritage at Risk
  • Apply Historic England to List or Schedule Heritage assets
  • Take an interest in how the town is developing
  • Check Middlesbrough Council website (Search & Track)

LHEN (Local Heritage Engagement Network) support local groups interested in their historic environment to protect and advocate for their local archaeology, history and heritage, through the provision of practical advice, platforms for discussion and information-sharing, assistance and training. They offer a variety of helpful toolkits, guides and information. Please click on the link for further information: LHEN Toolkit to protect local heritage 

If Localism is to work in practice, then the Local Authority needs to:

  • Effectively consult about planning applications which put heritage or green space at risk
  • Engage the community in the planning process (including young people and hard-to-reach groups)
  • Encourage residents to identify heritage and green space of importance
  • Give advice and support with developing neighbourhood plans
  • Ensure that town planning is driven by community involvement

Green Space (The Open Space Society)

The Open Spaces Society www.oss.org.uk helps members protect their local common land, town and village greens, open spaces and public paths. They act as an advisor for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and National Assembly for Wales on applications for works on common land, and are notified by local authorities whenever there is a proposal to alter the route of a public right of way. We campaign for changes in legislation to protect paths and spaces.

How do we Support our green space locally?

  • Join local conservation groups, societies or organisations
  • Use our green spaces
  • Support activities and events on local green space
  • Join a “Friends” Group
  • Set up a “Friends” group
  • Apply to Historic England to Designate Local Green Space
  • Take an interest in how the town is developing
  • Check Middlesbrough Council website (Search & Track)

OSS Designation of Local Green Space

OSS Neighbourhood Plans

OSS Community Asset & Protecting Open Spaces

“Friends groups”

There are a number of Friends groups in Middlesbrough:

Friends of Blue Bell Beck

Boro Becks

Friends of Fairy Dell

Friends of Linthorpe Cemetery & Nature Reserve

Friends of Nature’s World

Friends of Stainton & Thornton Green Spaces

Friends of Stewart Park

Friends of Sudbury Pond

Friends of Thorntree Park

Friends groups are always looking for volunteers to help maintain some of our most beautiful green spaces. To get involved you can follow link from Middlesbrough Council Website and register Middlesbrough Council Volunteer

Local Heritage Groups, Societies & Organisations

Cleveland & Teesside Local History Society

Teesside Archaeological Society

Tees Archaeology

Other Useful Links

Council for British Archaeology

Heritage Help Heritage Organisation A-Z

Middlesbrough Borough Council Consultation Portal

Middlesbrough Borough Council Search & Track

Middlesbrough Borough Council Freedom of Information

River Tees Rediscovered

Tees Valley Wild Green Spaces

Tees Valley Wildlife Trust


MEC will relocate to Nature’s World

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Photograph by Clive Winward

It was confirmed in a council meeting on 16th December 2015 that Middlesbrough Environment City,  a charity which run a variety of projects in Middlesbrough which focus on communities becoming more sustainable, will be based at the former “Nature’s World” site. This will secure the future for part of the site. The council has demonstrated commitment to grant use of the site to benefit the community and for environmental uses for the short to mid-term which is commendable. This shows what can be achieved when “activists”, community groups and volunteers work together to secure the future of places they value. By demonstrating a proactive attitude it can open up new possibilities.

Volunteers have maintained and protected the towns assets for a number of years…just look at all the Friends groups who put events on for families and keep areas nice for us all (and for wildlife) such as Friends of: Linthorpe Cemetery and Nature Reserve, Stainton Quarry, Stewart Park, Blue Bell Beck, Boro Becks, Fairy Dell and Nature’s World.

It is good news that MEC will be moving onsite but the future is still uncertain for the gardens and water features.

Friends of Nature’s World are always in need of volunteers, so please get in touch if you are interested in helping out.

“Charity could move to derelict nature’s world site” Northern Echo

“Former visitors attraction could be taken over by leading charity” Evening Gazette

HOM Response to Statement of Community Involvement 2015

Community involvement, public consultation and publicity are required components of the statutory planning system and it is recognised as being important that local people are involved in the decision making process and have sufficient opportunities to comment, support or object to planning applications.

The first Statement of Community involvement (SCI) was adopted by Middlesbrough Borough Council in 2005 to set down a degree of involvement that the community and other stakeholders can expect in the taking of decisions regarding planning proposals and future planning strategy.

Reasons for community involvement can be identified as an integral part of the planning process:

(a) Involvement leads to outcomes that better reflect the views and aspirations and meet the needs of the wider community, in all its diversity;

(b) Public involvement is valuable as a key element of a vibrant, open, and participatory democracy.

(c) Involvement improves the quality and efficiency of decisions by drawing on local knowledge, and minimising unnecessary and costly conflict

(d) Involvement educates all participants about the needs of communities, the business sector, and how he local government works; and,

(e) Involvement helps promote social cohesion by making real connections with communities and offering them a stake in decision making

Hands on Middlesbrough aims to support and promote Middlesbrough’s heritage and green spaces. The group formed in 2014, following concerns regarding the Acklam Hall housing & medical village development which arguably put heritage (above and below ground), a conservation area and habitat for wildlife at unnecessary risk, without appropriate care and provision.

We revealed a number of flaws in the consultation process when we conducted interviews with members of the local community and researched the methods of consultation and publicity utilised by the Council since 2009/10 when a preferred developer for the site was accepted.

Hands on Middlesbrough recognise that the SCI identifies a minimum consultation framework, which in most cases does not effectively consult the public in good time.

We welcome a review of the current SCI because it gives the local authority an opportunity to make positive changes, which will enable members of the public to get involved in the decision making process and we would suggest that the SCI document describes how community involvement will impact on the decision making process, and any potential outcomes.

Hands on Middlesbrough would like to offer our support for a review of this document and give recommendations about how we feel the current consultation process could be made more effective and inclusive.


Historically, it has always been elected members, community and parish councils who are identified as best placed to relay community concerns with regards to planning proposals. Community and Parish councils often use traditional methods to disseminate information; meetings, newsletters, word of mouth and emails to members. These forms of communication can be successful but they are rarely effective in reaching out to a wider audience beyond the community or parish council itself. A newsletter can be successful for reaching those who may not have internet access.

The fundamental flaw with this is that despite being regarded as the most effective way to consult the general public, community and parish councils are not representative of the diverse society in which we live. Therefore, they should not be given the sole responsibility of bridging the gap between members of the community and the local authority when consulting on planning proposals or discussing neighbourhood plans.

The community council, in some cases, can be a politically charged environment. It is not always a comfortable environment for those who find the jargon involved in planning difficult. A more relaxed, informal approach where people can view plans and ask questions is perhaps the way to reach out to members of the community.

Some Middlesbrough wards do not have an active community council who hold regular meetings, so it is unclear how people in these areas get involved in the planning process.


The local community should be informed at an early stage through well publicised public meetings, drop in sessions, online communication, such as emails and social media and articles in the local press and media. It is also essential that there is an easily accessible public consultation section of the Middlesbrough Council Website, which links to planning proposals and the Search and Track facility for identifying new developments. We therefore welcome the use of more modern media techniques to make consultation easier and also as a means of communicating with a wider audience.

Planning notices give a planning application reference number and a contact, but there is often no description and they are difficult to read due to the small font size used. They are also written in jargon which is difficult to understand and excludes some members of the community.

The Love Middlesbrough magazine which goes out to 64,000 people every quarter would be an effective way of offering advice and support to people interested in getting involved in planning. It is recommended that this is used as a vehicle for communicating and consulting on major planning proposals.

Since the ward councillors are the first point of contact for a member of the community, it is vital that they are approachable and emails are responded to promptly. If an email is sent to a councillor regarding a development which is not in their ward, then they still need to pass on the email to the councillors who are responsible.


Heritage Champion, English Heritage states:

The role of a Heritage Champion is to act as the elected representative championing the historic environment, working alongside the local conservation staff. Champions should provide authority and clarity about heritage issues, connecting the work of elected representatives with local planning authority officers.’ (English Heritage 2014).

If Middlesbrough Council still has a heritage champion, then they should be made aware of all developments which put heritage above or below ground at risk and should also be actively involved in consulting with relevant groups. The heritage champion should also be a first point of contact for the public to flag up any concerns they may have regarding heritage at risk.

Often, planning proposals can last a number of years. Therefore, more effort needs to be made to re-consult so as to keep the community informed. This exceeds the minimum consultation requirement but is essential in enabling social cohesion and confidence in the planning system.

One reason for a loss of confidence in the planning system is due to a lack of transparency. Some meetings regarding the sale of land for development take place without the public or press present. This creates feelings of mistrust towards those who are supposed to represent the community as some people feel they are excluded from the consultation process.

A way to regain that trust is by setting out the ways in which public views will be listened to and acted upon. The review of the consultation process is welcomed but once the public have been consulted it is not clear how these views will be taken into consideration when making planning decisions.

If a large majority of public opinion is against a particular development proposal how can the public be confident that their opinions will be listened to and acted upon?

Hands on Middlesbrough would like to be directly consulted on future planning proposals and will disseminate that information via social media and other means.

It is also a recommendation that Middlesbrough Borough Council puts together a diverse advisory board of proactive local people (including young people and hard-to-reach groups) and consults with them directly on a month by month basis.

Request for help with Cannon Street project

NEWPORT CHILDREN PLAYING ON CARPhotograph by Derek Smith, 1973

This May, Hands on Middlesbrough are organising an event for Local History Month to celebrate Cannon Street and to launch a digital archive, which will document the residents who lived on the infamous street.

The digital archive is an ongoing project which will be ran by local historians Ian Stubbs & Alison Brown, and will only be possible with the help and support from people who have photographs, stories and information we can use. It will be an interactive site and accessible to everyone.

In the future, we would also like to add the surrounding streets, which were a significant part of the Cannon Street community, but this is all dependent on raising the money to develop the project.

We are appealing for people to share information with us on the day and by email or facebook and give permission to scan their old photographs or to bring Cannon Street memorabilia to the event. There will also be the opportunity for ex-residents and their families to be interviewed to be part of a short film. Please contact us, if you would like to share your memories.

The event is due to take place at the Dorman Museum on Saturday 14th May 10.30am-4pm. There will be a screening of a short film and, thanks to BBC North East and Cumbria and North East Film Archive, we will also be screening recently digitised interviews with residents filmed during the demolition of Cannon Street (during the 1960s and 1970s).

A programme of the day’s events will be available at the end of March.

To get involved:

Please send feedback via this website

email- handsonmiddlesbroughfuture@gmail.com

Facebook-Cannon Street Revisited

Cannon Street Revisited


Photograph by Derek Smith

On Thursday 23rd July, Hands on Middlesbrough hosted Cannon Street Revisited. It was an evening to celebrate Cannon Street, a community lost but not forgotten.

Over 200 people turned out to see BBC interviews of Cannon Street residents in the 1960s and 1970s before their homes were demolished. Hands on Middlesbrough (with help from Memories of Middlesbrough) raised £300 in just a few days via social media to pay for it to be digitised by North East Film Archive.

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The event also included a screening of photographs and film “Last Days of Newport” by Derek Smith, Local History talk given by Ian Stubbs about the history of Cannon Street and “Middlesbrough 1968” a film by Alan Ross.

The Last Days of Newport-Derek Smith

Hands on Middlesbrough will be hosting a larger exhibition about Cannon Street next year. If you would like to be involved please contact handsonmiddlesbroughfuture@gmail.com