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Victorian Middlesbrough


The 19th century was the era in which Middlesbrough really came into its own. It was first a shipping area named 'The Port of Darlington', but a town was needed to house all of its workers. The real story of the town starts here.

Middlesbrough became what is today thanks to a number of pioneering industrialists. One you may have heard of was Joseph Pease, who was a colliery owner and shareholder of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the worlds first railway to make use of steam engines. He needed a place to export his goods and materials, so bought a patch of farmland south of the Tees in 1829 and established the estate of Middlesbrough.


The town developed around the port and the Coal Staiths to house its workers. The map on the left shows the early development of Middlesbrough, which was only 24 years old when this map was first produced in 1853.

Scroll down to visit some fascinating areas in and around Middlesbrough which date from this time.

Ordnance Survey, published 1857

You can click any image to magnify them!


Throughout the 19th century, Middlesbrough produced a huge amount of pig iron, making a third of Britain's whole output of the material. Iron, as well as steel, were the goods that helped Middlesbrough grew at a very fast pace in the Victorian times, so much so that the town became known as Ironopolis. It was needed for the railways, which were rapidly expanding and were in constant need of iron to make rails for the locomotives to run upon.

By the time of the 1870s production shifted mainly onto steel, and Middlesbrough became one of the main producers of it not just in Britain but the world. This was thanks to the Cleveland Steelworks, opened by Bolckow, Vaughan & Co in 1875 who by 1900 became the largest steel maker in Britain. 

During the Victorian times, Middlesbrough also became a fully fledged town and received a charter to have a mayor and councillor in 1853. Henry Bolckow, whose name you will have noticed above, was the town's first mayor. He was born in Germany, but is known as one of the founding fathers of Middlesbrough. There is a statue of him at Exchange Square. It was by this time that the population of the town had risen to nearly 20,000. When you remember the town was only 30 years old, it is astonishing how quick it grew!

Pig iron is made in the process of producting steel!

Heinrich Bölckow, as he was originally known, actually lived in Newcastle after he moved from Sulten, Germany, but came to Middlesbrough to set up his first foundry. In Newcastle, he was part of the corn trade.

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1901 - 1939 >

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